With the loss of isolation, inevitably Juneau is losing its individuality. The cruise ship industry, the Internet, television and Wal-Mart, among many other factors, have all contributed to the smoothing out of Juneau's more eccentric edges. Our unique community is being molded into Anytown, U.S.A.
To people under 20, or those who have only lived here for a short time, maybe that doesn't matter. To those who remember what Juneau was like 20 years ago and earlier, the loss brings a sad feeling of nostalgia.
A Juneauite used to be the very definition of the rugged individualist. You had to be to move here, and you had to love that lifestyle to stay. They used to say only two types of people would consider living in Juneau: those who loved their freedom above all else and were leaving behind the rat-race of "Down South," and those that were born here.
These days, it pains me to say that Juneau's youth, with their cell phones surgically implanted in their faces like Borgs, are mostly the same relatively coddled, brain-washed consumers you find anywhere else in this great strip mall we call America.
Are they bad kids? Of course not. They just are not much different than the kids you meet anywhere else. It's like how our tourist-centric downtown is a carbon copy of every other cruise ship destination in the western hemisphere. Neither purely reflects Juneau's unique character. Instead they serve the financial enrichment of a corporate master, just like the rest of our country.
Another defining characteristic of the old Juneau was a dedication to its own local brand of artistic expression. Juneau embodied a strange mixture of cosmopolitan frontier town and quirky artistic community. Our old playhouse, Perseverance Theatre, became recognized around the country for its singularly Alaskan voice and fearless artistic choices, possible only when a tight-knit community supports its artists. Those artists also reflect the unique character of the town. Perseverance answered only to its local supporters, and its supporters did not have to answer to anyone. Theatre in the Rough also continues this tradition with great integrity.
Yes, I am biased. But I still believe that the venue provided by our theaters is essential to the character of Juneau, and to our collective psyche. They are our public voice, and with strong community support they can be our conscience, as well.
Local theater provides an antidote to the false, borrowed conscience foisted on us every day by the inhuman engine of corporate entertainment. What a tragedy it would be if we allowed our Alaskan voice to be drowned out in the roar of a machine.
Does it matter to you? Do you want Juneau to build a road and complete its transformation into a more picturesque version of Fresno, Calif.? Do you value what remains of our unique and quirky character and wish to see it survive and flourish?
Support whatever you love about Juneau that makes it different from every other town in America. Let your own individual voice be heard. If you wish to see Juneau become just another generic community, please move back to the south.
Juneau has not been completely subsumed. Yet.
A flame still burns at Perseverance, and nowhere will you find more artistic integrity than at Theatre in the Rough. Without the breath of Juneauites to feed on, it could dwindle away. If that were to happen, what would arise to replace it? Cinemax?
Would our youth then be able to understand Shakespeare, or would their literacy extend only as far as the insipid acronyms of a text message? You do not have to agree with my thesis in its entirety, but I promise you this: We cannot replace Perseverance Theatre or Theatre in the Rough. Nor can we replace what they mean to Juneau's identity.
Daniel Reaume has lived in Juneau since 1976 and has performed in many local plays.
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