STAR 2021 Information and Updates

Lewis Chapman Education, Featured

STAR (Summer Theatre Arts Rendezvous) is a theatre arts summer program for youth between 12–18 years old in which both in-person and virtual students will develop their own performance piece with the guidance and mentorship of Teaching Artists. This will culminate in a Showcase highlighting each young artist’s individual talents. The program is student-driven in that each youth will be encouraged to find their inner artist, and to use their own unique skill set to develop a performance piece that is meaningful to them.

July 19 through August 4, 2021 | Ages 12-18 | Scholarships Available!

In-Person Program in Douglas, AK
Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$300

Virtual Program via Zoom
Monday-Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
$150

For more information, and to learn how you can register and apply for scholarships, click here.

We can’t wait to work with you this summer. More information on teaching artists and the class selection process will come soon. If you have any questions or concerns, please email cbourgeois@ptalaska.org

STAR 2020 Registration is Live! UPDATE: Final Showcase Tickets Available!

Lewis Chapman Education, Featured

UPDATE: Tickets for STAR’s final showcase are available here! Tiered PAYC pricing is available.

Registration for STAR 2020 is now LIVE, and scholarship applications are available. This three-week program is geared toward actors, writers, theatre makers, and artists between 4th – 12th grade, looking to stretch their skills, learn from incredible teaching artists/practitioners, and connect with other students in new and innovative ways. Creativity has never been more important as we dream into a needed and different future of equity and inclusion in service of justice. We are so excited to spend this summer with you, building skills toward a new kind of digital theatre making and expanding the ways in which we think and relate to one another and to the world around us. 

For more information, and to learn how you can register and apply for scholarships, click here.

We can’t wait to work with you this summer. More information on teaching artists and the class selection process will come soon. If you have any questions or concerns, please email lilyo@ptalaska.org

Theatre Made Me Trans: An Out & Proud Playwright

Seth Coppens Blog, Featured

Theatre made me trans. 

No, but seriously, if I hadn’t been introduced to theatre, I would be a different person. And that person would be very unhappy and unable to make sense of who they are. 

Before I learned how to write, five-year-old me used Broadway cast recordings of Les Misérables, Urinetown, and Fiddler on the Roof as a means to express and perform my gender identity before I even knew what gender was. I would sing, dance, and act out all of the traditionally male roles — my favorites being Valjean, Officer Lockstock, and Tevye. My little voice would do its best to mimic the deep, rich sounds of the professionally-trained and fully-grown men. I would stand on a precarious stack of pillows to give the very convincing illusion that I was tall. Sometimes I would give myself facial and chest hair using my mom’s mascara. I felt like I could be anyone, like I was a shapeshifter who laughed at the idea of gender being static — but at the time, I settled with being a “tomboy.” 

At the adventurous age of seven, I wrote hundreds of pages of stories entirely constructed of dialogue, which my mom called plays. My most significant story was about an armadillo named “Army” who was based off of the title character from the movie Rango. When I wrote Army’s dialogue, I imagined what I would say as myself if I existed in the world of Rango, where quirky desert animal townspeople use water as currency and are under constant threat from hawks and gunslinging rattlesnakes. Army is just somebody who wants to help everyone. He’s also a guy, which was very important to me. He became the version of myself that didn’t need to come out as trans. 

Looking back as a seventeen-year-old who’s been out for almost six years, I see how little-me was already a trans playwright.

After I came out, it became my mission to help fill the void of trans representation in mainstream media. I only wrote about trans people, and a few of my teachers, especially my playwriting teacher at school, worried that I was limiting myself. They thought that I wouldn’t be “successful” as a writer, but their ignorance only fueled the importance of my mission. I indulged myself with all-trans casts, research about gender non-conforming people in the early twentieth century, and playwriting workshops on Zoom led by people who became my new mentors. For the first time ever, I had a trans writing teacher. 

He was the artistic director of a trans-owned and operated theatre in Minneapolis called Uprising. I watched recordings of the plays produced by Uprising, all of them centering trans voices, and I was invigorated. This, I thought to myself, is the kind of theatre I want to see everywhere. This is the kind of theatre I want to make! My first pandemic project became a one-act play about uncovering the lost history of trans people, while centering the life of Murray Hall. 

