It's been a varied and moderately adventurous season for Alaska's Perseverance Theatre, for not only have they staged the musical Cabaret and Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman, they're also currently gearing up for Shaw's Saint Joan (March 21-April 6) and November 1996 they staged the world premiere of Paula Vogel's The Mineola Twins.
The company was hoping to do a new, original show to close its 1996-97 seasons, but because of budgetary reasons, they will instead stage Beth Henley's Pulitzer-winning Crimes Of The Heart. The 1979 comedy about Southern sisters will be directed by Lynette Anneslia Turner.
Perseverance spokesperson Linda Giguere told Playbill On-Line the hope had been to create a "Frontier Theatre" experience equivalent to what playgoers might have seen on stage out west in 1898. The idea was to tie the production in with the upcoming, 1998 centennial of the Gold Rush. Unfortunately, to devise such a piece through actors working with a writer and musician, would have meant hiring those eight people full-time, which the theatre just couldn't afford. They still hope to do the show next season.
"It's not that Henley's play would bring in more money at the box office because it's better known," said Giguere, "but we can use a part-time cast. We're in the midst of a multi-pronged fundraising campaign because N.E.A. [National Endowment For The Arts] cuts affected us drastically. We've been trying to raise $100,000 from the community -- which has been going very well -- but making up the foundation money is the tough part. We've never ended the year with a deficit, and we don't want to see that happen now."
Not only did the N.E.A. hit Perseverance -- to the tune of $50,000 -- but the theatre lost $280,000 over the last 5 years in funding cuts from the State of Alaska. That's forced Perserverance to ask actors to donate their salaries back to the theatre, ask staff to take a month's leave without pay. On the positive side, the theatre has beefed up fundraising, single ticket sales and small business support. As for Saint Joan, Katie Jensen, seen recently in Perseverance as Blanche Dubois and Linda Loman, will have the title role. Also appearing will be Roslyn Brown, Ed Christian, Marty Clements, Lynda Giguere, Maria Gladziszewski, Mike Peterson, Dan Reaume, Nena Thomas and Gary Waid. Sets are by Toby Clark, costumes by Deborah Stovern, lighting by Joe Ross, and sound by Ken Burch & Jan NiDonovan.
For tickets and information on productions at the Perseverance Theatre, call (907) 364-2421.
--By David Lefkowitz