Perseverance Theatre: This is ‘Our Town’

Theater readies classic play for Season 40 after close call

With summer winding down, Perseverance Theatre is ramping up for its 40th season.

Rehearsals have started for “Our Town,”which will start off the season and feature a well-known guest, Irene Bedard.

Bedard, known to many as the voice of Disney’s Pocahontas, will be part of the all-Alaskan cast in the upcoming production that was chosen for the milestone year because of its reputation as a classic.

“The play is a canonical work,” said Art Rotch, artistic director for Perseverance Theatre. “It’s among the best written American plays.”

While there’s now excitement building for both a new play and a new season, less than three months ago it was unclear if the Perseverance Theatre would continue to exist due to six-figure debt.

However, $650,000 from several donors ensured the show will go on.

[Six-figure donation saves Perseverance Theatre]

“It’s a mini miracle that the theater gets to open,” said Joshua Midgett, new managing director for the theater, “I think we get to celebrate this 40th anniversary in a whole new light.”

How do the books look now?

“A lot better than they were this time last year,” Midgett said.

There’s a chance that could further improve in the near future.

A Persevere With Us campaign challenges the public to fundraise $100,000 for the theater to match large, private donations.

“It’s a 3:1 match,” said Erika Stone, development director. “If you give a dollar, it’s quadrupled.”

Stone said so far, they are 62 percent of the way to the $100,000 goal, but a deadline is fast approaching.

“We only have until the end of September to reach that match,” Midgett said.

Donations can be made at PTAlaska.org/Donate or mailed to 914 Third St., Douglas, Alaska, 99824.

Looking ahead

Midgett said the theater’s short-term prospects look good.

Because of the donations made earlier this year, he said there are no immediate doubts about Perseverance Theatre’s future.

“We have a full year to see how this model works and what is sustainable,” he said. “We’re not going to close no matter how awfully or wonderfully we do. We have a full fiscal year to unearth what Perseverance Theatre can do.”

Some changes have been made to make sure the long-term picture is stable and improving.

“There’s been a lot of changes in all of this,” Stone said.

That includes some new personnel.

Midgett was brought on to handle executive and operational functions, and Julie York Coppens is the new director of outreach and engagement.

Plus, there have been some goals set and changes made with an eye toward bringing in more money.

Stone also said she is working toward getting 15 percent of the budget from individual giving.

Right now, it’s at about 9 percent, but she said it has been increasing in recent years.

Ticket prices will also increase, Stone said but pay-what-you-can and discount tickets will still be available.

“Our Town” will preview with a pair of pay-what-you-can shows.

A special Stage Manager

“Our Town” will be Bedard’s first production with Perseverance Theatre, but it isn’t her first time acting in the Thornton Wilder play.

“It was high school,” Bedard said. “I don’t even what role I played. It’s been great to revisit.”

Bedard is slated to portray the Stage Manager, a character who introduces the audience to the titular town and its inhabitants and even breaks the fourth wall.

The role has been famously filled in the past by actors such as Paul Newman and Spalding Gray.

While Rotch said there’s nothing particularly novel about a non-traditional casting of the Stage Manager, Bedard’s casting does give Perseverance Theatre’s production a unique effort.

“Irene is a dear person, and we’ve been trying to find the right project, the right time, and she’s a mom,” Rotch said. “I think in Alaska, we’re making a statement. It’s so appropriate for the first voice to be an Alaskan Native.”

Bedard said that’s one of the reasons she’s excited for the upcoming shows.

Another is that she loves theater.

Bedard said recently, after reading a Lewis Mehl-Madrona book, she adopted “healing through the power of storytelling” as a guiding principle. Stage acting, she said, accomplishes that.

“It was my dream to do theater,” Bedard said. “I love the process, exploring the process and what it means to be human.

“Thornton really wrote something that speaks to life and death and the seasons and how we forget wah a painful, beautiful gift life is.”

Also, Bedard said she’s excited to bring the show on the road to Anchorage, where she was raised, as well as reminding audiences they live in a community with a vibrant theater.

“We have these gifts and sometimes we forget we live with them,” Bedard said. “Whether it’s the bay or the mountains or a theater.”

Know & Go

What: “Our Town”

When: Previews will be Oct. 2 and Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m.. Regular performances will be Oct. 5-Nov. 3 with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays. There will also be a 7:30 p.m. performance Oct. 24.

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

Admission: Regular single tickets are $28-$44 for adults and $19-$27 for students and available at ptalaska.org or by calling (907) 463-8497.

Previews will be pay-what-you can.

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