Murray Hall was a real person in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. He lived his entire life as a man for over fifty years, until his female sex was discovered after his death from breast cancer. He was originally from Scotland, but was forced to emigrate after his ex-wife outed him as a “crossdresser” to the police. To escape prosecution, he changed his name and escaped to New York, where he founded an employment agency and dabbled in local politics. All of this is just scraping the surface of his life story, which I’ve continued to research for the past three years. 

Writing a play about him was very emotional for me. I felt like I was learning about a long lost family member, like Murray was my great-great-great-grandfather. I believe that there’s this ineffable connection that all trans people can experience with each other — a connection that can transcend generations, families, and distances and allow us to feel like we really know and understand each other without ever having met before. It’s rooted in our shared experience, certainly, but I believe there is also a spiritual aspect to it as well — like all of our spirits are connected. 

The playwriting workshop I took at Uprising allowed me to establish my identity as a trans playwright. From them, I gained the confidence I needed to continue writing plays about trans people, despite the discouraging feedback I was receiving from school at the time. Unfortunately, Uprising is no longer in operation — they had to permanently close last year. When they closed, I was devastated, but I knew that they weren’t the only theatre out there where trans people are not just included, but celebrated. 

In 2021, Perseverance’s STAR program gave me the opportunity to stage my first ten-minute play. Violins With Alaskan Names is about a recently-out nonbinary kid (Aubrey) who goes camping with their step-dad, who is still learning how to be supportive. The play ends with them playing a violin duet together after they come to an understanding. I played the part of the step-dad, and one of the other STAR students played Aubrey. Rehearsing and performing this play was an intense experience for both of us, both emotionally and mentally. I remember feeling guilty for sharing a play that was so personal, but I was encouraged by my castmate and the mentors at STAR. They felt like this piece was important and that it could help people who are experiencing a similar conflict feel seen. I learned, from that experience, that theatre can help people find validation and closure. I am so grateful for everyone involved in STAR 2021 — without them, I wouldn’t have been able to develop the emotional confidence necessary to produce plays like Violins With Alaskan Names

Fast forward to May 2022, and I was commissioned by the STAR 2022 team to write a one-act play adaptation of a work in the public domain. I had already started to write an adaptation of As You Like It earlier in the Spring with a trans and contemporary spin, but I knew that STAR had recently produced an abridged As You Like It. I also wanted to challenge  myself to choose something that wasn’t Shakespeare. I was drawn to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because it was by Agatha Christie, the “Queen of Mystery,” and because it was one of her lesser known works. 

I fell in love with the character of Hercule Poirot, and I quickly realized that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is probably the most underrated Christie work ever. As I wrote this play, I thought about all of my past pieces, especially the one about Murray Hall. While Murray and Hercule are of different generations and one is fictional and one is not, I interpreted them both as being trans men who live “stealth” (trans people who live as their authentic selves, but don’t openly disclose their transness). With Poirot, I felt that same connection I felt with Murray Hall. I can’t really explain why, but I believe that one of the reasons why Poirot lived such a secretive life was because he didn’t want people tracing him to a different version of himself that he used to be. And like Murray Hall, some of the nosy and ignorant people around him believed that he was “hiding something,” but they couldn’t quite identify where their suspicion came from. Poirot also possesses a deep empathy and sense of awareness that contributes to his genius as a detective, but I wondered where and how he could learn to have such abilities.

I believe that him being of the trans experience explains this perfectly. When one is forced to hide a part of themself for a long time, they are required to develop a heightened awareness of their environment as a means of survival. His empathy could be attributed to the fact that he’s lived as different versions of himself and therefore can directly relate to the experience of people of both of the binary genders. He often talks about the differences in psychology between men and women (now an out-dated concept), and I noticed that his gendered ideas of psychology don’t actually apply to him. For example, he says that women are more observant and have stronger intuition than men, but he too is much more observant and intuitive than most people. He would probably explain this by saying that he is “a genius,” but perhaps he might also say that he has “the best mental qualities of both genders.” 

While I stand by the fact that theatre has enabled me to explore transness, I do not believe that I am “making” theatre trans. Anyone familiar with the origins of theatre would be able to see that theatre has been trans (or at the very least queer) for a long time. And likewise, I’m not “making” Poirot trans, I’m just affirming it as a possibility. Doing so also acknowledges the fact that trans people existed a hundred years ago, they just couldn’t be as open and explicit about it as a trans person like myself can be today. 

