Ashleigh Watt portraying Emily and Ty Yamaoka portraying George talk during a rehearsal of “Our Town” at the Perseverance Theatre. They both picked the ladder scene from the play as one of their favorites. The classic Thornton Wilder play will kickoff the theater’s 40th season. While the play is 80 years old and set before World War I, the two 20-something actors said it’s still poignantly relevant today. (Capital City Weekly | Ben Hohenstatt)

Ashleigh Watt portraying Emily and Ty Yamaoka portraying George talk during a rehearsal of “Our Town” at the Perseverance Theatre. They both picked the ladder scene from the play as one of their favorites. The classic Thornton Wilder play will kickoff the theater’s 40th season. While the play is 80 years old and set before World War I, the two 20-something actors said it’s still poignantly relevant today. (Capital City Weekly | Ben Hohenstatt)

“Our Town” feels like theirs, say Perseverance Theatre actors

Rehearsals continue ahead of production of classic play

A play featuring a soda fountain set in early 20th century New England is absolutely relevant to present day Juneau, said its 20-something leads.

“Our Town” will start Perseverance Theatre’s 40th season in early October. Ty Yamaoka, 27, and Ashleigh Watt, 21, who portray George and Emily in the meta, time-jumping classic said its themes have aged well.

“I think this is a really beautiful play that at its core is about life,” Watt said. “I went home the other night and hugged my mom. She said, ‘What are you doing weirdo?’ I said, ‘I just love you so much.’ This play has really made me appreciate the little things in life.”

While “Our Town” is a relatively lean three-act play and clocks in at less than two hours, it covers a number of common, timeless experiences.

“Growth and love and life and marriage and death, it’s all there,” said Art Rotch, artistic director for Perseverance Theatre.

Yamaoka and Watt, 13- and 20-year residents of Juneau respectively, said the play’s New England setting also transcends its specificity.

“Reading the play, I kept picturing downtown Juneau,” Yamaoka said.

He said while Juneau isn’t a town of 3,000, he didn’t strain to picture a place where everyone knew each other and was tuned into local gossip.

Rotch said a scene in which characters put an argument on hold to acknowledge a mutual acquaintance walking by especially fit that mold.

“There’s a lot of things like that,” Rotch said.

Getting set

The space and minimal set both set “Our Town” apart from other productions, the actors and director said.

“Something very specific to Perseverance Theatre is the use of the space and the staging,” Yamaoka said.

And a set that includes ladders as a stand-in for multi-floor houses contributes to Yamaoka and Watt’s favorite scene.

“I really love the ladder scene because we’re standing on ladders that represent the floors of our houses. We have this moment where we’re talking to each other and doing homework. I love how that scene feels.”

Yamaoka said he’d have to agree.

The scene features stammering, an attempt to whistle and George’s attempt to secure some help with algebra homework.

“It’s so awkward still,” he said. “There’s so much innocence still.”

Making it their own

Since “Our Town” marks the theater’s 40th anniversary, some considerations were taken to make it a unique production.

Rotch said an all-Alaskan cast was a priority.

Watt and Yamaoka said the cast is a big part of what will give shows a special character.

“I think the characters themselves have developed deep relationships,” Yamaoka said.

Watt said the cast is warm, supportive and forgiving.

Plus, Irene Bedard, whose credits include both Disney movies and HBO series “Westworld,” brings a unique presence as the Stage Manager.

“I think Irene brings a lighthearted energy,” Rotch said. “There’s a lot of humor.”

That helps offset some of the heavier themes and events in the play.

“It’s kind of emotionally exhausting,” Watt said. “We’re so happy. Now, we’re so sad and so angry.”

Know & Go

What: “Our Town”

When: Previews will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 and 4. Regular performances run Oct. 5-Nov. 3, with curtain times at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and at 4 p.m. Sundays, plus a 7:30 p.m. performance Wednesday, Oct. 24 (half-price Juneau Arts Night).

Where: Perseverance Theatre, 914 Third St., Douglas.

Admission: Oct. 7 and 11 shows are Pay-What-You-Can. Regular single tickets are $28-$44 for adults, $19-$27 for students, and are available at www.ptalaska.org or by calling 907-463-TIXS (8497).

More in Home

TJ Beers holds a sign to advocate for the rights of people experiencing homelessness outside the state Capitol on April 9. Beers was homeless for four years and in three states. “I don’t know how I survived,” he said. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers weigh whether to reduce or acknowledge rights of growing Alaska homeless population

As cities try to house people, Dunleavy’s protest bill would further criminalize them, advocates say.

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

A fenced lot proposed as a campsite for people experiencing homelessness located next to the city’s cold weather emergency shelter, in the background, is also next door to a businesses where extensive construction is scheduled, thus prompting city leaders to rethink the proposal. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
Indefinite ‘dispersed camping’ for homeless proposed by city leaders due to lack of suitable campsite

Proposed Rock Dump site is next to long-term construction, more costly than expected, report states.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Capital Transit buses stop at the Valley Transit Center on Thursday. Two bus routes serving areas of the Mendenhall Valley and near the airport will temporarily be discontinued starting April 22 due to lack of staff. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Capital Transit temporarily suspending two Mendenhall Valley routes due to shortage of drivers

Officials hope to fix situation by July; extra tourist buses also scaled back due to fleet shortage.

Most Read