“Acting feels right, when other things don’t,” said Erin Tripp, reflecting on her path into the theater.
Erin grew up as a middle child in a big family, with four older brothers and two younger sisters.
“I’m the only one who doesn’t work for the family business,” she said with a small grin.
The Tripp family runs the Mt. Juneau Trading Post and The Viking. Erin’s decision not to follow her siblings sprang from a pull toward the stage — a desire that began late in high school.
She says she was shy as a child, and didn’t begin to come out of her shell until she joined Early Scholars, a program that encourages Native high school students to consider college. The program has an annual storytelling fundraiser and organizers urged Erin to be the narrator of one of the stories.
“I didn’t want to do it,” she remembered.
But once convinced, she realized she liked the feeling of being on stage.
“I felt a sense of accomplishment when I overcame my shyness. I still do.”
The feeling, she said, was a surprise.
“I didn’t realize that theater was going to help me get over being shy. I actually didn’t even consciously think of myself as shy because I was only that way when I wasn’t with my family and close friends. I only knew that I hated being in front of people because I thought I’d mess up or be judged.”
A year or so after Erin’s stage debut with Early Scholars, Perseverance Theatre Artistic Director Art Rotch was looking for a young Alaska Native actor to participate in “Eight Stars of Gold” a play commemorating the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood. He called Erin and invited her to participate.
“I caught the theatre bug,” Erin said of the experience.
Performing became a bigger and bigger part of her life. As a student at UAS, Erin participated in Native dance and an improv group.
“My best friend, Heather LaVerne was leading the University of Alaska Southeast improv group and invited me in. I was nervous about it because I hadn’t done improv before. But it’s really great once you relax into it and realize no one is trying to judge you. It’s definitely a different experience from theater because I don’t find myself analyzing what I’m doing — there’s no time. Everything happens organically and in the moment. I do plan on continuing with improv. Now that we’ve graduated we plan on starting our own group. We’re pretty excited about it.”
She also joined the college’s new a cappella singing group.
“My sister asked me to join, and I was terrified, but I figured, if I can act, I can do this.”
It wasn’t until late in Erin’s college career that she realized her course trajectory had put her on the path to a career in theater.
“I looked at all the courses I had taken, and I realized I could be a theater major.”
In order to complete the major, Erin spent a semester at University of Alaska Anchorage taking only theater courses. She says her time outside of Juneau was important, and she hopes to travel and do more studying.
This spring, Erin had the opportunity to be part of the world premiere production of “the road weeps, the well runs dry” at Perseverance Theatre, playing the part of Sweet Tea.
“I love working with other actors and creating something together,” she said.
She says she found her character evolving up until the closing performance.
“We all kept discovering new things about our characters.”
Tripp graduated from UAS this spring, and was honored by the university as an “Outstanding Graduate in Liberal Arts.”
For now, she doesn’t have to go far to further her theater education. She’s just been awarded the Artistic Internship at Perseverance Theatre. She will spend the year working behind the scenes at the theater where she made her main stage debut.
“I look forward to learning how it all works,” she said.