After serving for many years as a designer, board member and staff member for Perseverance Theatre, Art Rotch is back in Juneau following a six-year hiatus to take charge of the upcoming season as artistic director.
Rotch has cooked up a hearty recipe of comedy, classics and world premieres by Alaska writers for the Perseverance season. His "secret sauce" is creating a blend of artists from Alaska and the world outside.
"This coming season we'll have several guest directors from Outside and a mix of designers from Juneau and elsewhere. There will likely be fewer actors from Outside, but enough to keep it interesting," Rotch said.
The theater's 30th anniversary season opens with a political farce by Nikolai Gogol entitled "The Government Inspector."
Originally set in rural Russia, this relevant adaptation on the theme of political corruption is now staged in a small Alaska village, equivalently in the middle of nowhere. The cast of eccentric characters, developed over 100 years ago, is still recognizable today. The town leaders, who have a long tradition of greasing their own wheels, learn to their dismay that an inspector is coming to town to clean things up. They decide to find the inspector and slip him some hush money, but end up tapping the wrong guy.
The ending of the play is famous for its surprise twist, and has been studied and recreated by theater students and artists for years.
"Doubt," set shortly after John F. Kennedy's assassination, won a Pulitzer Prize for drama. This is a thought-provoking parable about figuring out whom to trust in a possible case of child molestation within the church. Do we believe the stern nun or the charismatic priest? What constitutes proof? The audience must decide for themselves.
Next up is a riotous comedy called "Wittenberg," named after the top university town in Germany in Shakespeare's time. A bright high-school student - Hamlet, yes, the son of the King of Denmark - is caught in the horns of a dilemma: he can't decide his major. Should he study with Doctor Faustus, a brilliant and dashing blasphemer who supports the outrageous concept that the earth might revolve around the sun, or the equally brainy Martin Luther, who has broken with the Pope over the Crusades?
To celebrate Alaska's 50th anniversary, local playwright Dave Hunsaker has written "Battles of Fire and Water" which was one of the works-in-progress presented at the Kennedy Center earlier this month as part of the annual Page-to-Stage Festival. Hunsaker has adapted material collected by Richard and Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Lydia Black in their recently published book "Anooshi Lingit Aani Ka" and includes both Russian and Tlingit accounts of the battles between the two in 1802-1804. These early days of blood-curdling conflict profoundly affected the trajectory of Alaska's history.
"Battles of Fire and Water" features some of Alaska's most influential characters: Commander Lisianski, Governor Baranov and the famous Kiks.adi warrior K'alyaan.
Another world premiere celebrating Alaska statehood, "8 Stars of Gold," is built from discussions with political, economic and cultural leaders from across Alaska, as well as regular folks. Directed and co-written by Ryan Conarro and Maia K. Nolan, granddaughter of Anchorage pioneers, "8 Stars of Gold" aims to take a close look at where we've come from and where we're headed as US citizens, and, in particular, as Alaskans.
The mainstage season closes with "O Lovely Glowworm," a "cosmic fantasy." The contemporary playwright Glen Berger has chosen as his lead character a stuffed goat, discarded from a Christmas crèche. This romantically inclined animal puppet, unceremoniously dumped in a rubbish heap, waxes philosophical about life's great inner beauty, the love of a World War I soldier for a mermaid, and the invention of the first flush toilet.
Rotch says this is a new beginning for Perseverance, and he invites the community to provide feedback on his program.
"I think it's a great year to subscribe, not only because the subscription rate is such a good deal, but because the plays tend to relate to each other on various levels.
"For example, if ethics are on your mind, 'The Government Inspector' and 'Doubt' offer two very different looks at how we decide right from wrong. Teachers and students have two shows: both 'Wittenberg' and 'Doubt' are about learning and teaching. 'Battles of Fire and Water' and 'O Lovely Glowworm' are both romantic and exotic. Interested in Alaska? See '8 Stars of Gold' and 'Battles.'
"If you just want to laugh for an evening, there are three very funny plays: 'Inspector,' 'Wittenberg,' and 'Glowworm.' I picked these plays because they are funny and well-written, and I've observed that Alaska audiences respond to great writing."
This Friday, Sept. 12, marks opening night for "The Government Inspector." For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.perseverancetheatre.org, or call 463-TIXS.