Daily Archives: October 22, 2008

Amazing feet — ‘Bigsock’ takes monumental knitting effort

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

At 5 feet tall and growing, this is one sock that isn’t likely to get lost in the washing machine.

Barbara Waters, of Kenai, has taken on a knitting project of record-breaking proportions. She’s taken custody of the aptly, if unimaginatively, named “Bigsock.”

The sock was started in 2006 by Joanna Ratcliffe in the United Kingdom, who wanted to hold a charity knitting event for U.K.’s National Knitting Week. She wanted to start a giant circular knit and contacted the Guinness Book of World Records, but they weren’t interested. A giant sock, though, got their attention.

“They said, ‘Oh, cool, that’s been done. See if you can top it,’” Waters said.

The Sheep Farmers Association of Austria holds the current record for the largest hand-knit sock. To beat that project, the Bigsock must measure over 12 feet long before the heel is turned. It’s about 23 feet in diameter, or about 11 feet wide. Ratcliffe started the sock with 1,500 stitches cast onto 10 needles. It takes about an hour to knit one row all the way around the sock.

She had no intention of knitting the entire thing herself, however. After getting it started, she sent the sock out into the world, into the hands of other knitters who could contribute some time and yarn to the cause.

The sock has been to New York, Georgia and Colorado. Waters heard of it through an online knitting site, http://www.ravelry.com, and decided it’d be fun to bring it to Alaska.
“I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll take it and get as many rows on it as we can,’” she said. “I’m just weird enough to do something like this.”

She signed up to host the sock and it got to Kenai in early October.

“So it arrived on my doorstep, this humungo box that weighs like 40 pounds,” Waters said. “My husband said, ‘Did you order something?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that sock I told you about.’”

He may have forgotten about it at the time, but Waters’ husband won’t soon forget it now, since he’s been elected to lug the thing around during its time on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Waters brought the sock to Mugz coffee shop in Soldotna on Oct. 11 and had six to eight people help knit more rows on it, including a few ladies from the local Soldotna Knitters group, the coffee shop baristas and even a 3.5-year-old girl.

On Oct. 18, Waters had the sock at the Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai. The shapeless heap of multicolored thread was pooled at her feet in front of the fire.

“There’s no theme. It’s the sock of many colors,” Waters said. “People have put fuzzy yarn in and sparkly yarn. Most knitters have a stash of balls of yarn left over from projects.”

A rotating cast of knitters kept Waters company throughout the morning as the sock slowly grew. Twenty-two or 23 people in all knitted Oct. 18, including two of Waters’ daughters and five of her grandchildren. For many, it was their first time knitting. Waters was happy to demonstrate a skill she’s been doing since she was 14.

“It’s just one of those things where you relax and do it. It’s all in fun,” she said.
Waters figures the central peninsula has been responsible for about an inch and a half of the sock’s current 5-foot-plus length. She’s taking it up to Anchorage next, and it may make a trip to Fairbanks before coming back to Waters. She plans to have another couple knitting events locally before plunking down the $100 it will take to ship the sock off to its next destination in the Lower 48, where more knitters will contribute.

“I’m touching something that’s been touched by so many different people,” Waters said. “That’s the fun part of it for me.”

Waters’ daughter, Jennifer Ticknor, was less philosophic about the experience than her mother.

“Think about how many germs are on this,” Ticknor said.

Waters was undaunted, and said she is happy she has a chance to participate.

“How often do you get a chance to try for the Guinness Book of World Records?” she said. “But none of that is why I did it. I don’t know why I did it, it’s weird.”

For more information about the Bigsock, and to track its journey, visit the Web site, http://big-sock.blogspot.com.

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Pebble Mine dialogue ‘whethers’ concern — Opponents question how unbiased process will be

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Before deciding whether they would participate in a stakeholder dialogue process about Pebble Mine bankrolled by the proposed mine’s parent company, attendees of a meeting last week wanted to know if not building the mine was even an option.

