Actors take play where their masks lead them

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2000

Dawn Pisel made a mask and then discovered a character was living in it.

Pisel is one of the five cast members in Perseverance Theatre's new production, ``Fry Tales,'' opening Friday at the Douglas Theater. ``Fry Tales'' is aimed at kids 6 to 14 years old.

``This is actually a mask show, and we're all wearing half-masks,'' Pisel said.

Masks were an essential part of the creation of ``Fry Tales.'' The production began without a script and without parts, and developed over the past few months.

``It's totally backward from what you would think of for theater,'' Pisel said. ``Usually you're handed a script with the characters.''

Under Roblin Davis' direction, Pisel, Aaron Elmore, Ibn Bailey, Julie Rehfeld and Doniece Gott started the process of developing ``Fry Tales'' by making masks. Using their own faces as templates, they made masks and added features.

Pisel said that's where the discovery of the characters came in. The actors found the masks inspired a walk, a gesture and a voice. They named their characters and added costumes. Then they started writing the show -- from the viewpoint of the characters.

Pisel is Clarabella, a little old lady who thinks she's still 8 years old. Rehfeld is Mildred Postlethwaite, a loud busybody who loves to sing and always needs to know what's going on. Bailey is Cliff, who loves to cook and loves to eat. Elmore is Sir Firma Jello, a dashing world traveler with a 'fraidy cat side. Gott plays Professor Penelope Plume, who is very smart.

``She's a scholar. She's got a Ph.D. in unconventional malarkey,'' Gott said, affecting the curt, carefully-enunciated manner of speech of her character. ``She uses lots of big words.''

Gott said the characters are neighbors, and the show starts when they discover a map and embark on a journey.

``There's a boat trip, we crash on an island, get lost in the Spooky Forest, climb a mountain and cross an abyss, and get in a big fight,'' she said.

Director Roblin Davis performed earlier this season in ``How I Learned to Drive.'' Born and raised in Anchorage, he's trained in mask-making, puppetry and clowning.

Pisel first met Davis 17 years ago at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and the two are getting married during the course of the ``Fry Tales'' run at Perseverance. The June 17 show has been canceled for the occasion.

The regular shows for ``Fry Tales'' will be at 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, with 4 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday, through June 25. Tickets for all shows are $11 for adults and $9 for kids 13 and under. There will be pay-as-you-can shows at 7 p.m. Wednesdays June 7 and 14. The play is about one hour long.

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