April continues to be an unusually outstanding month for catching local theater: by month’s end at least nine productions will have crossed the stage at Juneau’s theaters and schools. Four of them can be seen this weekend (and if you schedule it right, you can take in all four.)
[title of show] at Perseverance Theatre
Hot on the heels of Ishmael Hope’s “Reincarnation of Stories” which finished up a four-day run this past weekend, the Generator Theatre Company, in conjunction with Perseverance Theatre, opens [title of show] tonight on the mainstage with a preview performance.
Fun and contemporary, the play marks Generator’s first foray into musical comedy. But, true to the spirit of Generator, it’s got a bit of an edge.
“This is not your grandmother or grandfather’s musical,” said co-director and actor Flordelino Lagundino, also the producing artistic director of Generator. “This is a musical for a younger generation — and for the older generation.”
One of the edgy elements is the play’s abundant profanity. (Parents: consider yourselves warned.)
Another is the play’s structure. It’s nontraditional (post-modern, according to some critics) with the confusing orientation of a Möbius strip. Writers Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell created a musical about the process of writing a musical, and then starred in it themselves.
Thematically, though, the play is more crowd-pleasing than it is experimental. It’s largely about how to overcome the negative thoughts that keep us from reaching our full potential.
Kari Groven plays Susan, one of Bowen and Bell’s two female friends (who also played herself in the original). Chosen for the role in part for her strong singing ability, Groven takes on one of the play’s key songs, “Die, Vampire, Die!”
“It’s about killing those influences or thoughts or feelings that stop you from doing what you should do in your creative work and creative process,” Groven said.
Lagundino said Groven’s song is in some ways the heart of the play.
Allison Holtkamp, who plays Heidi, Bowen and Bell’s other friend, also expresses this theme in one of her songs.
“It’s about remembering all of those childhood dreams that you have, remembering the moment you realized you wanted to be a star, or an artist, or a singer, or a performer, or whatever, and remembering that when you were ten, all of that was possible,” Holtkamp said. “It was so easy to dream like that and believe in yourself. And when you grow up, everything starts to stand in your way. You have doubt, and money, and being an adult, and other people telling you ‘you can’t do it.’”
Just as Bowen and Bell’s play erased the line between stage story and true story, the work has pushed the actors to apply the play’s themes to their own lives. Co-director Tommy Schoffler, visiting from Virginia, said one of the ways he acclimated himself to the project upon his arrival was by asking cast members to write down what their own personal vampires looked like.
For Holtkamp, fittingly enough, one is singing in public (a fear she apparently shares with the real-life Heidi).
“I like to sing but I’m terrified of singing. I get really nervous,” she said.
“It’s weird how in the play I’ve had to overcome major obstacles to trusting myself — this is what gets me every time I sing the song.”
The other two actors are Lagundino and Generator ensemble member Enrique Bravo, who, like Lagundino, has appeared on Juneau’s stages many times in the past.
Lagundino said though the play is a comedy, he has approached the role as seriously as possible.
“My training in comedy has been that comedy is very serious. It’s a more heightened seriousness, rather than trying to play funny. That’s death, that’s comic death, if you’re actually laughing at your own jokes.”
Lagundino said this view was reinforced after he watched a production of the play in New Jersey.
“They were laughing at themselves the whole time, ‘Hey look at me, I’m funny!’ That just kills me. I hate that. I hate that with all my being ... These are real characters that have to have a life, they have to have a soul. That’s what we’re striving for.”
In real life and on stage, Bowen and Bell’s musical was so successful, it became a hit at the New York Musical Theatre festival, then in an off-Broadway production and, finally, on Broadway itself. First produced in 2004, the play makes its Alaska debut at Perseverance.
Schoffler said that though the play is new and different, it taps long-standing traditions of musical theater, and includes many references that lovers of the genre will appreciate.
Schoffler, who took a leave of absence from his teaching job at a Virginia college to work on the project, said one reason he’s a fan of the genre is that it highlight’s music’s ability to affect mood quickly.
“I think there’s an immediacy (to it),” he said. “Music can ... get to certain emotional places really fast. And it can speak to broad groups of people, I think.”
Lagundino said he thinks the play is especially suitable for 20- and 30-somethings, particularly those that might be holding themselves back from whatever it is they want to pursue.
“When you were a child you had it right. You were free. You could do anything. You need to find that inner child again (and say) ‘yes, that’s what I need to do, find myself, find my dreams, and that’s where as an artist I move forward.”
Also opening and continuing this week:
The Vagina Monologues.
Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues” will be presented at 7 p.m. tonight and at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday at the University of Alaska Southeast’s student recreation center. A joint production of the UAS theater program and Perseverance Theatre, the play is being presented as part of a worldwide “V-Day” campaign organized to help end violence against women and girls. The movement raises funds through productions of Ensler’s play and other works. Last year, more than 5,000 V-day events were scheduled around the world.
“The Vagina Monologiues” is based on more than 200 interviews Ensler conducted with women, and addresses issues of sexuality and self-discovery, celebration and empowerment. It is often presented by a varying number of actresses, each of whom presents different monologues, as it will be here.
The New York Times called it “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.”
Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for students and are available at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, Hearthside Books and at Perseverance, or by calling 463-TIXS. Proceeds from all three performances will benefit AWARE.
The Thunder Mountain Theater Department will open their production of “Antigone” with a preview performance at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the TMHS auditorium. Performances continue Friday and Saturday, April 22 and 23, and next Thursday and Friday, April 28 and 29.
Sophocles’ famous play, written in 442 B.C., centers on a young woman’s act of disobedience to her king, Creon. When Creon decrees that the body of Antigone’s dead brother, Polyneices, is to be left unburied and in disgrace, Antigone decides to bury him herself, thereby incurring Creon’s wrath and setting off a series of tragic events.
In this production Antigone is played by TMHS sophomore Savana Carrol, and Creon is played by senior Grady Wright.
The final performance, on April 29, honors graduating TMHS seniors including Abi Fox, Lars Johnson, Kaitlin Lowry, Rachel Sielbach, and Wil Sangster all of whom started their stage debut with TMHS’s inaugural play. Other seniors in the cast are Amanda Gile, Chris Pierce, and Laura May Fees, who plays Antigone’s sister, Ismene.
Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors.
Not Safe for Improv
The UAS Improv Club’s “Not Safe for Improv” performance opened last Saturday and continues this Saturday with a 9:30 p.m. show on the Second Stage. Tickets are pay-as-you-can, and are available at the door. The UAS Improv Club, open to both campus and community members, generally meets on Sundays from 6-8 p.m. at the rec center, and schedules at least one performance per semester.
Perseverance’s Second Stage productions, organized by Frank and Stacy Katasse, focus on “new voices, under-served audiences and emerging artists.” For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening next week:
• The Juneau Douglas High School Theatre Department will present the musical comedy “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” on April 29 and 30 and May 6 and 7. For more information, visit www.jdhsdrama.com/.
• Perseverance Theatre’s Young Company will present John Olive’s adaptation of Louis Sachar’s “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” on the Second Stage beginning on Friday, April 29. “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” will run for two weekends, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books, at the door, online or by calling 463-TIXS.