It’s been a long journey since Covid first struck, and though it’s not over, it does feel good to say that we at Perseverance have completed our first full season of in-person theatre since March of 2020.
We’ve had to be flexible, cautious, optimistic, and we worked hard to make it happen as safely as possible. And when we opened Fun Home in April of this year, a production we’d been waiting to present to the public since the pandemic first began its spread, I think it’s safe to say that the Perseverance Theatre community definitely felt like celebrating. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we can finally see the light through the trees.
Of course, we certainly aren’t the only Alaskan organization that had to adapt quickly and creatively to these strange circumstances. Countless organizations, groups, institutions, and businesses were faced with challenges they had never expected to face. How could they continue to pursue their missions and serve their communities while staying safe, financially afloat, and adaptive? Could technology help us all to move forward and continue our work? With all of these changes, how will we all grow and evolve over time? Where will we be in ten years?
It is these questions that inspired a season-long project that we’ve been working on since November of 2021: An Alaska-wide digital time capsule. And we’re getting ready to “seal” that time capsule on its flash drive in one short week, not to be “opened” again for the next ten years.
But first, let’s backtrack.
Do you remember Voyager One by Jared Michael Delaney? The play that was chosen to open our first in-person season in the fall? Based on the fascinating history of the actual Voyager 1 space probe, the play is set in both the 1970s and the far distant future. The playwright asks the audience to think about how we’ll be remembered, what mark we’re leaving behind when we’re gone, and where we can find hope in our own future. We’re asked to think about our place in the universe as human beings and our relationship to each other. The story of Voyager One opens up conversations about space, time, humanity, and beyond.
As we worked on this production, the themes of the play continued to resonate outside of the rehearsal room, especially as we thought about our own moment in time. We wondered what we could do beyond the production to continue to engage with these ideas and with our community.
The answer was simple. The real Voyager 1 space probe, launched in the 1970s and still floating through the cosmos to this day, contains a fascinating piece of history in the form of the Golden Record. This actual record plated in gold is filled with images, music, greetings in 55 different languages, and a series of “Sounds of Earth”, and was designed specifically so that if alien life were to discover Voyager 1, they’d be able to learn about humanity from what had been etched into its grooves. It is essentially a time capsule of humanity.
Thus, our own time capsule was born. First, we determined the time capsule’s medium, settling on a digital time capsule contained on a simple flash drive. This would allow us the opportunity to look at how quickly technology can change over the course of ten years and to reflect on how significant those changes have been for all of us, especially over the last two years. It would also allow us to easily connect and share with organizations both in and out of Juneau.
We then reached out to arts and cultural organizations throughout the state, and we asked ourselves and each other the following questions:
What are we as artists and leaders working toward at this moment in time? Where do we hope to be in ten years? Where are we now and how are we moving forward?
What emerged was an eclectic and beautiful mix of materials including images, text, audio, and video sent to us by 12 different organizations from Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Palmer. From Alaska Native translations of text to images of successful in-person events to a full-length radio play, the time capsule contributions are a wide range of material showcasing each organization’s accomplishments, challenges, creativity, and perseverance over the last two years.
And on June 30th at 4:30 pm, we will “seal” this time capsule in its flash drive and it will live in the Perseverance Theatre lobby for the next ten years.
Sure, ten years may seem like a short time, but think about how quickly things change. Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined that a pandemic would ravage the globe and change so much of what we knew. We couldn’t have predicted that we’d be wearing masks and attending Zoom meetings and watching theatre online. We don’t know where we’ll be in ten years, and the other participating organizations don’t know either.
What we can do is think about where we are now and where we would like to be. We can hope that the work we’ve done now has led to something positive and has done some good for our communities. We can hope that we are thriving and that we’ve continued to collaborate with each other beyond this time capsule. We can have hope for the future, just like those who sent Voyager 1 into space over forty years ago. And when we open the time capsule ten years from now, I hope we can look back with joy and think about how far we’ve come.
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Anchorage Concert Chorus
Fairbanks Arts Association
Juneau-Douglas City Museum
Juneau Ghost Light Theatre
Pier One Theatre
University of Alaska Fairbanks Music Department
University of Alaska Southeast