A map of Alaska with the Statewide region highlighted.
Organization: Perseverance Theatre
City: Douglas
Region: Statewide
Program Area: Arts, Culture, Humanities \ Performing Arts \ Theater
Grants Received:
2015: $25,000  2001: $300,000
2013: $25,000  2000: $3,750
2012: $25,000  1995: $5,000
2010: $250,850  1994: $4,500
2009: $60,856  1992: $2,500
2008: $23,558  1989: $1,250
2007: $41,603  1987: $2,055
2006: $12,860  1985: $1,250
2005: $43,615  1984: $1,750
2003: $214,596  1982: $3,572
2002: $6,731

PROLOGUE (An introduction to Juneau's Perseverance Theatre)


Mission Statement
Perseverance Theatre

To revitalize the American Theater by mining Alaska's unique cultural character, producing the finest theater our state has to offer.
Notes on the play:
PROLOGUE was created organically, just as Perseverance Theatre was created through a grass-roots effort led by Molly Smith in 1979. The Playwright is mentoring the Student, explaining the process of developing the VOYAGE, a new play which is minutes from starting rehearsals. The Student explores the physical space just as s/he explores the origins of Perseverance.

Action occurs in the intimate Phoenix rehearsal space
(originally the Taku Bar), the theater's first performing hall. The black floor reveals underlying chips of yellow and red, scars from previous productions. Perseverance is undergoing an extensive renovation, and the Phoenix, resembling a rabbit warren, stores miscellaneous production items--costumes, light boards and building supplies. Noise from the adjoining Mainstage includes hammering, music, technicians focusing lights, etc.

Characters:

Playwright
Student
Dog
Child
Administrator
Actor

(Student and Playwright sit at a table center-stage discussing the creation of VOYAGE.)

Playwright

(Pulling out file) These are the interviews I had with four generations of local Filipino-Americans. So the director, Flordelino…

Student

From here?

Playwright

From New York. He and local actors will build the play from the interviews while I provide ideas for the structure. It's an experimental process. You see, the second stage is a training ground for new artists and techniques.

Student

(Interrupting) Why here?

Playwright

Pardon me?

Student

(Looking around) Why has this theater produced over 50 World Premieres? Why has it grown to serve 20,000 statewide audience members, include 300 volunteers and 100 employees?

Playwright

I see you've read the promotional stuff. Let's focus on this play.

Student

(Ignoring Playwright) How can a theater with such national impact exist on (Laughter) Douglas Island?

Playwright

(Pause) We ask ourselves that all the time. When we stop wondering, we'll stop existing.

Student

You're not answering my question.

Playwright

(Picks up Zeus's scepter from recent production of METAMORPHOSIS) We're rooted in this community, and ¦we're on a mythical quest. (Pause) Perseverance was built on Molly's beliefs.

Student

Molly Smith. The first Artistic Director.

Playwright

She believed in Alaska, in our stories. She knew they were complex, human... epic. And she believed that there's an artist in everyone. So with the Phoenix as our symbol…

Student

(Leaping up) Rising from the ashes and all?

Playwright

Perseverance is built on hope and potential. And guts.

(Dog runs through excitedly. Child follows.)

Child

Come, Angus! Sorry, she lives with King Duncan.

(Playwright ushers them out the door.)

Child

(Overly dramatic, as s/he exits) This castle hath a pleasant seat, the air.

Student

MACBETH?

Playwright

(Annoyingly) There's a Young Shakespeare rehearsal in the lobby. (Student studies MACBETH mask.) OK. We'll start by reading the interviews as a group.

Student

I saw your MACBETH when it toured Alaska last year, the one with an all-Native cast.

Playwright

The set was designed by a Tlingit carver from Sitka. Look, we have five minutes before the actors arrive.

Student

(Sits with audience) Why are YOU here?

Playwright

(Surrenders, walks center stage) I jumped off a cliff.

Student

(Surprised) WHAT?

Playwright

This theater believes in taking risks. In 1992 I was working as a grant writer when Molly asked me, told me, to write a Christmas play for Juneau. I had two months. I was terrified. But I jumped, with a lot of artists around to catch me. The play was horrible but I (quietly) discovered, you know, the fire in my belly.

Student

Cool.

(Sounds of cheering)

Student

Hey, what's that?

Playwright

(Forging ahead) As the play opens, the four actors are on a metaphorical ship bound for America. This may transform into an exploration of identity, the connection to canneries and the sea... or we'll enter a hip hop studio in Juneau. All this stuff is inspired by the interviews.

Administrator

(Screaming) WE DID IT!!!!

(Student opens door.)

Administrator

This community donated $100,000! We reached the goal for the endowment campaign!!!

Playwright

(Shutting door) We'll celebrate later. (Sits with student) OK. Why are you here?

Student

Uh... the University credit. I uh…

Playwright

You're not answering my question.

Student

I'm learning to write a play. (Pause) I'm scared.

(Playwrights softens. Actor bursts in.)

Actor

Let's start! Hey, am I late?



Merry Ellefson is Perseverance Theatre's most produced playwright. Her recent productions include an adaptation of the Tlingit story The Woman Who Married a Bear and Lost in Kubla Kahn. Voyage, a play based on Filipino-Alaskans will premiere in spring '05. She has developed numerous plays with students through Teen Xpress Theatre and served as Development Director at Perseverance Theater for 8 years. She coaches cross country running and snowshoeing and loves living on Douglas Island.