My Turn: Theater can be political without being partisan

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

We wish to respond to Richard F. Schmitz's well-written article, My Turn: Why preach to the converted on their turf? (Sept. 25 Empire). More than 6,000 American citizens died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. The forum Perseverance Theatre initiated on Sept. 18 in the wake of this tragedy stemmed from a desire to get everyone in our community talking about this awful event and its possible consequences. We felt it was important to program an opportunity for considered dialogue in association with the commemorative services. This is, ultimately, what we strive to accomplish every day at Perseverance Theatre: to prompt thought and reflection (along with revelation and delight) within our diverse community through the production and presentation of artistic work. We viewed the forum as another path to achieve this noble and vital aim.

We certainly agree with Mr. Schmitz that there was a dearth of conservative voices at this forum, but this was not for lack of trying. Broad attendance was solicited in the Juneau Empire and through heavy advertising on KTOO-FM (a frequent partner of ours who generously offered to pre-empt two hours of broadcasting). Public figures with more conservative views were sought out to speak but, unfortunately, were unable to attend. We felt we needed to move quickly to keep this dialogue fresh and so we chose to proceed.

Though Perseverance Theatre is located on the geographic periphery of Juneau, it has always been our aim to occupy a place right at the center of its artistic, social and community life. We have thus worked hard over the last 23 years to make our venue accessible and relevant to every member of our community through varied programming, diverse casting, pay-as-you-can performances, and outreach collaborations with Juneau's many artistic, educational, and social service organizations. Mr. Schmitz's indication that Perseverance Theatre is viewed by some as "insulated" and as unwelcoming "turf" is thus extremely worrisome to us.

We wish to assure all readers of the Juneau Empire that Perseverance Theatre's doors are open to all members of this community, regardless of color, creed, orientation or affiliation. We also strongly believe that community is strengthened by the thoughtful exchange of opposing viewpoints on issues that are important to all of us. We will continue to work our hardest to provide such opportunities to Juneau, both through the medium of theater as well as events like the forum last Tuesday. Finally, we believe that theater and a theatrical institution can be political; but they don't necessarily have to be partisan. We ask your readers to help us energize this distinction to the benefit of all the members of the community.

Peter DuBois is artistic director of Perseverance Theatre. He submitted this commentary on behalf of the staff of the theater.

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