Representatives from The Keystone Center, an independent mediation organization out of Denver, held a meeting at Kenai Peninsula College on Oct. 13 to explain how a Pebble Stakeholder Assessment and Dialogue Feasibility Study would be conducted, in the hope of garnering participation from peninsula residents in the dialogue meant to determine whether the mine should be built, and if so, how that will occur.

Pebble opponents in the audience were skeptical that “whether” was even an option in the process, since Northern Dynasty Minerals is footing the bill.

“There’s kind of an inherent problem because Pebble does have a predetermined outcome. For them, it’s not a whether. It’s a how for Pebble. So I just see an inherent problem, or the perception of one,” said Dave Atcheson, who is on the board of directors for the Renewable Resources Coalition, which opposes Pebble Mine. “And I read a lot about your group, and you’re a well-respected organization … but it’s a little different situation when you’re hired by the group that wants the how.”

Todd Bryan, Ph.D, a senior associate with Keystone, said Northern Dynasty hired the organization, but the group is independent and the mining company did not influence the process Keystone designed to gather stakeholder input, nor would it influence the outcome of the dialogue process.

“It’s not our goal to help Pebble get a mine,” Bryan said. “… When somebody pays us, they often have an outcome they would like to get. We make it very clear that it’s not our goal to get that outcome for them. In this case, we’re not trying to achieve their goal; we’re trying to help people out there make a decision about this very important project. We wouldn’t be in business for 36 years if we weren’t able to maintain that firewall between us and our work, and them and their work.”

Bryan said Keystone is typically brought in by government agencies to reach consensus between stakeholders, usually in land-use debates where public lands have multiple and conflicting mandates. Working for a for-profit business is rare.

“It’s seldom industry hires us because a lot of times the industry doesn’t see that there are multiple interests at stake and a need to try to balance them, but in this case, Pebble sees that,” Bryan said. “I think Pebble recognizes there’s an extremely valuable and sensitive salmon fishery that is particularly at risk and there are significant development needs that are trying to be met.”

Keystone began the process last spring with a stakeholder assessment that involved interviewing about 90 people on all sides of the issue. From that they categorized stakeholders in a continuum of being adamantly opposed to the mine and unwilling to participate in a dialogue process, to those who supported the mine and didn’t believe a dialogue process was necessary.

The dialogue process would be for people in between; those who are opposed to the mine but think it will be built and want input into how it will be built; those who don’t feel like they have enough information to decide whether they support the mine or not; and those who support the mine and think a dialogue process will improve the mine’s design.

From the interviews, Keystone compiled a list of environmental, economic and social issues and concerns the dialogue process would address, including damage that may be done to fishing and the Bristol Bay watershed, the lack of economic benefit the state would get from the mining operation, and the loss of subsistence opportunities and related cultural impacts on Natives in the area.

Bryan outlined the three stages of the dialogue process Keystone recommends. All stages involve opportunities for input, Bryan said.

“They can leave the talk at any time if they decided they’re totally opposed to the mine. Participating in the process does not inherently mean any support in any way, shape or form in the mine. We don’t want people to think by participating it’s some kind of tacit support of it, because it’s not,” he said.

In the first stage, independent science panels would be formed including independent, recognized, unbiased experts to review and assess the credibility of data that’s been gathered on Pebble in five topic areas — geology and hydrology; water quality; fish, wildlife and habitat; social and economic dynamics; and sustainable mining practices.
That last topic sparked some heartburn.

“Sustainable mining sounds kind of like an oxymoron to me,” said Jerry Brookman.

Bryan explained that it’s an industry term, referring to the sustainable economic development of a mine. But perhaps defining what that term means for stakeholders could be part of the dialogue process, he said.

“To me, sustainable is salmon coming back year after year after year, not taking a chunk of gold and making a ring out of it, that doesn’t seem sustainable to me. So I will definitely be interested in your definition for that,” said Krista Nyberg.

