Juneau Empire – Perseverance brings plays downtown

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Perseverance Theatre has jumped the channel for the summer, setting up temporary shop in the Juneau Arts & Culture Center to stage Summerfest, a six-week, three-play project that kicks off Saturday.

It’s new territory for the Douglas-based theater in more ways than one, marking an expansion of the theater’s usual September-to-May season, and an experiment in repertory programming — three plays will run in continuous rotation from June 28 through Aug. 6, often back to back. Executive artistic director Art Rotch said by making Perseverance plays accessible to a downtown crowd during Juneau’s busiest season, and giving people lots of performance options, the theater hopes to reach the broadest possible audience, from locals and their summer house guests to single-day tourists off the ships.

“Really, anyone who is in town for that day, that likes theater, that’s who it’s for,” Rotch said. “It would be great to bring different types of people together who aren’t often in the same room together.”

The theater has produced plays in the summer before, including the “Lady Lou Revue” and a 2010 production written by Ishmael Hope called “Cedar House,” but those plays were specifically geared toward summer tourists, whereas Summerfest is for everyone.

“It’s for locals, it’s for visiting friends and family, and it’s for tourists as well,” said Bostin Christopher, Summerfest producer. “It’s the professional theater that Juneau is used to seeing in the fall and spring, but we’re doing it in the summer.”

The Summerfest lineup includes two original Alaskan stories, “The Blue Bear” and “Warriors,” and a third play called “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

“The Blue Bear” debuted on the Perseverance stage in January 2011. Based on Juneau author Lynn Schooler’s memoir of his friendship with Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino, and set against a backdrop of Hoshino’s images of Southeast Alaska, the play is about the two men’s connection to each other and to this particular landscape. The Summerfest production brings back original actors Takahiro Yamamoto as Hoshino, and Ryan Conarro as Schooler, as well as members of the production team. The director is Hannah Wolf, who built on original direction by Leon Ingulsrud.

Christopher said “Blue Bear” was a natural choice for Summerfest.

“There’s a lot of great things about that play that say, ‘This is Perseverance Theatre,’” he said. “It really worked well in Anchorage to introduce us there and I think it’s a great thing to have as a start off for this summer festival, as well.”

“Warriors” is also an Alaskan play, written and directed by Dave Hunsaker with original music by Ed Littlefield. It focuses on Alaska Natives in war at different times in history, switching back and forth between two young men in Castner’s Cutthroats in WWII, and two female army soldiers based in Baghdad in 2003. The production stars Tlingit actor Charles McKenry of Juneau, Yup’ik actor Corey Joseph of Kwigillingok, Tlingit actor Katrina Hotch of Klukwan, Inupiaq actor Mary Lou Rock of Shaktoolik, and Japanese-American actor Takahiro Yamamoto, originally of Shizuoka, Japan. For more on this play, see feature story below.

The third play, Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” was the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play. A comedy, it tells the story of Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia, living a quiet life in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, until the return of their movie-star sister, Masha, and her boyfriend, Spike. The cast for this play includes Theatre in the Rough co-founder Katie Jensen as Masha; Perseverance company member Enrique Bravo as her young boyfriend, Spike; and Ben Brown and Patricia Hull as Masha’s siblings, Vanya and Sonia.

Rotch said locals will particularly appreciate seeing these familiar actors in these roles.

“(Jensen and Bravo) are hilarious together,” he said.

Theater geeks will also enjoy all the Chekhov references, Christopher said.

“There’s much reference for those who love Chekhov, but if you don’t know Chekhov, its OK,” he said, adding that the play’s focus on family relationships make it universal in its appeal.

The three plays will be presented multiple times on stage at the JACC, a familiar building which has been transformed for the project into a fully equipped theater, with professional lighting and sound, a raised stage, and risers that can hold at least 120 people. Rotch helped design sets that would facilitate quick turnaround times — a box set (three walls) for “Vanya,” a bare stage for “Warriors,” and something in between for “Blue Bear,” which will be set up much like it was when it debuted in 2011.

Midway through the repertory programming, on July 19 and 20, Perseverance will host their annual ASTI training sessions for theater professionals and students, led by visiting and local artists. Some of those people will also take part in readings of new work, scheduled for the same time, bringing more offerings and energy into the Summerfest mix.

“Over two days we’ll hear five or six plays — that will be a really interesting, intense week,” Christopher said.