Producing trans plays like this adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd pays tribute to both the history of theatre and the history of trans people, and I am so grateful to Perseverance Theatre for housing my tribute as well as my growth as a trans playwright. 

An Alaska-Wide Time Capsule: Where Will We Be Ten Years From Now?

Irene Martinko Blog, Featured

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.

Participating Organizations: 

Alaska Humanities Forum

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Anchorage Concert Chorus

COVIDatos Alaska

Doyon Foundation

Fairbanks Arts Association

Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Juneau Ghost Light Theatre

Out North

Perseverance Theatre

Pier One Theatre

University of Alaska Fairbanks Music Department 

University of Alaska Southeast

CASTING CALL FOR Little Women

joshua Casting Calls, Featured

Perseverance Theatre is officially accepting auditions for our upcoming production. Those auditioning will receive sides from the show and will be asked to submit a self-taped video. The deadline for submissions is July 24th. Only non-union contracts available.

Anchorage Rehearsals: Oct 27 – Dec 1, 2022
Anchorage Performances: Dec 2 – Dec 18, 2022

Juneau Rehearsals: Mar 28 – Apr 6, 2023
Juneau Performances: Apr 7 – Apr 30, 2023

Perseverance Theatre provides round-trip travel, housing, and local transportation when away from your home city.

SHOW DESCRIPTION

In this fresh take on a classic coming of age story, the beloved March sisters grow up against the backdrop of the Civil War. Accompanied by the rich boy next door, the temperamental aunt, the stuffy tutor, the devoted mother, and a surprising amount of fake mustaches, Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth navigate their way through poverty, loss, and society’s expectations. Named Playwright of the Year by the Wall Street Journal in 2017, Kate Hamill expertly adapts a heartwarming and empowering tale of young women finding their way in the world.

NOTE ON CASTING

We are looking for performers across the spectrum of race, gender, size and ability for any and all roles. Performers who are also singers and musicians are a plus.

To request audition sides, please email headshot and resume to joseph@ptalaska.org

CHARACTERS

Marmie / Aunt March- she/her (40+) Any Race/Ethnicity. Marmie: the matriarch of the March family. Good sense of humor. Tough. Strong. Intelligent. Doubles with Aunt March- the most unpleasant old woman imaginable. Has lots of money; privileged. Judgmental.

Meg March- she/her (20s-30s) Any Race/Ethnicity. The oldest March daughter. Wears glasses. Acts as Marmie’s second in the house. A romantic at heart – likes to dress up and have little luxuries in life.

Jo March- gender expansive, she/her, they/them (20s-30s) Any Race/Ethnicity. The second-to-oldest March. Does not fit comfortably within the given parameters of her given gender role. Extremely ambitious and frustrated by the distance between where she is – and where she wants to be. A mix of insecurity and aspiration. A great sense of humor.

Beth March- she/her (20s) Any Race/Ethnicity. The third March. Very sweet and paralytically shy; Almost incapable of going out in the world; sheltered by her family. Loves deeply and has deep empathy for everyone. Sees much more than anyone realizes. Plays piano.

Amy March- she/her (20s) Any Race/Ethnicity. The youngest March. Opinionated and spunky; popular and quite focused on style. Not the most tolerant of differing viewpoints. Socially intelligent. Sometimes puts on airs. Perhaps a bit spoiled.

Hannah / Mrs. Mingott / Messenger- she/her (30s-50s) Any Race/Ethnicity. Hannah: The March’s longtime housekeeper, cook, and defacto babysitter. Takes no nonsense. Mrs. Mingott: a very rich, stylish woman. Vanderbilt-esque, condescending, not terribly pleasant; fancies herself charitable.

Theodore “Laurie” Laurence- he/him (20s-30s) Any Race/Ethnicity. Funny, charming, and caring. A natural musician. Wealthy thanks to his inheritance; generous, does not have to think about money. Does not always fit comfortably within the given parameters of his given gender role. Finds a family in the Marches.

John Brooks/Parrot- he/him (20s-30s) Any Race/Ethnicity. John Brooks: Laurie’s sometimes stiff and awkward tutor. A rule-follower. A poor man; well educated. Feels deeply. Doubles with Parrot: Aunt March’s parrot. Pure evil. A musty, disgusting bird.