The second stage in the process involves joint fact-finding working groups, made up of scientists and stakeholders charged with gathering additional information to fill in any gaps or lingering questions that are identified in the independent science panels stage.

Stage three is the project planning collaborative, where a group of 20 to 30 stakeholders representative of those for, against and undecided about the mine, use existing information and additional information gathered to develop an “environmentally and socially preferred mining scenario or scenarios,” Bryan said.

Bryan said the plan is for the mine alternative designed by this group to go to Pebble to be submitted for the permitting process.

Brookman pointed out that Pebble is already working on a mine design, independent of the eventual results of the dialogue process. Bryan said the intent is to merge the two plans.

“At some point of the process we will merge the two things, the Project Planning Collaborative with what Pebble has already done,” he said. “The benefit of that is people will be able to react to what Pebble has come up with … the other side of that is that Pebble will have made some preliminary planning decisions independent of this collaborative planning process.”

Atcheson wanted to know if there was any guarantee Pebble would include the recommendations that come out of the dialogue process. There are none, Bryan said.
“We don’t know what Pebble may do. They may decide to go through the permitting process on their own, without any consensus from the groups,” Bryan said.

“I would feel a lot better if, as the process goes along, the public was allowed to have more information about what it is they’re proposing to do,” Brookman said. “Because once it gets to the public comment period, it’s already mostly set.”

Choosing to be involved in the process is a way to have a say in what happens with Pebble, Bryan said.

“There is a chance that it will get a permit, so it might be wise to participate in this process and to try to influence its design, if it’s going to go forward,” Bryan said.
Members of the audience said it seemed like the process is designed around the idea that the mine will happen, with each step progressing to the ultimate goal of producing a design that will be submitted for permitting.

“There’s a huge population that wants that land for hunting and fishing and keep it pristine, with no mine — none,” Nyberg said. “And I feel like they aren’t being represented
in this. And if Keystone is supposed to be a nonbiased report, it’s already sounding like it’s not really quite there.”

Bryan said there is an option at each step of the process for stakeholders to decide that no mine is the best mine, and reach consensus on recommending Pebble not build anything. But that may not happen. Even if it does, a “no mine” consensus from the dialogue process doesn’t mean Pebble won’t be built anyway. If that’s the case, it’s better to have a voice in designing a mine alternative, he said.

“After getting information, if people decide to leave the process and go fight (the mine), we want to make sure people are free to do that, but that doesn’t mean Pebble won’t go ahead and seek a permit,” Bryan said. “Leaving the process doesn’t change what Pebble may do.”

Bryan said meetings of the independent science panels will be shared by video teleconferencing with communities around Southcentral, including the central peninsula, and will be held as early as December. If the process continues to the joint fact-finding stage, that likely will take place in December and January. Stage three, the project planning collaborative, is tentatively scheduled for early 2009.

Bryan said he thought the Soldotna meeting went well, and he appreciated the feedback.
“People were asking really good questions. It really showed that they thought about this a lot and it’s a really critical issue to them. We want to show them that the process has some merit and we’ll work on making it more relevant,” he said. “… I think that they have valid concerns about it and they are important. We understand their concerns and why they have them.”

Atcheson said he questions the process’ funding, and is interested to see if Keystone will address the concerns raised by the audience.

“It concerns me a little that they’re being paid by the Pebble Partnership. The Keystone group’s well-respected and everything, but it makes me a little leery of the process. And that’s a concern for a lot of people, I would think,” he said. “And I don’t like that there wasn’t a no mine option. I think they heard me and the other people that voiced the same concern.”

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First tracks — Skiers get early chance at powder

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Amid the chorus of groans and complaints that arise when snow falls, there can be heard a few other sounds — the scritch of a plastic ski scraper peeling off the summer’s protective coating of wax, the clatter of poles being retrieved from storage, snippets of conversation speculating whether there’s enough powder down or if Bill has groomed yet.