By hosting ASTI, Summerfest and readings of new work together around the same time, the theater hopes to foster a kind of creative incubator for theater artists, a chance for people to gather from far and near to swap ideas, experience new work, and be inspired.

“Everybody can cross pollinate and talk about the work, and we can get the locals in and people from out of state,” Christopher said “It’s a great opportunity to have a vibrant community of artists and audience who are talking about new work, what work could be created. So that’s pretty exciting.”

Summerfest has been undertaken in partnership with the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and with support from the University of Alaska Southeast. Funding for the project came from ArtPlace, a collaboration of national foundations including the Rasmuson Foundation that supports the creation of healthy, vibrant communities by fostering strong art organizations and programs.

“Their vision is what they call ‘creative placemaking’ — using arts, culture, entertainment, that sort of thing to make a community more vital and tapping into the power of art-making to create more livable, more competitive communities, which is a really powerful idea,” Rotch said.

Moving forward, Rotch said Juneau could flourish from this type of creative development in ways that could supplement and compliment our already-stellar reputation as a outdoor destination.

“When I think about places in the world that have world-class natural beauty but also have world-class art of one kind or another, they’re huge destinations,” Rotch said. “We have, obviously, the natural beauty to rival any of those places, or best them, and the makings — with the State Library Archives and Museum, the Soboleff Center, the Willoughby Arts Complex, Perseverance Theater — to say, come here and experience a whole spectrum of really great art, world-class art — and then go to Glacier Bay, or go catch a fish.” He laughed.

Christopher said the idea of fostering Juneau as an arts destination — something like Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which draws more than 100,000 visitors annually — is definitely within the realm of possibility, with all of us working together.

In the meantime, Perseverance has laid out a range of options for Juneau and their guests for the summer, and they’re looking forward to seeing what flies.

“(We thought), ‘Let’s do it all and let’s see what happens, what fits and what doesn’t,” Christopher said.

Know and go

What: Summerfest, a six-week festival of three plays produced by Perseverance Theatre

When: June 28 through Aug. 6 on a rotating schedule

Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center

Details: www.perseverancetheatre.org.



Juneau Empire – ‘Warriors’ a portrait of Alaska Natives in combat

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There are 10 characters and five actors in Dave Hunsaker’s new play, “Warriors,” but the number of Alaskan voices that echo through Hunsaker’s lines is far greater than these 10 roles suggest. The play, which explores the experiences of Alaska Natives in combat, is reflective of conversations, interviews and stories Hunsaker has gathered over the past four decades as a writer in Alaska.

“The idea of doing something about Alaska Native soldiers was really interesting to me and has been for many years,” Hunsaker said, prior to a run-through of the play last week. “I didn’t know what exactly it was going to be then, it sort of evolved the more research I did and the more people I talked to — I talked to a lot of people.”

The play explores global themes of conflict and connection through a specific regional and cultural lens: Alaska Native soldiers. It’s a big, difficult topic, one Hunsaker presents through individual stories both real and imagined.

The action shifts between two main settings: Attu island in 1943 and Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003. In each place, two Alaskan soldiers build a friendship in the midst of combat while holding a third soldier prisoner – a Japanese captive in Attu and an Iraqi in Baghdad.

“We’ve got a war of defending one’s land and a war of being part of an invading army,” Hunsaker said. “It is really specific to those two wars but the themes are a lot larger.”

Interwoven between the two settings are more impressionistic narrative portions that bring in stories of Alaska Native warriors from past.

“We tell the story of K’alyaan, which is a fairly famous story. We tell a lesser known story of Gidák, who was an Aleut marksman working for the Russians at that time and got sort of tragically caught up in that war, the second battle of Sitka. We tell the story of a woman whose name I haven’t been able to locate … who killed a customs inspector in retaliation (for her brother’s death) to try to balance it. And the story of Laura Wright, who was famous as a parka maker but who was a member of the Alaska guard during WWII, who patrolled a little stretch of the Chukchi Sea with her .30-06 and a dog team.”

Original music by Tlingit composer Ed Littlefield of Sitka highlights the connections between all these time periods and reinforces the cultural framework for Hunsaker’s material. For example, a traditional song that accompanies one of the old stories might recur in one of the play’s more modern scenes with different instrumentation, such as trumpet or guitar.