Mr. Laurence / Robert March- he/him (50+) Any Race/Ethnicity. Mr. Laurence: Laurie’s grandfather. A wealthy man. A gentleman in the strictest sense. Has a rigid sense of what is appropriate behavior, especially for a man. Robert March: father to the March girls. Never speaks, but his presence looms large.

We hope to see your audition! Please reach out to joseph@ptalaska.org with any questions.

STAR 2022

joshua Education, Featured

This summer, we welcome students back to the Main Stage for Perseverance Theatre’s 2022 Summer Theatre Arts Rendesvouz (STAR) Summer Camp. Join us on Douglas from July 18th through August 6th for workshops, games, and the premiere of an ORIGINAL WORK for young artists.


HALF-DAY CAMP
(Students Ages 7 to 12) – $150
FULL-DAY CAMP (Students Ages 12 – 18) – $350

Some scholarships are available – see registration form

This year’s STAR Program will take place Monday through Friday, from 9AM until 4PM. Check-In and Morning Drop-Off will begin at 8:30AM. Lunch will take place at Noon, daily. Perseverance Theatre will provide lunch for students at no additional charge, though parents are welcome to opt-out. All students are given an hour for lunch, and are required to remain on Perseverance Theatre facilities unless written permission is provided by a parent or guardian.

Students ages 7 and up are invited to participate in theater games and workshops from 9 AM until Noon, when all students are provided with lunch. Parents/Guardians of students age 7-12 must pick up their students no later than 12:30 PM. At 1:00 PM, Students ages 12 and up will return for afternoon rehearsals of the 2022 STAR Production, an original work by and for young artists. Students will be dismissed for the day by 4:00 PM every day. 

More information will be provided upon completion of registration.  

Registration for STAR 2022 has now closed.

38th Annual Travel Raffle Winners

joshua Featured

Grand Prize – Gail Ramsay – Ticket #169

2nd Prize – Richard Lannon – Online Ticket

3rd Prize – Kyle Hubert – Ticket #538

4th Prize – Max Mertz

5th Prize -Mary Hausler – #496

6th Prize – Anita Evans – #989

7th Prize – Indra Arriaga – #317

8th Prize – Corey Cox – #596

9th Prize – Jane Gato – #178

10th Prize – Joseph Meyers – #948

11th Prize – Lynne Smith – Online Ticket

12th Prize – Conor Lendrum – Ticket #983

The Artist Behind Fun Home: Why You’ve Heard of Alison Bechdel

Irene Martinko Blog, Featured

Two years ago, we were forced to close our doors to in-person audiences just days before opening night of Fun Home. Unsure of when we would be back, if ever, this show became the production that never was, and we anxiously awaited the day when we could open up our space and fill the theatre again. 

After two long, long years, as a true testament to Perseverance Theatre’s name, Fun Home has found life on our stage once again, and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited. This show makes me laugh, it makes me smile, it makes me gasp, and as I discovered on opening night this past weekend, at least five of the songs bring tears to my eyes. Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss this one. 

But what is Fun Home even about, you may ask? Based on the New York Times Best Selling graphic novel of the same name, this Tony Award-winning musical follows lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel as she works on her latest project. Drawing on her own memories to guide her, she grapples with her past, her relationship with her father, and her dysfunctional childhood growing up in a funeral home. 

Yes, Alison Bechdel is a real person, and yes, she wrote the graphic novel that the musical is based on about her own family.

But here’s the real question. Does her name sound familiar? Some of you may be huge Alison Bechdel fans already, but for those of you who aren’t… Perhaps you’ve seen it written or heard it in passing?

If you’re still not sure, this may help. Have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test? 

Alison Bechdel has written two graphic novels, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, and maintained a long-running comic strip called Dykes to Watch Out For. But popularizing what is now referred to as the Bechdel Test is perhaps what she is best known for.

First appearing in Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985, Alison Bechdel jokingly depicted a scenario inspired by her friend and karate training partner Liz Wallace. Dubbed “The Rule”, this comic shows two women deciding whether or not they would like to see a movie at the theater, and their subsequent conversation reveals the following set of Bechdel Test rules: 

  1. The movie must have at least two women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

Sounds simple, right? The bar is so low! Oh, how I wish it were that easy. I encourage you to take a trip to Google and look up movies that do and do not pass the Bechdel Test. The answers may surprise you. For instance, both Frozen and Die Hard pass. Yes, I said Die Hard. But the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy? Not so much. Jaws and The Sixth Sense make the cut, but The Avengers, Avatar, and The Social Network all fail.

