Bear Tooth Theatrepub: “UAA Campus – West”

November 6, 2017

By prioritizing community partnerships, Bear Tooth Theatrepub helps bring university events to the city. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

If you brought garlic-cilantro fries and a beer to class, your professor would have something to say. But not at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub.

Since opening its doors in 2000, Bear Tooth—a combination theatre, diner and Southwestern grill, with its own line of microbrews—has focused fully on the community. If you’ve seen a movie there, its likely a community partner was involved. Maybe it was even UAA.

“I always talk about it as being UAA Campus – West,” joked Steve Johnson, director of Seawolf Debate, who has organized dozens of events at the theatre.

By partnering with Bear Tooth, university programs can share their academic missions with a wider off-campus audience. UAA’s Business Enterprise Institute held its Shark Tank-style start-up event there earlier this year. Journalism professors organized a post-show panel with newsroom editors after Spotlight screened. ISER released results of its environmental benzene study at the theatre, too.

Often, Bear Tooth partnerships involve a local organization with ties to the film’s subject introducing the movie, then hosting an information table in the foyer after.

“We love those [partnerships] because it really brings together the idea and the concept and how it’s happening in your community,” said Stephanie Johnson, general manager at Bear Tooth Theatrepub.

But all ideas are welcome, as evidenced by two very different UAA events this month. On Nov. 8, the Alaska Native studies program and history department will introduce the 2002 film Windtalkers, followed by a Q&A with Anthony Anaya-Gorman—grandson of a Navajo code talker. On Nov. 13, Seawolf Debate presents Arguing Alaska, debating merit-based immigration live on stage.

“A lot of times really great events like that come directly from the community,” said Stephanie. “We have a really engaged and involved community in Anchorage. It’s amazing.”

These unique collaborations are increasingly important in the Netflix era, when people can watch entire movies on their phone. Talkbacks, Q&As and info tables turn each film into an event.

But it’s also an important opportunity for UAA faculty. Paul Dunscomb, chair of the Department of History, helped plan the Windtalkers screening and also talked at Anchorage Nerd Nite in September at 49th State Brewing Company, discussing his research on baseball in Japan.

“These are community icons and any time we have the opportunity to appear at them, we reinforce the idea that Anchorage is a university town and UAA is its university,” he said. “We’re as much a part of and a vital presence in the community as [Bear Tooth and Nerd Night] and chances to demonstrate that publicly are always good.”

Nov. 8—Windtalkers and Q&A with Anthony Anaya-Gorman

Windtalkers culminates a semester-long fall series from UAA’s Department of History and Alaska Native Studies program. A post-show Q&A with Anthony Anaya-Gorman—his grandfather inspired a character in Windtalkers; his mother continues to research the story at University of New Mexico—will follow the screening.

The movie has special significance as part of both Native American Heritage Month and Veteran’s Day. It’s an important intersection, considering Alaska Natives and American Indians serve the U.S. military at a higher rate per capita than any ethnic population in the country.

Maria Williams, an associate professor of Alaska Native studies, already planned to invite a guest speaker from the Navajo Nation to join the fall lecture series. Having the Bear Tooth host a Q&A opens that academic experience to an even wider audience.

“It’s always really great to be able to highlight any kind of Alaska Native or Native American history, especially during November,” she said. “I just thought it would be a great opportunity to have something that was part of the Anchorage community.”

Anaya-Gorman’s Bear Tooth talk will personalize the story as soon as the credits close. It’s educational. It’s entertaining. And, most notably, it’s far more than DVD special features could provide.

Nov. 13: Arguing Alaska with Seawolf Debate

A few nights later, Bear Tooth hosts UAA again for a live debate on immigration.

Seawolf Debate has long hosted events at Bear Tooth (including a bout against Harvard in 2013) and the program will continue its Arguing Alaska series this month, contesting whether only the most qualified should be permitted to immigrate to the United States. Anchorage’s First Lady Mara Kimmel, who co-founded the Alaska Institute for Justice, and immigration and citizenship attorney Margaret Stock will serve as guest judges.

As technology advances, public discourse has largely moved into the trolled corners of social media. That’s why events like this—and community spaces like Bear Tooth—are important, said Steve Johnson.

“You go to Bear Tooth ideally not just to watch the movie or eat the pizza, but to be part of something,” he said.

In his eyes, Seawolf Debate plays the same role. “We try … to make something interesting that draws people together. I think that’s a really important part of what we do.”

College debaters arguing across the stage makes for a unique night of entertainment, but the conversation is meant to linger among the audience. Arguing Alaska, Steve said, “teaches people that these debates are not just things that happen in the halls of government. These are important discussions that we as a community should be having.”

And where better to have those public discussions than our shared city living room?

“Ideally we consider ourselves a community house,” said Stephanie. “Tying in community groups has been a way to make that more real.”

“The Bear Tooth group is just outstanding at bringing our community together,” Steve added.

Take part this month:

Windtalkers + Q&A is Nov. 8. Tickets available here.

Arguing Alaska returns Nov. 13. Tickets available here.

Anaya-Gorman will present a free lecture at UAA on Monday evening, Nov. 13.


Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement

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