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

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.

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

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.


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.)

Meet the Director: A Conversation with Randy Reyes

Rio Alberto Blog, Featured

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, and what you’re doing here in Juneau.

A: Hello, my name is Randy Reyes. I am the director of The Brothers Paranormal and this is my first time in Alaska, from Minneapolis, MN!

Q: How did you first become involved with Perseverance Theatre?

A: Well, Leslie Ishii brought me to Perseverance Theatre. Leslie has been a colleague of mine for a long time. We started working together as part of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists. I was part of putting together the production in the Twin Cities, a co-production between Penumbra Theatre and Theatre Mu, directed by Lou Bellamy. This was another opportunity to do the play. And Leslie was in that production, so when she asked if I wanted to direct this production, I asked her if she wanted to be in this one as well, and she said yes. So I’m just very excited that she’s going to be in the show and that she invited me to direct it here in Alaska, in Juneau, which is a gorgeous beautiful place that I’m totally in love with. 

Q: Prior to the shutdown, when were you last able to be in a theatre? 

A: Since the shutdown, I’ve done theatre projects. One was a theatre dance project that was not fully produced. It wasn’t a play, so this is the first play in a theatre that I’ve done since the shutdown. And the other was a play set in a zoo. 

Because of the new surge, we started this rehearsal process via Zoom. Yeah, it’s very emotional actually. It’s great to be back. It’s great to be back in a theatre, great to be back in the process of creating, in putting up a play. I’m ready. I’m too ready. I’m so excited that I’m beside myself! 

Q: What does it mean to you to be returning to creating in the theatre?

A: When the lockdown happened, I was trying to figure out how to continue to do theatre, and a lot of the theatre that was being done was through Zoom. And in the midst of that, living in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, and that really made me question what I should be doing as an artist. What kind of stories should I be telling? What kind of communities should I be lifting up? So I went into a little identity crisis during that, and then started to write more and do some Zoom things. But that was not theatre to me, it’s video. It’s not a live audience so it wasn’t theatre.  And I had to take time to mourn that. To mourn theatre not existing for a while. Having it come back means everything. 

I’m very excited to be in the same room with actors. So many things happen in the room together, so many discoveries are made that are limited when you’re in a box, a zoom box. And then the audience, that’s another huge part of theatre is live audiences and how that affects the production. But I think I’m most excited to come back with a play like The Brothers Paranormal, a story of a Thai family and an African American couple. It’s a story about home. It’s a story about what haunts you, about trauma, about displacement, about climate change, and mental health… So to be with a cast as diverse as this, with a production team as diverse as we have, in a place, Perseverance, where Leslie’s really emphasizing a culture of equity and diversity, justice and inclusion. It is an honor, it is so exciting, it’s a great way to come back! I wouldn’t want to come back to do anything else. Like if I were to come back to do a regional theatre production of A Christmas Carol, it would be fine, but to come back to this, especially in this magical place, Juneau, AK, it’s a great honor. 

Q: And we’re honored to have you. Talk to me about some of the themes that struck you in this story, The Brothers Paranormal.

A: The thing that struck me initially when I first read the play by Prince Gomolvilas was the genre of horror, right? I was like, “Oh my gosh! Who writes live theatre in the horror genre?! I love that! I love the idea of being able to scare someone in a live setting. That was my initial response. But the play is so much more than that. 

And then you have the Thai family who are dealing with issues around immigration, displacement and mental health. You don’t see a Thai family represented in television, film, theatre in America, so that’s very exciting. And then you also have African American representation with the couple also dealing with displacement and mental health. So to have those two ethnic groups in the same play when you’re talking about the things that haunt you, and all the parallels between those two communities…it was the most unique play I’ve read in a long time and I am so committed to having this story told and to having people hear this story, not only the general public but especially from the Thai community and the Thai American community. To be able to see their story being told is very important. 

Q: How can audiences expect to see these themes come forward in your work? 

A: I did classical training as an actor at the University of Utah, and then went to Juilliard where I graduated in 1999 and throughout that whole time, I’d never been in a play where I played an Asian character. I’m Filipino American. So I had a really skewed idea of what kind of artist I was, and I thought I could do classical work. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I was naive in that way. But once I graduated from Juilliard, I had an agent, I was auditioning, and I realized I wasn’t getting the same opportunities that my white counterparts were getting, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t feel like I was limited by being Asian…everyone else did. So I really had an identity reckoning where I had to find a way to embrace who I was. 