“He’s written what sound like quite traditional songs, but then adds things to them,” Hunsaker said. “He’s a wonderful percussionist, and a trumpeter and violinist, and he plays all those instruments.”

The two men also worked together for Hunsaker’s previous play, “Battles of Fire and Water,” in which Littlefield played K’alyaan.

In “Warriors,” Hunsaker’s sixth play for Perseverance, four Alaska Native actors portray the real-life warriors of the older stories, as well as the two sets of soldiers in Attu and Baghdad. A fifth actor plays the prisoner in both places.

Hunsaker said he knew he was asking a lot of his actors with this script, which is part of the reason he opted to direct it himself.

“It’s such a difficult play. It’s such an emotional play with a lot of sorrow and anger in it — it has a fair amount of humor too — but this cast is just the most extraordinary bunch of people I’ve ever worked with I think,” Hunsaker said. “They take such good care of each other, I think because it is so hard, and it is such a difficult subject.”

The two male soldiers in Attu are played by Charles McKenry and Corey Joseph, both of whom are new to the Perseverance stage. Tlingit actor McKenry is from Juneau and Joseph, who is Yup’ik, is from Kwigillingok. McKenry and Joseph play two members of Castner’s Cutthroats, a real-life elite scouting team assigned to help drive the Japanese soldiers out of the Aleutians in the early 1940s.

The two female soldiers in Baghdad are played by Tlingit actor Katrina Hotch, of Klukwan, and Mary Lou Rock, an Inupiaq actor from Shaktoolik. Hotch, who played Daalnéix in “Battles of Fire and Water” and also is a veteran, plays a world-weary soldier who tries to help her fellow soldier and friend, Polly (Rock) toughen up against the doubt that threatens to make her lose focus.

The fifth actor, Takahiro Yamamoto, originally of Shizuoka, Japan, plays a Japanese prisoner being held by McKenry and Joseph on Attu, and an Iraqi prisoner held by Hotch and Rock in Baghdad. In both settings, Yamamoto’s character highlights the idea of the underlying connections between soldiers on opposite sides and the blurriness of the lines that divide them. The idea of connectedness is reinforced through music — such as when Yamamoto’s character sings a traditional Japanese lament, an idea familiar to his captors, when he thinks he’s about to be killed. This theme is more explicitly brought into focus when McKenry’s character says, after looking from Joseph to Yamamoto, “You could be brothers!”

Like other aspects of the play, this line of dialogue is a direct reflection of stories Hunsaker heard from Alaska Native veterans about Vietnam.

“A lot of people, especially from up North, had a rough time in Vietnam shooting at people who looked so much like they did,” Hunsaker said. “Some of the Vietnamese also noticed that — ‘same-same’ is an expression I heard from somebody.”

Hunsaker’s informal research for the play has been going on since the 1970s, when he had an opportunity to interview Alaska Native elders about their World War II experiences.

“Years ago, I worked out on the Aleutians, and I did a whole bunch of interviews with Aleut elders. At that time, a lot of them were people who had lived through WWII and a bunch of the men had been in the Alaska Scouts. And I interviewed all the people who were still alive who were from Attu that had been taken to Japan. There were still five or six of them in 1977. It was vivid to me.”

Over the years, he also had many conversations with members of Southeast Alaska Native Veterans, a connection forged through his friendship with Tlingit elder Paul Jackson, a Korean war veteran and a member of Hunsaker’s adopted clan, the Lukaax.ádi.

Among the questions these conversations inspired is one Hunsaker has been mulling over for years: Why do a hugely disproportionate number of Alaska Natives enlist in military service? According to the US military, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups.

“(Katrina Hotch) is from Klukwan, and she said every single guy who was of eligible age in Klukwan went to Vietnam,” Hunsaker said. “Twenty-eight guys from Hoonah went to Vietnam. The numbers are kind of staggering. So those are some interesting questions to ask.”

A closely related question: What drives people to take up arms against each other? In some cases in the play, those motivations are fairly clear – Tlingit warrior Shaa Shakee’s desire to avenge her brother’s unjust death, or K’alyaan’s rage in defending his homeland of Sitka against the Russian invaders with a hammer. But things are less straightforward in the scenes depicting World War II or Iraq, where ideas of “homeland” are complicated and loyalties less defined.

