'Devilfish' highlights Indigenous folklore, addresses trauma
An acclaimed playwright from Southeast Alaska is at it again. Vera Starbard's "Devilfish" debuts in Anchorage Friday. It weaves traditional folklore with the issue of unaddressed trauma.
Set in prehistoric Southeast Alaska, the story is about a monstruous sea creature that destroys an entire village, leaving the lone survivor — a young girl — to forge a new life with strangers.
The Devilfish, Starbard explains, is actually an octopus, and it's a Tlingit clan story she grew up with.
"There's many Devilfish stories in Southeast, and this is actually kind of the sequel," said Starbard, who is of both Tlingit and Dena'ina heritage. It details what happens to the girl after she's left alone.
"I always wondered what happened to this survivor, so it just kind of grew and grew through all of childhood, high school, college and I wrote a book that became a play."
Starbard is also known for her play "Our Voices Will be Heard," which debuted in 2016 and centers around family violence. The piece launches a call for collective healing and forgiveness. She says "Devilfish" carries a similar message.
"It's really about sort of not dealing with trauma and how we can start to do that as a community," Starbard said.
The entire cast of Devilfish is made up of Indigenous actors from in and outside of Alaska. Starbard calls them the "dream cast."
"The very first rehearsal, as we went around and introduced ourselves, every single one of them introduced themselves in their Indigenous language," Starbard said.
"You can feel their pride and their love in the show," she continued.
The first showing of "Devilfish" in Anchorage starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Performing Arts Center's Sydney Laurence Theatre. For a complete schedule and ticket information visit centertix.com.
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