Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19 PA Arts Sunday - Diane Benson and Roselind

Judy, Nancy Lethcoe, Diane Benson and I attended last night's performance of Shakespeare's As You Like It, at the University of Alaska Anchorage Fine Arts Theater. It plays there again, this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Diane is freshly back from more than a month in Hawaii, her first long break since November 2005, when she was notified by the U.S. Army, that her son, Latseen, had been terribly wounded in Baghdad. The evening she got that call, Benson was rehearsing for her next play. She set it aside. It hasn't been performed yet.

In the play we saw Saturday night, on a stage on which Diane has been a stage director herself, we saw Roselind and Celia discuss how they should hide from the death threat of the evil Duke:

Ros. Why, whether shall we goe?
Cel. To seeke my Vncle in the Forrest of Arden

Ros. Alas, what danger will it be to vs,
(Maides as we are) to trauell forth so farre?
Beautie prouoketh theeues sooner then gold

Cel. Ile put my selfe in poore and meane attire,
And with a kinde of vmber smirch my face,
The like doe you, so shall we passe along,
And neuer stir assailants

Ros. Were it not better,
Because that I am more then common tall,
That I did suite me all points like a man,
A gallant curtelax vpon my thigh,
A bore-speare in my hand, and in my heart
Lye there what hidden womans feare there will,
Weele haue a swashing and a marshall outside,
As manie other mannish cowards haue,
That doe outface it with their semblances

Before the play, at dinner at the Thai Kitchen, the Alaska Independence Party came up in conversation. Diane related that the press stories on its history and activities in Interior Alaska haven't come close to scratching the surface. When she was finishing high school in Fairbanks, she got to know Joe Vogler and some of the AIP principals in the area.

She's glad to see more attention coming to the links between the AIP and paramilitary/militia activities, including their ties, at times, to weird religious sects. In the college women's studies textbook, Sharing Our Stories of Survival: Native Women Surviving Violence, Benson describes one of her encounters with people involved in the Fairbanks AIP-militia milieu:

I settled in Fairbanks and was soon brutalized by a white man that belonged to some militia group, so that I spent the summer hiding in someone's cabin out of sheer and total fear.

while working for a militia member, helping him at his house:

One night, the heavyset white man came into my room and raped me. He fell asleep in his room afterwards, and I crept into his room with a gun and held it to his head. I stood there and, with a profound realization, put the gun away, and stole away into the night, running down the road in my bare feet, carrying my boots. If I killed that white man, I would be hung for it or worse. I was a Native in white man's house. I ran hard.

Just as I crossed a road into the woods, his truck came screeching to a halt nearby, and he swung his shotgun and fired. I ran to a house, terrified, but no answer. I ran north through the woods, the birch trees too slim to hide me like the spruce or cedar trees of home. Hearing the gun, I dove into a ditch. I felt pain sear through my leg, but dared not move. I pressed my face down into the earth, hoping the steam from my breath would not betray me. I felt the wetness of blood while I lay there.

She found a friend's house nearby. Her friend let her in, and she cleaned Benson's wounds.

Later that morning she urged me to tell her parents, but they immediately demanded that I leave and not jeopardize the family.....the family was just as concerned about, as I was terrified of, the militia group he belonged to as well.

Rosalind manages to survive her ordeal in the Forest of Arden. Diane Benson, undergoing far more arduous ordeals, survived Fairbanks that year, and many subsequent tests and challenges that might have beggared description, even from the likes of William Shakespeare.

It was very special for Judy and me, to be there in the theatre with playright, actress, director and Alaska women's civil rights pioneer Diane Benson, at this moment when she is ready for life's next sturdy, daunting challenges.

image of Diane Benson by Linda Kellen


Anonymous said...

We read much of Latseen having been hurt, Phil. How is he doing now?

Philip Munger said...

Latseen is doing great - helping other wounded warriors recover and triumph.

Anonymous said...

Just like his mom!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the only women attacked in all of history are the Bensons of the about immersing yourself in victimhood. Just what we need in politics...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your attitude is emblematic of the problem that Diane tries to shed light on. You may not want to hear about crimes against women, you may not want politicians to talk about the subject, but that doesn't make the issue any less real.