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Topic of masculinity discussed in 'Bear'

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Posted: Friday, October 8, 2010 4:37 am | Updated: 1:27 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS — Ever wonder what you’d do if a bear tapped you on the shoulder and asked for your sandwich?

Linda Billington did, and in the process came up with the idea for the 45-minute, one-act play, “Bear,” playing at the Riverfront Theatre this weekend and next.

While the idea stemmed from something simple, the play itself deals with the sometimes complicated topic of what it means to be masculine.

In it, Blair, a certified public accountant, is told by his brother that he needs to become more of a man. His brother suggests that he “man-up” by going into the woods and finding his masculine essence. Instead, he becomes dehydrated and ends having a discussion with a 600-pound grizzly bear who taps him on the shoulder and asks him if he can finish Blair’s sandwich.

Initially conceived as a short story in 2002, Billington said that when she began writing it she realized that it was much more suited for the stage.

There are only two characters in the play: Blair (Michael Hunter) and the Bear (Michael McIntyre). Billington said that the characters popped up in her head fully grown, and even writing bear was a task that came naturally.

“He’s like an intelligent truck driver,” she said.

Billington said that she based Blair off of an old friend that had trouble finding his masculinity. In the play, Blair has had success financially, but romantically he has often come up short. Part of his struggle is that he’s not sure who he is attracted to. Billington said that Bear tries to convince Blair to follow his instincts.

“He doesn’t act,” Billington said. “Bear is all instinct.”

Part of Blair’s problems stem from the fact that he dealt with a traumatic experience as a teenager. Billington wouldn’t go into too much detail, but said that someone saw him doing something and it warped Blair and kept him from being himself.

The play is for mature audiences. BIllington said that the monologue where Blair talks about his traumatic experience is fairly graphic. Much of Billington’s work is graphic, bordering on the absurd. She has written about cannibalism, a 9/11 widow coming to terms with her dead husband’s infidelity, and dinosaurs in the Talkeetna mountains.

“People die a lot,” she said of her writing.

But through the absurdity, Billington said, the play looks at serious issues.

“I’m generally tolerant in most ways,” she said. “Especially when it comes to who people are attracted to. I get kind of pissed off with how people treat each other.”

Contact features writer Suzanna Caldwell at 459-7504.

IF YOU GO

What: Bear, a play by Linda Billington

When: 8:30 p.m., Friday’s and Saturday though Oct. 16

Where: Riverfront Theatre, 1852 2nd Ave.

Tickets: $18

Information: 456-7529

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