Asked about the 1998-99 at Alaska's Perseverance Theatre, producing director Joyce Parry Moore said back in May that outgoing artistic director Molly Smith had already laid the groundwork for some shows. "The theme this year will be transition and change," said Moore. "We'll revive one or two pieces mounted earlier in Perseverance's history, as well as some new plays."
The line-up, just announced, features two musicals, a Russian classic, an experimental piece and an acclaimed women's drama.
In announcing the season roster, new artistic director Peter DuBois said in a statement (Aug. 24), "These are plays which embrace our most compelling dreams and confront our largest fears. The characters have resilient hearts and exhibit tremendous strength and humor... In short, we have built a season which celebrates the perseverance of the human spirit in the face of the future."
Starting things off, DuBois will stage Anton Chekhov's 100-year-old The Seagull, about a young playwright who can't please his actress mother, his unrequited love for an ambitious actress, and the cynical novelist who casually wrecks their lives. Says DuBois of the drama, "This play feels so right for us, not only because we sit perched on the edge of a new millennium, but also because Alaska's landscape -- awe-inspiring, poetic and sometimes tragic -- is the perfect setting for Chekhov's vision.
The Seagull flies Oct. 16-Nov. 1. Other Chekhov plays include Ivanov, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya. Returning for a second season at holiday time will be King Island Christmas, a musical by Deborah Baley Brevoort (libretto), David Friedman (score), based on the children's book by Jean Rogers.
When the town priest gets stuck on an ice floe, the entire town tries to bring him ashore. "Traditional Native performing styles" are promised for this "multi-cultural Christmas pageant of Alaskan proportions." King Island will light up the Northern Light United Church space Dec. 4-20.
Theatregoers will then spend the new year in The Waiting Room -- that is, Lisa Loomer's comedy/drama about three ladies who meet in a doctor's waiting room. One is from 19th century London, another is from 18th century China, the third from modern-day New Jersey. Perseverance veteran Anita Maynard-Losh will direct, Jan. 15-Feb. 7, 1999.
Author Loomer's newest play, Expecting Isabel, will premiere at Washington DC's Arena Stage in October (where Molly Smith is the new artistic director).
Goblin Market: A Tale of Two Sisters follows, March 12-Apr. 11, 1999, with music by Polly Pen (Bed and Sofa) and lyrics by Peggy Harmon. In the piece, adapted from an 1862 poem by Christina Rossetti, two goblins attempt to seduce two beautiful sisters with magical fruits. Joyce Parry Moore and Marta Ann Lastufka play the sisters.
Closing the mainstage season will be Short Stories, a collaboration with Anne Bogart's SITI company (Bob, Culture of Desire). Explained artistic director DuBois, "They will interview local residents about their everyday experiences to transform those stories into a celebration of our daily lives."
A "site-specific" mounting of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is also planned, Nov. 6-22. "We'll mount it in a space that inspires us," said DuBois, "a space that's not a theatre." He didn't go so far as to say whether Dale Wasserman's play (based on Ken Kesey's novel) would be staged in a real mental institution. Pam MacKinnon will direct.
Also in November (Nov. 5-8), Perserverance will tour to Juneau with its hit from last season, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Edward Albee's landmark drama tells of one very long night for two academic couples.
For tickets and information on productions at the Perseverance Theatre, call (907) 364-2421.
A Brown University graduate with a background in Czechoslovakian "guerilla" theatre, Peter DuBois, 28, received his MA in theatre history. He then spent three years in Prague to soak up "the post-revolutionary energy there." He formed the controversial Asylum theatre group and then rose to direct in commercial venues throughout Bohemia. Returning to the States, DuBois studied at Brown, where he met up with the professor -- and Pulitzer-winning dramatist -- Paula Vogel (How I Learned To Drive), who has a 15 year relationship with Perseverance.
Kate Bowns, chairman of the theatre's search committee, has said that 70 people applied for the artistic director slot. DuBois got the nod because, "he's a visionary artist, charismatic leader and creative problem-solver."
Says DuBois, who describes himself as "fiercely collaborative," "The prospect of working in Juneau fills me with the same renewed energy, fear and enthusiasm that moving to Prague did six years ago... I am attracted to the difficulty and challenge Alaska poses for a New Englander."
-- By David Lefkowitz