Last week’s snowfall was just enough to suppress the mud and detritus on Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School with a fresh layer of white.

“This is our number one activity in the winter. We pretty much look forward to it,” said Terri Springer, of Soldotna. She and her husband, Brian, were skiing at Tsalteshi Saturday afternoon.

“We talked to some friends who skied last night. We were shocked it was in that good a condition, so we grabbed everything this morning, hit the wax and drove over here,” Brian Springer said. “Bill did a great job getting these trails ready.”

“Bill” would be Bill Holt, in charge of trail maintenance at Tsalteshi. With barely 3 inches of snow down last week, and despite the fact that it was only Oct. 14, he ran grooming equipment over Tsalteshi’s 14,000-plus meters of trails. This is only the third time in the 13 years he’s been grooming at Tsalteshi that he can remember being able to ski so early.

“There were two years in a row when you actually started skiing on October 15,” he said. “One of those years we were skiing into April without any breaks. They weren’t always good days, and sometimes it’s marginal, but it has happened before that it’s started mid-October.”

There were some bare patches over the weekend, especially under large trees and on the slopes overlooking Skyview with direct sun exposure, but overall the trails were covered and skiing great, the Springers said.

“As good as the trails are out here, I don’t think many people have gotten the word yet. There aren’t many tracks out here yet,” Brian said.

Holt estimated there were only five or six people a day skiing Friday and Saturday.

“You can almost tell who’s been skiing from the tracks,” he said. “I’ve been having some e-mails from folks who have asked, ‘Is it really skiable?’ and I’ve said ‘yes.’ … The skiing’s actually really good. I had a lot of fun out there.”

It may have only been fun while it lasted, though. Sunday and Monday saw above-freezing temperatures, and there was rain in Soldotna on Monday night. The forecast for the rest of the week calls for highs in the 30s and only slight chances for snow.

“I’m praying that it sticks around. I see that water’s dripping off my roof now. That doesn’t bode well,” Holt said Sunday.

In packing down the snow that fell last week, Holt was hoping to drive frost into the ground and squeeze the air out of the snow so it would last longer than it otherwise would. Even if the trails don’t stay skiable, Holt is hoping the base he created stays at least mostly intact, so when new snow falls it will have something to stick to.

“With a good snow base there we don’t need much more powder, if we don’t lose this, to have really good skiing,” Holt said. “I would think another two inches of snow would be pretty good.”

Very good would be six more inches, and more restraint from motorized winter enthusiasts.

Early in the weekend a snowmachine drove over the Rabbit Loop, which branches off the soccer field, and on Saturday a four-wheeler tore up large sections of the Wolverine Loop — the one accessible by the trailhead on Kalifornsky Beach Road across from the Soldotna Sports Center. Whoever it was took out the fence bordering the parking lot, as well.

Holt spent time Saturday trying to undo the damage, but there wasn’t much snow to work with to erase the tracks.

“It was real frustrating. I had to end up going over it more than I wanted to,” Holt said. “The places where you go over a bump you cut down to dirt.”

The trail is closed to all motorized vehicles. Walkers and dogs also are asked to stay off the trails. Not only do they pose a safety hazard to faster-moving skiers, but footprints can also damage the trails.

“If they go in when it’s soft or after I’ve groomed and put footprints in it, they stay. I can’t really get them out because you can’t cut,” Holt said.

Tsalteshi will host Besh Cup classic sprint races this year, and Holt would like to have a new course built that starts by the football stadium, crosses the soccer field and goes up and down the hill overlooking the field. To do it, he’ll have to cut three more 30-foot-wide tracks traversing the hill.

Besh Cup results are used to determine Alaska’s representatives to Junior Olympic competitions.

“If we get more snow and start skiing there’s probably no way,” Holt said. “I can’t in good conscience drive a Cat over well-groomed ski trails.”