Hunsaker said for him the play isn’t an attempt to provide answers, but to explore the complex territory that lies at the places where cultures intersect, and to honor those whose stories it tells.

“Ultimately, this play is about people that are called upon to do a hard thing — and do it,” he said.



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Prize Winners for the 30th Annual Travel Raffle

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Prize Winners for the 30th Annual Travel Raffle

Permit No 34.

 Charlene Steinman, GRAND PRIZE – Two round-trip tickets from Alaska Airlines, plus $2,000 in cash, and a one-night stay at the Hotel Beacon in New York. Value: $5,700
Manju Bhargava, 2nd Prize – Tour Wrangell with two tickets on the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, a flight-seeing trip for two on Taquan Air/Spirit of AK Tours, a bear watching excursion for two from Alaska Charters & Adventures, a jet boat day tour for two from Alaska Waters, and a one night stay for two at Cozy Corner B&B. Value: $2,749
Louis Menendez, 3rd Prize – Enjoy Juneau witha one-hour massage from Chez Sante, dinner for two from Hangar on the Wharf, a one night stay for two with breakfast from Alaska’s Capital Inn B&B, and a round-trip flight for two from Wings of Alaska. Value: $1,649
John O’Neill, 4th Prize – Have an Anchorage adventure including a gift certificate from The Moose’s Tooth, a gift certificate for SteamDot Coffee, two vouchers for Hilltop Ski Area, two gift certificates for Allure Day Spa & Hair Design, two round trip tickets on the Alaska Railroad, two tickets to The Anchorage Opera, a one night stay for two at the Historic Anchorage Hotel, and passes to the Alaska Aviation Museum. Value: $1,363
Kent Dawson, 5th Prize – Go all around Juneau with a massage from TLC Massage,  a gift certificate to Pizzeria Roma, a one-night stay for two in Little Flower retreat at Shrine of St. Therese,  and a glacier walkabout for two at Northstar Trekking. Value: $1,148
Leon Shaul, 6th Prize – Take a trip to Haines, Skagway, and the Yukon with a one-night stay for two at Fort Seward Condos, horseback riding for two from Chilkoot Horseback Adventures,  two round-trip excursions from White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad,  and a one-night stay for two from Mile Zero B&B. Value: $1,103
Jennifer Thompson, 7th Prize – Discover Fairbanks with a gift certificate from Chena Hot Springs, two tickets on the Riverboat Discovery, a one night stay at the River’s Edge Resort, two tickets to the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre, and a day trip for two with the Northern Alaska
Tour Company
. Value: $1,102
Jeffrey Lofthus, 8th Prize – Treat yourself in Juneau with a massage from the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center, a gift certificate from The Paradise Cafe, a one-night stay for two at The Baranof, and an ice field excursion for two from Coastal Helicopters. Value: $905
Carmela Bowns, 9th Prize – Get practical in Juneau with a flower-arranging session for four at Miss Scarlett’s Greenery, two oil change certificates at Alaska Auto Repair and Sales, a gift certificate to The Island Pub, and a pair of season tickets to concerts with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. Value: $850
Michael Teo, 10th Prize – Relax in Haines with a jacuzzi suite for one night at the Captain’s Choice Motel, dinner for two at the Chilkat Bakery & Restaurant, a gift certificate for an expedition with Alaska Nature Tours, a meal and tour at the  Red Onion Saloon in Skagway, and a tour for two on Emerald Lake from Dyea Dave’s Shuttle & Tours. Value: $701
Brenda Hewitt, 11th Prize – Do something for yourself and a friend in Juneau with a gift certificate to The Douglas Cafe, a six-month membership to Curves for Women, and a three-hour whale watch from Allen Marine Tours. Value: $644
John Gaguine, 12th Prize – Anchorage enjoyment with a gift certificate to Spenard Roadhouse, dinner for two at Sack’s Cafe & Restaurant, a salmon vodka gift basket from Alaska Distillery,  a family membership at Alaska Botanical Garden, six one-day passes to the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, and a one-night stay for two at A City View B & B. Value: $582
Jayson Smart, 13th Prize – A long, fun day in Juneau with a Dance of Hands massage, a gift certificate from The Rookery, a one-night stay for two from The Alaskan Hotel, and a whale watch tour for two from Orca Enterprises. Value: $494
Beth Weigel, 14th Prize – A weekend in Sitka featuring a cruise for two with Stan Stephen’s Wildlife Cruises, a dinner for two from Pizza Express, dinner for two from Nugget Restaurant & Bakery, and a one-night stay for two from Waterfront B&B. Value: $466
Leon Shaul, 15th Prize – A Whitehorse getaway including a gift certificate to Giorgio’s Cuccina, lunch at Bocelli’s Pizzeria, a one-night stay for two at Almost Home B&B, and a one-night stay for two at the Sundog Retreat. Value: $389
Demy & Beth Alcantara, 16th Prize – A weekend in Anchorage with a gift certificate from Yak-n-Yeti Restaurant, tickets to Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater, a gift certificate to Midnight Sun Brewing Company, two passes to the Anchorage Museum, and a one-night stay for two at the Copper Whale Inn. Value: $385
Hannah Lager, 17th Prize – Enjoy a Northwest Theatre Package with two tickets to the Seattle Repertory Theatre, two tickets to Portland Center Stage, and two tickets to Perseverance Theatre. Value: $378
Sarah Klever, 18th Prize – Make the most of the Juneau summer with a Gourmet Alaska prize basket, a one-week bike rental from Cycle Alaska, a gift certificate tothe Island Pub, and two tickets to Summerfest from Perseverance Theatre. Value: $250
Barten Vanderbilt, 19th Prize – Capture a moment in Juneau with a digital portrait sitting for three from Art Sutch Photography, a gift certificate from Bullwinkle’s Pizza, and a free class from Rainforest Yoga. Value: $289
Juanita DeRose, 20th Prize – Happiness and health with a gift certificate from Rainbow Foods, a one-month membership from Pavitt Health & Fitness, and a kayak rental from Alaska Boat & Kayak Center. Value: $255
Sara & John Raster, 21st Prize – Year-round fun with dinner at El Sombrero, skate passes from Treadwell Ice Arena, and two canopy tour tickets from Alaska Canopy Adventure. Value: $249
Kyle Fagerstrom, 22nd Prize – Pick it all up in Juneau with a gift certificate from Nugget Alaskan Outfitters, a rhododendron bush from Landscape Alaska, dinner at The Canton House, and a gift certificate for products or services at Hair Soup. Value: $240
Lisa & Sean Cone, 23rd Prize – Treat yourself and your furry friend with a wash, dry, and nail clip from Canines Unlimited, a gift certificate from Annie Kaill’s, brunch for two at T.K. McGuires from The Prospector Hotel, and two tickets to a 2014 festival performance from Juneau Jazz & Classics. Value $175
Heather Kestel, 24th Prize – Enjoy three children’s books from Mark Kelly Photography, four passes and two popcorns from The Gold Town Nickelodeon Theatre, and two one-month passes to The Rock Dump. Value: $164
Elizabeth Dahl, 25th Prize – A sweet day off in Juneau with a gift certificate for twelve cones from Chilkat Cones, movie tickets and concessions from Gross Alaska Theaters, and a gift certificate for a haircut from His & Hers Salon. Value: $110

