One-night sendoff

Perseverance Theatre's Tlingit 'Macbeth' returns before embarking on statewide tour

Posted: Thursday, October 07, 2004

Perseverance Theatre's Tlingit-inspired "Macbeth" returns to Juneau-Douglas High School at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, for a one-night sendoff before beginning a five-town statewide tour through Oct. 31.

"Macbeth" ran in January at JDHS. It will play in Sitka (Oct. 13), Hoonah (Oct. 16), Kotezbue (Oct. 22) and Valdez (Oct. 25), before visiting Anchorage (Oct. 28-31) during the Alaska Federation of Natives conference.

The statewide tour was the idea of former associate artistic director Anita Maynard-Losh, now working with Perseverance founder Molly Smith at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. She's returned to direct the play. Rehearsals began in late September, during the final week of "Metamorphoses."

"In any play that you do, the audience teaches you things about that play that you didn't know," Maynard-Losh said. "It's going to be exciting to see how the play is received in some of the smaller areas, like Hoonah, which is where I lived for 11 years and where I first had this idea."

'Macbeth' Schedule

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium

Tickets: $22 adults, $18 seniors, $10 students

Statewide tour

Sitka Oct. 13

Hoonah Oct. 16

Kotezbue Oct. 22

Valdez Oct. 25

Anchorage Oct. 28-31

The cast is entirely Alaska Native. The play uses Shake-speare's text, but sets it in a Southeast Alaska landscape, complete with the dances, crests, masks and weaponry of Tlingit tradition. The goal is to point out the connections between Scottish social structure (at the time of the play) and Tlingit clan structure. Sitka Northwest Coast artist Robert Davis designed the set with nonrestricted Tlingit crests and logos.

The second half of the play has been shortened from January's early run. A few scenes, such as Macolm's test of MacDuff's loyalty, have been trimmed.

"It's actually streamlining, making the story clearer and hustling the action a little bit," Maynard-Losh said. "The other part is that it's taken many months for the play to get down into the core of people. The actors that did it last January are able to go deeper and into more depth."

The tour also includes two actors new to the play. Jake Hart, a Blackfoot Indian who lives in Seattle and is a friend of many of the current cast members, has taken over as MacDuff. He is a veteran of Shakespearean festivals and plays in the Northwest.

Johan Hinchman, of Hoonah, has joined as the new Donalbain and Seward. Maynard-Losh spotted him this summer, performing as a Tlingit warrior in a production at the new Point Sophia center.

"All the actors bring their own history and their own personalities, and I think it's particularly nice to have someone from Hoonah," Maynard-Losh said.

The sets were designed to tour and to be stacked into the theater's 35-foot-long truck. The production has been revised into two versions - one with the play's flying scenery, and one without. The high school gymnasiums in Sitka, Hoonah and Kotzebue do not have the machinery to accommodate large hanging pieces. Valdez and Anchorage do.

"Macbeth" is the theater's latest traveling roadshow. "UP! The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair" traveled through the Interior in March, as did "Moby Dick" in 2001.

"With 'Moby Dick' there was a focus on subsistence and talking about whaling culture," said Ishmael Hope, who plays Malcolm. "With 'Macbeth,'" it's how can you put the greatest writer in English language together with some of the most beautiful designs and dances in the Northwest Coast? And why does the Scottish culture that Shakespeare was depicting fit in with the clan world and warrior structure of Tlingit society?"

"What's going to be so important is reaching out to audience members who haven't seen plays like this before," Hope said. "That's why we want to go to Sitka and why we want to go to Hoonah, all the way up north to Kotzebue. In Sitka, they're going to hold potlatches and we're going to do high school visits."

Kotzebue should be a particulary interesting stop.

"It's almost a cultural trade between Tlingits and Inupiak Eskimos," Hope said. His father is Tlingit, and his mother was Inupiat.

"We're separated by more than 3,000 miles," Hope said. "The Alaska Native people are extremely diverse, and there are going to be things that they just don't get. The kinship styles are definitely different there, and so is the economy. The culture that comes out of that is obviously different too."

In Anchorage, "Macbeth" will play at the Sidney Lawrence Auditorium during the Alaska Federation of Natives conference, one block away at the Egan Convention Center. The tour was scheduled to coincide with the conference.

"We plan on having a strong presence at the Native conference, and just trying to get as much of the Anchorage community at large to come to the show," Hope said.

The actors will perform one night during the AFN's prime-time dance performance. Hope will be the keynote speaker at the Youth In Elders Convention, run by the First Alaska Institute on Oct. 26, a day before the convention opens.

Roughly 3,000 to 4,000 Alaska Natives are expected to attend the AFN - a forum for political and economic issues and creating jobs for Alaska Natives.

"I've seen where Tlingits are much closer to Cherokee than maybe anything else, and Inupiat are much closer to Siberian Inupiat or Greenland Inupiat than anything else," Hope said. "(The AFN) is an interesting convergence of culture, where people can relate to each other."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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