It wasn’t until I was cast in a workshop of Flower Drum Song that David Henry Hwang was doing, that I was part of an all Asian cast for the first time ever. And it was a different energy. It was a whole different game! I don’t know how to explain it other than saying there was a sense of family that I’d never had before. There was a sense of understanding, there were shortcuts… It was just an easier room, and how I fit in that room was also very different. And that’s not even a Filipino character. The first Filipino character I played was Magno in The Romance of Magno Rubio, and that changed my life. that was like, “Oh, this is my culture! I am an expert in this. I don’t even have to try. I don’t have to research. I just am. There’s language in it, there was movement, we did stick fighting, we sang in Tagalog… I was born in the Philippines so that changed everything. Suddenly I wasn’t acting, I was just being, and felt completely comfortable within that. And I realized that in other times, I was acting beside myself. I was acting apart.

I teach acting and I do this exercise where I have the students imagine their character. I remember doing this in a college, and I was having the students imagine their characters, what the character looks like, their hair, what they’re dressed as, look at their hands, all this, their eyes. And I’ve never said this before, but in the moment I said, “Ok, look at their ethnicity. What is their ethnicity?” And I realized in that moment that every character that I had ever played I had imagined as white, and I almost had a breakdown right there. I wasn’t using myself! I was not authentic to myself. I was acting like something rather than being. And from then on, my acting changed dramatically. I had to start from me. I was in A Christmas Carol and I had to figure out why I looked the way I did and why I was in A Christmas Carol. Any show, I had to start with the way that I look and justify that, find my backstory, and then I could move forward. 

But that’s how that all started. So I think that’s why I’m so committed to this… We have three Thai Americans in this cast which is unbelievable, and I just want them to be able to bring themselves to the piece. To me it was life changing and totally changed me as an artist, to be able to play my own ethnicity or feel myself, feel comfortable to just use myself. And I know there’s a lot of actors that never even have to think of that. It’s just assumed. So yeah, I understand that journey, and I’m excited to share that journey with this cast. 

Q: And we’re excited as well, thank you. Okay – now some lighter questions: what is your favorite scary movie? 

A: I think my all time favorite scary movie is Pet Semetary and I don’t know why. I think that animals and kids who haunt people, freak me out. I used to watch The Twilight Zone and yeah, I’ve always been freaked out by when kids and animals come back to life, more than adults for some reason! And then The Ring really freaked me out. But I feel like where I was in my life when I saw Pet Semetary, it scared me in a profound way. Yeah what’s the one with Jack Nicholson? Yes, The Shining, because that was more psychological, and I think that if you ask me what really scares me, it’s how dark the human psyche can get. And that freaks me out more than gore. To see how dark a human can get, especially to their own family…that’s horrifying. 

Q: Which is scarer to you? Ghosts or vampires? 

A: Ghosts. 

Q: Ghosts or aliens? 

A: Ghosts.

Q: Ghosts or zombies?

A: Ghosts.

Q: Ghosts or psycho killers?

A: Psycho killers.

To learn more about Perseverance Theatre’s production of The Brothers Paranormal and to purchase tickets, visit

Playwriting Class – Beyond Realism: Pushing the Boundaries of the Imagination

joshua Education, Featured

Playwriting Class Description
Beyond Realism: Pushing the Boundaries of the Imagination
. Nineteenth century writer
Charles Baudelaire once condemned realism as a “war on the imagination.” While that idea can
seem amusingly hyperbolic today, it can also serve as a healthy challenge to writers interested in stretching their creativity, breaking the rules, and taking risks. In this lecture/workshop, we will
study contemporary examples of plays that push the boundaries of the theatrical form. With film
and television hewing so closely to the rigid parameters of realism, theatre remains a place where writers are able to experiment with wild abandon, while still telling stories that are grounded in recognizable human struggles and emotions. Since the skills learned here will be of benefit in other writing forms as well, this program is open to writers working in all genres.

WHERE: In-Person at Perseverance Theatre, 914 3rd St. Douglas AK 
WHEN: Monday, February 21st @ 6:30PM
COST: Pay What You Can – Suggested Donation of $20

Instructor Bio

Prince Gomolvilas is a Thai-American writer and winner of a PEN Center USA Literary Award
for Drama. His critically acclaimed play, The Brothers Paranormal, debuted Off-Broadway at
the Beckett Theatre, in a production by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. It has since been published
by Dramatic Publishing, performed across the country, and scheduled for productions in Juneau,
Anchorage, and Los Angeles. He is the co-creator of a new TV series currently in development
at Amazon Studios, and he is a former Assistant Professor of Writing at the University of
Southern California. More info can be found at