Dead Writers come to life
Decorative skulls lined the front of the colorful, dark entrance of the Blue Loon with cobwebs scattered between painted skeletons and lit candles. Guests were welcomed by costumed ushers and a sign-up sheet was laid on the front table. During the Dead Writers event, held on Friday, Nov. 3, guests could sign up to perform a reading of their choice, but with a caveat: they can only read pieces from dead novelist, writers, or song writers.
The definition of “writer” was up for interpretation, as the crowd at one point playfully chanted “Screenwriters are writers too! Screenwriters are writers too!”
Performers were given three minutes to perform a quick, memorable reading of their choice, and for every minute they went over, a $5 fee was charged. A 21-and-over event, the 27th annual Dead Writers caters to the community for an entertaining night entirely constructed by those brave enough to perform.
The event is for those looking for a Halloween party and who enjoy seeing performances, according to event organizer Venus Fultz, graduate student from the English Department.
“You don’t have to enjoy the books they have written to be able to enjoy people full-heartedly putting in their performances,” Fultz said. “You can view it as a bit of a comedy show and a theater performance.”
The event’s master of ceremonies was Kendalyn McKisick, performing as Michael Jackson, who enhanced the performances of the night with short quips, songs, and dances from the legend himself, as well as a generous amount of raffle ticket prizes.
While the performances were judged, the crowds and participants were sweet in communal energy. The judges for the night were Alaskan science fiction writers, Elyse Guttenberg and Terry Boren, and poet and faculty member Sara Johnson. It was not frowned upon to attempt bribery with the judges, using drinks to win them over.
The premise of Dead Writers also allows room for interpretation; guests can read, perform or sing any materials considered the creative work of the dead. It’s a smart set-up. Performers can exploit the loophole of any material and creatively choose from a variety of categories to share with the audience.
Some of the performances of the night included a Dr. Seuss-esque ode to English Department Chair Rich Carr, a commencement speech accredited to Kurt Vonnegut (though the speech was never actualized), a letter from Pope Pius the XI regarding World War II, a recipe from Mrs. Simon Kander’s “A Way to a Man’s Heart,” and even a reinterpretation of Leviticus by a dynamic duo comprised of stoner-alien Jesus Christ and infamous extraterrestrial ALF, from the hit television program “ALF.”
The assortment of performances—whether humorous, as with Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” or serious, as with Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address—left the entire hall cheering.
At the program’s conclusion, Norma Charlie-Runfola won first prize by performing her departed grandfather’s “Raven’s Song,” a children’s song to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. Alex Alfaro was the winner of the “Best Costume” category for his colorful performance of the Popul Vuh.
The annual Dead Writers event has been keeping the expressive voice of Fairbanks alive for the past 27 years. It is a fundraising event for the Midnight Sun Visiting Writers, a series aimed at bringing professional writers and poets from all over the world to UAF to read their work and give craft talks throughout the academic year.
“It is a community event; it’s not just for people from UAF,” Fultz said.
Businesses, such as Sipping Streams Tea Company, Arctic Sun Virtual Reality, and College Coffeehouse, and non-profits, such as The Literacy Council, donated to the event.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Michael McKinney, who traveled from Homer to attend with family member studying at UAF, “but it sure has been fun.”