Holt and other workers made improvements to the trails this summer. The Beaver and Raven loops and Blue Bayou were widened in anticipation of extending the trails’ lighting system to those loops, possibly next year.

The base of the Raven Loop, where the biathlon range is, was also rerouted to ease the transition from the massive Raven downhill to heading back up the hill.

“We used to live in Anchorage,” Brian Springer said. “You’d ski at Hillside or Kincaid. This lacks nothing to those. They might be bigger, but as far as beautiful trails and different options, Anchorage doesn’t have anything on us.”

Tsalteshi events

The Tsalteshi Trails Association is planning a busy winter of events. For more information, specific times or to become a member, visit the Web site, http://www.tsalteshi.org, throughout the winter.

Many of the events are snow-dependent.

  • Tsalteshi kickoff orienteering event, Nov. 14 4:30 p.m. Get acquainted with the trails by following clues to different locations on the trails. If there’s no snow, bring running or walking shoes.
  • Youth learn-to-ski program for ages 8-14. starting in Novembe
    r. Ski rentals will be available for those needing equipment.
  • Adult ski clinics, classic and freestyle, starting in November.
  • Race series for classic and freestyle, Tuesday evenings starting in November.
  • Annual Tsalteshi Trails Association Board meeting, 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Kenai River Center on Funny River Road. New board members will be elected and door prizes will be drawn for new and current TTA members in attendance.
  • Wood, Wool and Wassail ski event, Dec. 28.
  • Skyview Invitational high school ski races, Jan. 16 and 17.
  • Besh Cup races, Jan. 24 and 25.
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough School District high school borough races, Feb. 14.
  • KPBSD region races, Feb. 20 and 21.
  • Tour of Tsalteshi community race, with 15-kilometer and 30-kilometer races, March 14.

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Individuals make big impact together — Grassroots group pools financial resources to help neighbors in need

By Naomi Hagelund
For the Redoubt Reporter

Financial hardships are becoming increasingly common as the economy continues to struggle. Those without health insurance are struggling even more, and those who do have health insurance are finding it difficult to pay the health care costs not covered by their insurance plans. That is where Impacting Together steps in. A band of local residents dedicated to giving back to the community, Impacting Together met on Oct. 6 for their second meeting since the founding of the group in April.

The group was formed by Peggy Morris, Rhonda Larson and two other women. The idea occurred to them after hearing of a similar group called Impact 100 in Le Grand, Ore., formed by Morris’ sister. The group in Oregon was based on the idea that 10 women would bring in 10 more women each, and the group of 100 would donate $100 each and disperse it to people in need throughout the community. In the group’s first five years, it donated over $77,000.

The central peninsula group started with four people, but has expanded to around 20, with 65 people on the organization’s e-mail list.

The group’s goal is to help people in situations where the government or other organizations cannot. In April, a family had a child who needed medical care in Anchorage, but couldn’t afford the gas to make the drive. Impacting Together donated enough money for the family to get the child to Anchorage.

“I think we all have friends and neighbors that are just in a hard crunch at the time. We are going to see a lot more of that,” Morris said. “We donate money for groceries or gas or things of that type, so that these people know that people care.”

At the first meeting, the group donated $3,700. At the most recent meeting the group gathered $4,050 in donations.

“We’ve put over $7,000 back in the community between two meetings,” Larson said. “We are not a wealthy community, so that is awesome.”

At the last meeting, the organization helped a woman who had no health insurance get dentures. A young man with a minimum-wage job and no insurance was given enough money for the dental care he required. A man recovering from a car accident was given money to help with his growing medical bills.

“It’s amazing the variety of needs that have been met,” Larson said. “It’s a sort of need you don’t have to fill out an application for, it’s just your neighbor saying, ‘Hey, I’ve pooled my resources with the rest of the neighbors and this is how we can help you.’”

The group holds meetings twice a year, and anyone who donates $100 is considered a member. Members can nominate someone they know to receive financial assistance.