Thank you to the generous businesses that donated prizes! 

Duds n’ Suds Sale



Our colleagues over at BrownBoots Costumes are having a one-day sale TODAY!

From their website:

First Friday at the JACC, grab a brew and pick out some new threads at our first annual sale for men! We’re partnering with local vendors to offer a one-stop men’s emporium with clothing sales for work or play and a beer garden to reward yourself for being so stylish. No host bar provided by Salt Alaska.

To find out more, head over to their Facebook Event

Internship Opportunities

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[box type=”info”] The internship deadline for summer 2014 & the 2014-2015 season has passed. No further applications will be accepted. Please check back to this page in early 2015 for the next season. Thank You![/box]
Perseverance Theatre offers season-long internships in the following areas: artistic, technical direction (carpentry, electrics, paints, props), stage management, production management and arts management.
Perseverance also offers a summer-long internship in the area of education. This person works closely with our Director of Education on the summer programming including STAR and ASTI.
Perseverance prides itself on collaboration and hands-on learning.
Season internships generally run August through May. The summer education internship generally runs May through August. A stipend and housing will be provided.
Applications should include: resume, cover letter, and two letters of recommendation. Applications may be submitted by mail to 914 Third Street, Douglas, AK 99824, or via email to shona@perseverancetheatre.org. Deadline is April 15th.