Staffers take on lawmakers in annual skits

A look at the Legislature from some of the people who know it best

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

The actors, stagehands and lampoonists behind Saturday's 38th Annual Legislative Skits are not in the Capitol limelight for most of the political season.

Since the beginning of the skits in the late 1960s, the gala has been produced by an underground network of legislative staff. These are the people who answer phones, copy and organize, crunch numbers, run interference and do all the little things the Capitol needs to function. They are also the eyes and ears of the Alaska State Legislature. They remember particular speech patterns, random bloopers and the representatives who fall asleep in committee meetings.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan skits play Saturday at Centennial Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the curtains rise at 7:30. Admission is $18 and all proceeds go to charity. Tickets sell out, mostly to those in the Capitol scene, but the event is open to the public.

"Sometimes you hear a floor speech that's so goofy you make a mental note," said Mary Jackson, an aide to Kenai Republican Sen. Tom Wagoner. Jackson has been involved in the skits for nine years. "People are people. There's humor everywhere."

The skits are the legislative staff's way of anonymously contributing their own commentary.

It's " 'Saturday Night Live' meets the Alaska State Legislature," said Tom Lamkin, an aide to Fairbanks Republican Gary Wilken. Lamkin has been involved for seven years.

"We take great political license with any number of things," Jackson said. "It's one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't things. You don't want to hear your name mentioned, but at the same time, it's kind of cool to hear your name mentioned."

Hopefully your name isn't mentioned in Act II, traditionally the more rowdy, R-rated half of the evening. There are usually 20 to 22 skits during 2 1/2 hours. The acting is loose and casual with no full technical rehearsal. Most of the actors hold their scripts onstage. The skits feature 12 to 25 performers and a network of 100 who contribute material.

This year's theme is "The Rat Pack," but organizers wouldn't say what Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and gang have to do with the Legislature. Last year's theme was "The Search for the Holy Fiscal Plan," a spinoff on "Monty Python and The Holy Grail."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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