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JANUARY 6, 2021
The New York Times names Fairbanks podcast among its “Best Winter Podcasts”
The New York Times has listed the Fairbanks-based podcast Dark Winter Nights: True Stories from Alaska one of its best winter podcasts in 2021. Creator/Host Robert Prince is an Associate Professor in the Communication & Journalism Department at UAF and started the show in 2014 with the goal of sharing true stories from Alaska with the rest of the world. This announcement is a big leap forward in that mission. “This was an incredible surprise and will really help us in our mission to share the real Alaska with the world.” says Prince.
Prof. Prince started Dark Winter Nights because he was frustrated with how Alaska was being depicted in many Reality TV programs. He felt if people were so interested in what life in Alaska is like, Alaskans should be sharing those true stories themselves. He kicked off the show with a small live event in Pioneer Park in April of 2014 followed by a companion radio program and podcast the following fall.
“I knew right from that first show that we were really onto something because the stories we were finding were jaw-dropping. I couldn’t believe all these regular Alaskans were walking around with such incredible stories. There are stories from that first show that are still among my favorites.” says Prince.
It wasn’t long before things began to take off for Dark Winter Nights. Their second live event in November of 2014 packed Pioneer Park’s Centennial Hall Theater just seven months after the launch of the program. “We were well beyond capacity.” says Prince. “I’m sure it was a fire code violation.” Prince had dreamed of someday moving the show into Hering Auditorium. That following April, just a year after their first show, that dream came true and the show has had fall and spring shows in Hering ever since. Fall shows are the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year and spring show dates vary between February and April. “I credit the success of the show to three things:” says Prince, “The amazing stories we have here in Alaska, excellent support and guidance from KUAC and Lori Neufeld, and my wonderful team of Executive Producers who have volunteered their valuable time year after year after year.”
The stories told on Dark Winter Nights run the gamut from hilarious to heart-wrenching, with dramatic stories about ship wrecks and avalanches as well as hilarious stories about ermine coming back to life and bear encounters. “We have the reputation for only being interested in near-death wilderness experiences, but that’s not true.” says Prince. “We’re interested in any story that’s entertaining as long as it’s true and took place in Alaska.”
But the rapid growth of the show has had its drawbacks as well: mainly stage fright. “I don’t know too many people who are very excited about getting up in front of 900 people to tell a story.” says Prince. “I think that’s a hurdle that keeps many people from submitting their stories to us.” But for those with stage fright, Prince has a solution. “I am more than happy to record stories one-on-one for our radio program and podcast. We want the stories any way we can get them.”
The show has evolved over the last six years, growing more complex over time. “We started with a pretty simple show and after a few years I felt like I couldn’t just walk out on stage at the start of the program anymore. We needed something more exciting.” It started with Prince juggling, then dancers, live animals, and for the start of their last show Prince even swallowed a sword. “I think I’ve created a monster. We keep working to one-up ourselves and my team is starting to talk ask me if things can be on fire. Fortunately Hering doesn’t allow that,” jokes Prince, “but we’re already plotting our big return to Hering when it’s safe to do so again.”
Like live events everywhere, COVID-19 has put the live shows on hold. The November 2020 live show was cancelled and there will be no spring 2021 show in Hering. The Dark Winter Nights team is considering alternatives, like a drive-in show in the spring, but has no concrete plans for an event at this time. “We’re weighing the pros and cons of something safe, like a drive-in show, but putting on the programs is expensive and a tremendous amount of work, so we want to make sure it will be worth the effort.” says Prince.
The Dark Winter Nights podcast can be found wherever you get your podcasts or by visiting www.darkwinternights.com. You can submit your true story from Alaska to Professor Prince at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***ARCHIVE PRESS RELEASE***
FEBRUARY 24, 2018
Dark Winter Nights announces first live event in two years
Fairbanks–The Fairbanks-based storytelling program Dark Winter Nights: True Stories from Alaska has announced its next live event will be Saturday, April 14 at 7:00pm in Lathrop High School’s Hering Auditorium. The show features true stories from Alaska told by the Alaskans who experienced them. Dark Winter Nights was on a hiatus last year while creator/host Robert Prince was out-of-state on an academic sabbatical from his teaching job at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Our team has been chomping at the bit to put on another live show and we’ve fielded a lot of questions about when we’d finally get the show back on stage. We’ve spent a lot of time gathering stories since I returned to Alaska last summer and we’ve gathered enough to announce another live show.”
Tickets for the April 14 show are $20 for General Admission, $15 for Seniors/Students/Military, and $5 for kids 12 & Under. Advanced ticket sales will begin Friday, March 23.
Prince is an Associate Professor of Documentary Filmmaking in the Communication & Journalism Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He started Dark Winter Nights in the spring of 2014 with a small live show at Pioneer Park. Within a year, their audience had grown so large they had to move into Lathrop High School’s Hering Auditorium. “Our second show in Pioneer Park was so packed that we had people sitting in the aisles. I knew this program had the potential to draw a large audience, but I didn’t expect it to grow that quickly.” says Prince.
Prince started Dark Winter Nights because he was frustrated with how Alaska was being depicted in many of the popular Alaska-based Reality TV programs. “I thought it was crazy that producers from L.A. were the ones sharing ‘life in Alaska’ with the rest of the world. I figured if people wanted to know what life in Alaska is like, it should be Alaskans sharing those true stories with the world, not Hollywood making stuff up.”
Dark Winter Nights also has an accompanying half-hour radio show on KUAC-FM the last Saturday of the month at 7:00pm. You can listen to previous episodes at www.darkwinternights.com or subscribe to their podcast on iTunes. Prince’s vision from the start was to create a podcast that could reach listeners around the world. It appears he may be on the verge of a major breakthrough toward that goal. “We’ve been in contact with a nationally-broadcast storytelling radio program and podcast that has a huge audience. So far they have accepted one story we have pitched to them and are considering another. If they broadcast one of our stories, it would likely mean a tremendous boost to our podcast subscribers and be a big step forward in our goal to share the real Alaska with the rest of the world.” says Prince.
Prince’s sabbatical project was to write a manual about how to create and run a storytelling program based on his experience with Dark Winter Nights. “I get a lot of questions about how to tell a great story and how to put on a program like this. Now we’ll have a resource to give people that will be able to go into much more detail than I can in a brief workshop or passing conversation.” says Prince. UA Press will be publishing the manual this spring, along with a collection of the best stories from previous Dark Winter Nights live shows. Prince says the “Best of” book is another part of his vision to share the real Alaska with the world. “My hope is that our Alaska audience will share the book with their friends who live Outside so they can get a taste of what the real Alaska is like, much like what we’re trying to achieve with the podcast.”
There are still spots available for anyone out there who has a great true story from Alaska they would like to share on stage. “People often ask me what types of stories we’re looking for.” says Prince. “Basically, if it’s a story with a lot of crazy elements to it and it would impress another Alaskan, we’d like to hear it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a near-death wilderness story.”
To submit a story for consideration, visit darkwinternights.com, email Rob Prince at email@example.com or call (907) 474-6249. For updates on live events, follow Dark Winter Nights on Facebook or subscribe to their mailing list.