Three years ago, I was new to the professional acting world of Perseverance Theatre and wasn't sure about Artistic Director PJ Paparelli. In my first audition with him, I couldn't deliver an emotionally rich Harper from Angels in America. I thought I'd never act again.
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Since then, I've done Metamorphoses and two shows on the Second Stage, all broadening my acting vocabulary and prompting artistic growth. I blossomed in University of Alaska acting classes with David Charles Goyette, took Company Training, absorbed skills from out-of-town actors, toured Alaska with Macbeth, performed at Washington, D.C.'s National Museum of the American Indian, and played leading woman in Perseverance's world premiere of Raven Odyssey.
I'm tired of people ripping on Paparelli for his choices at Perseverance.
He hired his friends. Thank goodness, for Goyette is one of the most compassionate, intuitive, instinctual teachers I've been lucky enough to work with. He is an asset the teaching staff at both the University and the Young Company program, and directs mainstage shows with the same attention.
Paparelli hired out of town actors. Hooray. They work in our restaurants and schools. Some of them move here, or return for other shows. They embrace and expand our community. They've become our friends.
He advocated for the return of Second Stage, a space for theater artists to develop. The work performed on Second Stage is anything but second; it's compelling and worth watching multiple times.
Paparelli helped connect Perseverance to the university, with performance nights designed for students or teachers, class talks by visiting/local artists, a minor in theater (I hold one), and eventually a major.
Paparelli encouraged artists to continue education/skills. He supported (often free) classes for local actors, led by prestigious teachers and actors from across the state. Equus actor Sybil Lines taught us that Shakespeare "comes from the loins". She nurtured our abilities to breathe fuller life into Shakespearean characters.
He embraced the Alaska cultures and co-wrote Raven. He brought stellar, provocative theater such as Columbinus, Long Season, and People's Temple. Paparelli developed shows where audience members would stay up late discussing the deeper issues raised on stage.
If we could pick up Perseverance Theatre by its foundation and move it to any other city, I'd be proud to perform on its stage. As a college graduate, actor, artist, and community member I say, "We're fortunate Paparelli stayed as long as he did."
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