The next meeting is slated for March 9. All community members are welcome to join the organization. For more information, e-mail impactingtogether@gmail.com.

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Playing along — School district enacts sportsmanship policy

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Knowing the process — Soldotna man puts history of guiding, meat processing to use in new business

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Avery Hansen has the best problem any new business owner can have — he’s been too busy since opening AK Custom Meats on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.

AK — which refers to Alaska, but also stands for the owners, Avery and Kimberly Hansen — opened about three months ago. The store missed summer tourism season, but fall hunting has brought in enough business to keep Avery’s days, and refrigerators, plenty full.

Moose, caribou, bear and hog processing, “we’ve been doing quite a bit of that,” said Roland Hansen, Avery’s father. Roland is up from Washington state minding the new store while Avery is on a deer-hunting trip in Wisconsin.

Avery is more than confident to leave the store in his dad’s hands, since that’s where he learned meat processing in the first place.

“I have three boys, they all grew up butchering and smoking meat,” Hansen said.
Hansen and his family opened a custom meat-processing store in Washington in 1981. They opened a grocery store in Warden, Wash., in 1983, which they still operate, and sold the custom meat store in ’85.

Avery used his early meat processing education to some degree being a guide, but he eventually wanted to focus more on processing meat, rather than producing it.

“Avery had been a guide for eight years. He wanted to do something other than be a guide, so we’ve been thinking about this for quite a while,” Hansen said.

Hansen’s grocery store in Washington plays a large role in Avery’s new business in Soldotna. Hansen accumulated a lot of the equipment in Washington for the new store, and now supplies the store with the premium meat it sells as retail and uses in making sausage and other products.

Pork comes from the Midwest, and everything else comes from Washington and Oregon, shipped up fresh through the wholesaler Hansen uses for his grocery store.

Hansen said AK Custom Meats uses only lean pork shoulder meat, and carries all-natural, USDA-choice beef from Painted Hills Natural Beef Inc. The meat has no added hormones or antibiotics, is 100-percent vegetarian fed and source verified.

With hunting season in full swing, that’s been the store’s main focus so far.

“We’re starting slow. There’s just one guy in the shop (Avery). We don’t have a lot of employees. It keeps you pretty busy when there’s just one guy doing everything,” Hansen said.

They plan to expand their retail offerings soon, however. Currently they make a few varieties of sausage, all with lean meat, not fat, so the result isn’t greasy.

“There’s no fillers. It’s nothing less than 80 percent lean beef and the pork is all lean pork shoulder meat. When you eat the sausage, that’s the difference you’ll feel — it’s just a leaner, 100-percent meat product,” Hansen said.

A sausage kitchen, curing facility and smokehouse on the premises allows the Hansens to make their own sausage and pepperoni sticks, cure bacon and smoke prime rib and baby-back ribs. They also plan to have steaks dry-aged for 20 to 24 days. For fall they offer hickory-smoked turkeys and jalapeño cheese dip, and for the Christmas season they plan to have sausage and cheese gift packs.

There’s still some open space in the store, so they may add new products or services in the future, like FedEx shipping or fish boxes in the summer. Fish processing isn’t on their list of things to specialize in, though.

“We don’t want to compete with some of the other businesses in town,” Hansen said.
Instead they’re sticking to the tried-and-true recipes they’ve been using for decades and a reliance on customer service.

“Basically we just want to provide a premium product and want to be able to do what the customer wants,” Hansen said. “We would love to take orders from them and have it cut and prepared the way they like it.”

Chuck Marquaret, of Soldotna, said the store already prepares things the way he likes it. He came in out of curiosity when he saw the store’s sign on the highway. On his first trip he bought some cheddarwurst and German sausage — both excellent, he said.

“I just fed it to my kids, they said, ‘That’s good!’” he said.

That’s the reaction the Hansens desire.

