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Theater still important part of community

Posted: Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I've been reading with great interest the letters about Perseverance Theatre and the changes to come. After the Empire Editorial on Sunday, I was moved to write something in response. I work at Perseverance Theatre, but this is not an official response. No one on the staff knows I'm writing this. It comes from the heart, as a member of the community.

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I started working with Perseverance Theatre in 2001, as a confused 19-year-old who didn't know what he wanted to do. I only knew that I loved my hometown and wanted to stay. After being cast in "Moby Dick," things really took off. Eventually, I was hired onto the staff, and have contributed many things to the theater throughout the years.

During the past four years, PJ Paparelli taught me much about hard work, hard decisions and compassion. Many people believe he only cared to work with "outside talent". I'm here to tell you that this local talent's working life has skyrocketed during his time working with Paparelli.

As a Native artist, let me tell you that it's rare to find someone in a position of power who has so much respect, understanding and appreciation for culture and individual artistry. Last year, we completed two large projects in which we brought Native performers from around the state to share Raven stories, and to perform in the endangered Tlingit language. I don't know if that could have happened without Paparelli, and though the credit gets shared with so many collaborators, his example set the tone.

During his time at the theater, the Second Stage was brought back after a long hiatus; more University of Alaska Southeast students became a part of the theater community; and those "outside" actors and designers returned for many shows, becoming a part of our community. A new wave of local actors has grown under Paparelli's watch, developed through UAS and Second Stage.

People are complicated. All of our artistic directors at Perseverance Theatre have had their share of problems while in the hot seat, and so did Paparelli. However, please take a broad look at the record during the past four years. You might find something positive.

Ishmael C. Hope

Juneau



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