Persevering theater: the stage is set for new efforts


New versions of the annual programs and brand new projects are in the future for Perseverance Theater, said theater artistic director Leslie Ishii in a video interview. (Peter Segall | Juneau Epirus)

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the stage is set for new efforts at the Perseverance Theater.

In the near term, the professional and non-profit theater is gearing up for its annual summer program, and artistic director Leslie Ishii said plans for its 42nd season are in the works.

“We are living through an extraordinary and unprecedented time with the COVID pandemic, and it requires you to flex this muscle to pivot at all times, especially in service to the community, and to make sure we are responsible,” Ishii said. in a video interview. “I think it’s our mandate to make sure that we operate in a safe and responsible manner on behalf of our community.”

In the immediate future, that will mean a virtual version of the theatre’s annual Summer Theater Arts Rendezvous program. STAR begins July 20 and ends August 7.

“We have a great faculty,” Ishii said. “Lily Odekirk is our program manager, and she’s had a bit of history with STAR so far, so it’s wonderful to have that continuity. She has creative artists spoken in there. We also have our native part of Alaska in our faculty. Kolene and Lyle James will make the movement. Erin Tripp will direct a play scripted by Frank Henry Kaash Katasse.

A radio play, art in activism and more will be part of STAR.

Regular tuition costs $ 300 per student, but scholarships are available through the Zach Gordon Youth Center and for Native Alaskan students through the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Scholarship application forms are available on the Perseverance Theater website at

“Please, please, enjoy it,” Ishii said. “We want to make sure that we can lower all the barriers so that our young people can participate in STAR. ”

Registration for the program is open until two days before its start.

Look further

Plans for the theater’s upcoming season are not yet ready to be shared – Ishii said an announcement is expected towards the end of this month – but the technology will be an important part of the season.

“We hope to make an announcement of around six months,” Ishii said. “We have some really interesting and innovative offers. This opportunity to go virtual to make sure we stay safe for our community has opened up a really exciting opportunity and really a silver lining. ”

Ishii said serving Juneau and Anchorage is important to Perseverance Theater, virtual productions provide a chance for professional theater by and for Alaskans to reach more people in other parts of the state.

“We hope we can bring theater and our stories that we know how to heal and entertain and hopefully give a moment of relief with our storytelling,” Ishii said. “How can we raise our Alaskan artists? How can we continue to be of service? We are therefore very excited to go virtual until the end of December. “

Perseverance Theater’s ongoing efforts are shaped by more than one current event.

Ishii said the Black Lives Matter movement, equity, inclusion and intercultural values ​​continue to be things Perseverance Theater pays attention to, and a program slated to launch in August will reflect that.

“We are identifying black artists, black curators who will help us organize a Black Arts Matters initiative,” Ishii said. “In this state, we are so incredibly diverse that it has been a fantastic education for me to get to know the communities around Alaska.”

Waiting for

As a wave of activity looms, Perseverance Theater has not been entirely silent or inactive since the mid-March decision to postpone the broadcast of “Fun Home” which was to conclude its 41st season.

The theater applied for grants and received funds under the Paycheck Protection Program which Ishii says has enabled the theater to bring back employees on leave.

“In the future, we think we can definitely move on at the end of this year until December,” Ishii said. “But we’ll definitely need people’s support to come and see and try out this virtual platform. We are working to create prices that lower the barrier so people can connect with us. We will certainly need the support of the community.

Ishii said that during her first year as artistic director of the theater, she found the community to be extremely receptive and supportive.

“My first year as artistic director, I couldn’t have entered a more welcoming and generous community,” Ishii said. “This is how we build a knitted safety net for these times. Hopefully it won’t be for long. These kinds of times when we come together and support mean the world to me. I deeply appreciate this community.

The theater offers live video theater workshops with Peter J. Kuo, deputy director of the conservatory at the American Conservatory Theater, and Ishii said a continuation of these classes is likely.

Additionally, during the relative lull, Perseverance Theater worked with the City and Borough of Juneau and the Bartlett Regional Hospital to create public service announcements.

“It’s first and foremost in our minds,” Ishii said. “How can we be of service to the community and how can we promote best practices during this pandemic”.

Ishii said the commitment to community and best practice persists and is part of how the theater plans its way forward, especially in light of the fact that most of the theater’s usual season falls during the flu. and the cold season.

“We are looking at all of these possibilities and doing huge research,” Ishii said. “This will bring about the best practices that we are continuing. This is not a unique case during COVID. There are good practices that I want – that we will – continue. ”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907) 308-4895 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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