University, Perseverance offer theater minor

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

The sound drifted through the windows of the brightly-lit classroom and carried across the otherwise silent Third Street in Douglas on Monday night.

It was the sound of students whispering, speaking, shouting in all pitches, working to master their own voices. They were students of varying theater experience who are part of the first theater minor class jointly offered by Perseverance Theatre and the University of Alaska Southeast.

Classes will be held at the theater under the auspices of the university.

The initial course - Acting I - is being offered this semester, with two more courses - Acting II and Arts Administration - planned for spring.

"It's bringing together Alaska's institution of higher learning with Alaska's largest professional theater, which can only mean great things," Perseverance Artistic Director Peter DuBois said at a reception last Friday at the theater, where the formal agreement for the partnership was signed.

"Partnerships are great, and this one is an absolute natural," said UAS Dean of Faculty Mary Lou Madden. "We intend to have every theater-minded person in Alaska spend some time here."

Acting I runs three hours on Monday nights this semester, taught by DuBois and Perseverance Education Director Anita Maynard-Losh.

This week's class was vocal-intensive, focusing on vocal production and the elements of speech. Other classes cover stage movement. Students will create their own compositions to use the skills they have learned.

"We are focusing on the tools the actors need in order to approach a text," Maynard-Losh said.

She said representatives of Perseverance have taught classes at UAS before, but never in the context of a larger theater program.

"What's exciting now is that with the minor, you get a series of courses that are focused on ... essential components of the art form," she said. "It's not a one-shot deal. It's a process."

The class is made up of UAS students, high school students and community members.

"I really haven't done anything like this before," UAS junior Erica Payne said. "It's neat to get the opportunity to be with these people."

Payne said the class has involved much more action and movement than she first thought it would, and called it "challenging, but in a totally different way" than previous course work.

Student Jeremy Neldon, a teacher at Glacier Valley Elementary School, said the course is particularly valuable for those who want to participate in theater but need an introduction to basic performance elements.

"It seems like ... the impression is that (theater) exists for those who have experience in the past," Neldon said. "With this being located in the catalog of UAS, it invites more people to be involved. ... This is a really good confidence-builder to experiment with different skills that will be needed if or when you decide to go into something."

Andrew Krueger can be reached at

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