Vera Marlene Starbard, T’set kwei yóo xát duwasáakw. Yeil áyá xát. T’eeneidi naax xát sitee. Craig kwáandáx áyá xát. T’akdeintaan yádi áyá xát.
Vera Marlene Starbard, T’set Kwei, was born in Craig, Alaska with an Alaska Native heritage – Tlingit (Raven moiety, Dog Salmon Clan) and Dena’ina Athabascan. Her parents are Don and Linda Starbard, maternal grandparents are Gordon and Rachel James of Craig, and paternal grandparents are Cliff and Marlene Johnson of Hoonah. Because of her dad’s job as an Alaska State Trooper, she grew up all over Alaska, including Juneau, Kodiak, and Anchorage, along with sisters Karla and Miranda, and brother Nathan.
Among Vera’s greatest achievements is her award for “Best Storyteller in Mrs. Stichik’s Class” – first grade. Art, reading, writing, and telling stories were her greatest joys from the beginning. She knew she wanted to be a writer in kindergarten.
After graduating from East Anchorage High School in 2000 as the editor of the school newspaper, she began editing newspapers professionally, and has made writing and editing part of her work since. She was editor of the Anchorage Native News for six years at Southcentral Foundation, and was a contributor to the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Book of the Year, “Alaska Native Culture and Issues: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions.”
Vera completed a historical fiction book in 2010 with an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, and has received numerous awards for writing and editing from the Public Relations Society of America, Alaska Professional Communicator’s Society, Alaska Press Club, and the Alaska Federation of Natives. She has also received the Juneau Mayor’s Individual Artist Award, and the Alaska Literary Award.
Following her passion for journalism and communications, Vera became Editor of First Alaskans Magazine in 2013, a position she continues to hold.
“Our Voices Will Be Heard,” Vera’s premiere play, was produced at Perseverance Theatre in 2016, playing in Juneau, Hoonah, and Anchorage, with a revival showing in Fairbanks. It was published the following year in the anthology textbook “Contemporary Plays by Women of Color.”
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Vera met, befriended, fell in love with, and married Joe Bedard, an Inupiaq/Yup’ik/Cree man born and raised in Anchorage. Joe now serves on the board of Perseverance Theatre, solidly making theatre “the family business.”
Along with her husband and three playwrights from the Alaska Native Playwright Project, Vera co-founded an Alaska Native theatre company called Dark Winter Productions to promote Alaska Native playwriting and acting.
Vera was selected for the Andrew W Mellon Foundation National Playwright Residency Program in 2016. She is the first Alaskan, and first Alaska Native/American Indian resident in the history of the program. In 2019, her residency was renewed for an additional three years, so she will continue her employment and commission with Perseverance through July 2022.
Vera’s first play commissioned through the residency, “Devilfish” premiered at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau and Anchorage in 2019.
In 2017, Vera became a writer for the PBS Kids animated children’s program “Molly of Denali.” The show premiered in July 2019, and Vera wrote several episodes, including “New Nivagi,” “Turn On the Northern Lights,” “Canoe Journey,” and “Eagle Tale.” In 2020, “Molly of Denali” won a Peabody Award for its premiere season of storytelling.
Amongst her writing and editing work, Vera has been busy teaching storytelling via Zoom, collaborating on design projects with her dad, and making masks with Tlingit designs. Currently, Vera lives in Anchorage with her husband, books, and too many cats.