The Bechdel Test has since become a wildly popular tool in examining both female presence in a film as well as the depth of their stories. Are these women dynamic, well-rounded characters? Or are they simply there to serve the male storyline? Do they have fully realized lives, goals, and objectives? Or are they the manic pixie dream girls designed for male protagonists to pine for and romanticize without actually learning anything of meaning about them? By publishing this comic, Alison Bechdel brought this conversation into the zeitgeist, putting the pressure on movie makers and screenwriters to do better. And in some ways, they have.

Of course, as storytelling and film have evolved, other tests have emerged to continue this examination, and to up the standard for what we should be able to expect on the big screen. My personal favorite is known as the Sexy Lamp Test. Can you take a female character out of the story and replace her with a sexy lamp? Then the movie doesn’t pass! And once again, you’d be surprised at how many famous films don’t pass.

There are also several tests that are focused specifically on representation of nonwhite characters in film. For instance, the DuVernay Test, named for famous film director Ava DuVernay, sets forth the rule that, in order to pass, a film must have an actor of color who has a fully realized life with their own goals and desires, and who is not simply a background character serving the white storyline.

And while it isn’t an officially named test, the Bury Your Gays trope was popularized to refer to the vast number of films, television shows, and books that kill off their lesbian and bisexual characters. Does the lesbian character die? Then it definitely doesn’t pass this test. 

When it comes down to it, there’s a lot more to Alison Bechdel than this one cartoon strip, and you’ll see that in Fun Home, but the Bechdel Test has been referenced for almost 40 years, and it paved the way for subsequent tests, opening up conversations about identity, representation, and storytelling. Next time you make popcorn and sit down for a movie, think about each of these tests. Does the movie pass? 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t say… Fun Home passes the Bechdel Test! 

CASTING CALL FOR Where the Summit Meets the Stars by Frank Henry Kaash Katasse.

joshua Casting Calls, Featured

Perseverance Theatre is officially accepting auditions for an upcoming production of Where the Summit Meets the Stars by Frank Henry Kaash Katasse. Those auditioning will receive sides from the show and will be asked to submit a self-taped video for consideration.

The deadline for submissions is May 1st. Only non-union contracts available.
Juneau Rehearsals: Aug. 30 – Oct. 6, Juneau Performances: Oct. 7 – Oct. 30

SHOW DESCRIPTION
When a near-death experience derails her flight through Southeast Alaska, Rose awakens to find herself in the care of the kind man who pulled her to safety. But who is this mysterious stranger? And how is it possible that she survived? As they journey by boat through the darkness and fog, Rose untangles the mysteries of her past, questions the world around her, and comes to an inescapable crossroads. Where the Summit Meets the Stars is an ethereal Alaska Native story driven by music, dance, and the culture of the Tlingit people.

CHARACTERS
ROSE- Female, Alaska Native. She is 30 years old.
ANTHONY- Male, mixed Alaska Native. He is 35 years old.
JOHN/ Tleik Kaa- Male, Alaska Native. He is 40 years old.

To request audition sides or to ask questions, please email jolin@ptalaska.org

Acting Through the Pandemic

Jared Olin Blog, Featured

My name is Jared Olin. I am Tl’eeyegge Hʉt’aane, and I’ve come to Perseverance Theatre (PT) as this year’s Artistic Apprentice. When asked about what I’d like to focus on throughout the year, I responded with acting, directing, and writing. I’ve come to work on and learn so much about all three of these focus areas, but acting was my first significant assignment from the theatre in my role as Carl/Ceygan in Jared Michael Delaney’s Voyager One. It’s been so exciting to step back onto the stage of an in-person theatre again, but COVID has certainly made the past couple of years a challenge.

The entire world has been tilted by the weight of COVID-19, and theatre has certainly not been exempt from that in these past two years. My experience under this pressure may sound very familiar to other performers in this industry. To share my personal path down this road, we have to go back to the beginning.

Bang….

Oh, sorry. Not that far back.

