Play reading retells story of sunken Sophia

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001

The Princess Sophia was jammed on a reef north of Juneau in a pounding winter storm while rescuers waited nearby. They waited too long. They missed their chance to launch a rescue and more than 300 people died - the greatest loss of life at sea in Alaska history.

The wreck of the Princess Sophia in 1918 marks one of the most tragic maritime disasters to take place on the Pacific Coast of North America. Mary Lou Spartz of Juneau has created a theater performance piece based on the event.

"The Sinking of The Princess Sophia" will be presented as a staged reading this weekend at the House of Wickersham. Sponsored by the Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre, the reading will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

"It's a play," said Spartz. "It's not an authentic account, so it doesn't need to be put in the same category as a historical account."

She drew on a variety of references to create the hour-long drama, she said.

"I used mostly newspaper accounts from the Juneau paper," she said.

She read the book "The Sinking of the Princess Sophia: Taking the North Down With Her," a Canadian publication by Ken Coates and Bill Morrison, and drew from a poem by former Juneau poet Sheila Nickerson on the sinking, she said.

A small cast of actors will read the script, using some costume pieces to indicate their characters. The cast includes Spartz, Pat Denny, Dottie Davis and Phil Smith, who have performed in a number of little-theater productions. Becky Bear and Rory McMahon also will participate.

Admission is by donation. The House of Wickersham is on Seventh Street near the top of the Franklin Street stairs. Spartz said there is no parking available in the neighborhood and suggested parking downtown and taking a taxi or walking up. The House of Wickersham seats about 44, and Spartz suggested getting there early because seating is limited.

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