“You should always do what you know how to do,” Hansen said. “(Avery) just knows what he’s doing and feels confident doing it, and puts out a good product.”

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Crazy for drama: Play examines reality, insanity

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

For a play about insanity, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has a lot to say about reality.

The story is set in an insane asylum in the 1960s, where patients struggling with mental illness are subjected to the abusive power of their caretakers, as well as the “treatments” that are supposed to make them better — like electroshock therapy and frontal lobotomies.

“Having grown up in the ’60s, the show for me really epitomized the whole struggle between the establishment and the forces for change that were going on during the ’60s, really at all levels,” said Ken Duff, who is co-directing the play with Ann Shirnberg for the Kenai Performers.

Duff, who directed “Bus Stop” for the Kenai Performers two years ago, said he wanted to do “Cuckoo’s” because he enjoyed the book the script is based on, and saw a lot of relevance in the story. His background in social work, as the executive director of Frontier Community Services, lent him firsthand knowledge of a lot of the themes explored in the play.

“I just loved the Ken Kesey book,” he said. “That, coupled with having grown up in the ’60s, and I actually worked at a similar-type facility in Kentucky. … It was part of my history.”

Duff said he sees what happens in the asylum, with new patient McMurphy warring against the power structure of Nurse Ratched, as a microcosm of the turmoil of the 1960s, as the United States moved from the “Leave It To Beaver” era of the 1950s to the upheaval of Vietnam.

Chief, a largely silent Native American patient whom McMurphy befriends, delivers monologues that narrate the story and sum up the inherent conflict of the play, Duff said.
“Throughout the entire show he delivers these monologues that really define what’s going on in the asylum, but on a broader context, what’s going on in society at that time,” Duff said.

“In today’s society I think we look at a show like this and say, ‘You know, that’s just fiction.’ Well, it wasn’t. That’s exactly what was going on in our mental hospitals at the time. … It’s grounded in the reality of what was going on at the time and how people in authority were able to have just incredibly abusive behavior.”

The play has a large cast, with more than 10 actors playing the patients and staff of the asylum. It’s been an interesting rehearsal process getting the actors to understand and embrace their characters — a tall order since the characters are, well, crazy.

“It’s coming together really nicely,’ Duff said. “Even those with fewer lines, they’ve developed this wonderful character for their particular part. They’ve just each kind of taken their own particular role in it and made it themselves, and it’s been beautiful to watch.”

Allen Auxier plays the Chief, with Jamie Nelson as McMurphy and Terri Zopf-Schoessler as Nurse Ratched.

“Those two just play off each other wonderfully,” Duff said.

Feeding off the atmosphere that’s created when everyone onstage is into his or her characters has been the best part of the show, Nelson said. And the depth of the relationships between the patients was a pleasant surprise, since that isn’t played out in the movie version of the book.

“When I was reading the script I saw a little more camaraderie than I did in the movie, so I really liked the relationships that there are in the stage play,” Nelson said. “The movie’s so much about the craziness in the story arc, you don’t really think of the touching relationships in there. That’s what I’ve really tried to focus on bringing out.”

Nelson took the role anticipating it would be a new experience for him.

“I really enjoyed working with Ken in ‘Bus Stop.’ I knew this would be a challenging character that was different than the other roles I’d done before,” he said.

It has been challenging, but rewarding, as well.

“(McMurphy) has a lot more energy than I ever have in my own life, so that has been fun. He has a lot more passion than most people come across.” Nelson said.

There are funny moments in the play, and intense ones as the drama plays out. Duff hopes audiences will be swept along by the story, and the comment it makes on society.

“I think the audience will be entertained by (the funny moments),” Duff said. “My hope is they leave with this really poignant understanding of how power can be abused, … and this glimmer of, you know, some of the good guys got away. “

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will be performed at 7 p.m. Oct. 24, 25 and 31, and Nov. 1, 7 and 8, and 3 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and kids. The show is PG-13 and not recommended for kids under 13.

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