So it’s March 2020, and I’m in our final rehearsals of Pride and Prejudice for the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) production where I’m playing Mr. Bingley/Mary Bennet. Things are ramping up with our dance choreography, the technical team is prepping to fine-tune the show, and we’re just about set to present it to the world. The next thing we know, quarantine comes in like a wrecking ball and we’re forced to cancel the show. After such hard work and so many hours, this unexpected cancellation hit pretty hard… It’s something that COVID took away from our whole team, because we never got the chance to present the show as originally intended.

A year later, we were finally able to present the show, but it took a different form. Our version of Pride and Prejudice was converted into a virtual production with some significant changes. The largest hurdle to get over as an actor was to realize that I couldn’t rely so much on physical movements for comedy or other emotional beats like I would in a regular theatrical production. Our acting had to be condensed into the frame of our laptop cameras, and our performances transformed to be more understated as we utilized film acting techniques. It did allow for some of the more intimate moments to shine brighter, but it was very hard not to yearn for the beautiful orchestration that was present in the original performance. Still, it was lovely to see how our team persevered by returning to this show and finishing it.

The first show I worked on during the pandemic was She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms with UAF, in which I played Miles. This was in November of 2020, and was my introduction to creating virtual theatre. This is where I’d learn about just how many technical things could go wrong in a virtual production. There were a lot of technical factors to keep track of before our takes, so it turned out that the actors had to also become camera operators by-proxy. We all got the hang of it by the end, but there were plenty of mistakes made before we got to that point.

Titus Andronicus was my next theatrical venture with PT in February 2021, and was my first experience of a live virtual reading. I enjoyed the live format because it felt a little closer to in-person theatre shows. Performing this show live also left us open to hosting a Q&A afterwards which allowed for great discussions of the piece.

Also in February of 2021, I performed in a radio play performance of As You Like It with Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre (FST). This too, was a welcome change of form as I was able to perform with just my voice. For this production, I was faced with a challenge I never expected. My neighbors. They were just walking around upstairs, but it sure sounded like stomping to the sensitive microphone and I. Waiting for the moments in between their walking around was enough to fix that disruption.

The next show I worked on was The Winter Bear in May 2021, a play based on a part of my great grandfather’s life. This was a virtual production as well, and remains close to my heart, as this was my first time acting in a show where the entire cast was Alaska Native or Native American. The new element added to this show, at least to me, was the use of a green screen. It suggested the idea that the actors were actually outside in the cold or in the old cabin settings within the play. While I haven’t worked with a green screen in the past, it was very easy to get used to. I’d pick a point in my apartment to look at (as if I was looking at the other actor), and perform the scene to that focal point. A con to that, was the fact that I couldn’t look at my acting partner during those scenes, which sometimes helps with reactions, but I adjusted quickly to the new circumstance. I’m very happy with all the work that we put in for this show. 

August 2021 was when I made it back on the main stage with FST’s production of Twelfth Night. Still in the midst of rising and falling cases, we had to continue precariously. We kept up with UAF’s COVID action plans and were sure to adjust our plans for seating audience members when the show opened. They don’t have locked-in-place chairs, so we were able to physically distance multiple sections of the seating area by placing the chairs further apart. Our nerves about the pandemic had been building for a year and half at this point, but a slight alleviation to that stress was the fact that we held this performance in an outdoor playing space.

This is where Voyager One comes in. Back in November 2021, I was able to perform in Perseverance’s production, and I’m proud of how it turned out. That was also in large part because of how safe it felt. PT had many safety precautions to keep us and visitors safe. At the door, we were met with a COVID safety officer to check our temperature and ask us if we felt any related symptoms. Once we passed that check, we could step into the Voyager One rehearsal room as long as we kept our masks on the entire time. It made the whole process feel very safe, and as we progressed further into production, we also shifted our safety calls. During the performance, there was a 1-foot square where we couldn’t step or risk being within 10 feet of an audience member without our mask on. To work around that, we literally did just that. We blocked our movements around that square and made sure not to step there during the run. These are little things that built up to make the atmosphere of performing for Perseverance Theatre feel as safe as possible.

Acting has been a tricky thing to maintain through the pandemic, with in-person theatres shutting down left and right. It seems that the world is building confidence to open these venues back up, but I believe that virtual theatre work will continue. While I am excited to keep journeying back into physical theatre spaces, I am also very prepared to keep looking for roles in more radio and virtual productions. This is especially true if it means that I can keep my family and other families in the community safe. Enaa baasee’. (Thank you very much.)