Without storytelling Erin Tripp might not have made it to the Perseverance Theatre stage.
Tripp, who was born in raised in Juneau and can be seen as Aanteinatu in the premiere production of “Devilfish,” got her first taste of performance sharing stories with others while a student at Juneau-Douglas High School.
“I did that a little bit,” Tripp said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “Then, after I graduated, (former Perseverance Theatre artistic director) Art Rotch contacted me about auditioning for a part in something called, ‘8 Stars of Gold.’ That’s when I got the actual bug. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is fun,’ so I just kept doing it.’ “
Since then, Tripp has performed in multiple Perseverance Theatre plays including ”Whale Song,” and “Our Voices Will Be Heard” among others. She’s also been part of a Gwich’in language production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and lent her voice to the audio book for “The Smell of Other People’s Houses.”
Tripp, who remains an avid reader, took time to talk to the Capital City Weekly about some of those projects, what she’s been reading lately and the importance of Native roles in performing arts.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
I don’t know how accurate what I read online is, but I saw you did voice work for an audio book, how did that happen?
That was just a couple of years ago. Somebody called me and said, ‘Hey, somebody recommended you for this audio book.’ It’s a pretty cool one because it’s four perspectives and there’s one for a Native girl. The three other actors were living in New York or L.A., and they wanted somebody from Alaska to play that part. It was an Alaska Native.
Did you do it remotely?
I did it in a studio here with Betsy Sims. The director was on speaker and in the booth with me. It was really fun.
Do you have a favorite recent read?
Last year, I read like 100 books. This year has been so busy, I’ve only read 30. I actually just finished ‘It.’ It’s so good. I mean, it’s a little dated, but it’s still good. Also, ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry. It’s based off of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ but it’s super dark.
Are you a writer as well as an avid writer?
I like to read and put other people’s words out there. Especially, as a Native person, putting my perspective out there and letting someone think about something they haven’t thought of before.
With “Devilfish,” much like “Whale Song,” you’re playing a strong female protagonist who is debilitating racked by anxieties, I though that was a weird parallel. Is that difficult to channel ?
That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. There was a lot of support with the director of this one and same with the last one, but also with the choreographer. In ‘Whale Song,’ it was about her fighting this whole whale thing, but there was also a lot of breath and movement involved. In this one, (director) Leslie (Ishii) has done a lot of work with breath with us, and the breath helps get you there. It’s not as hard as you’d think, but it is really vulnerable.
How unique is it that theater in Juneau offers strong Native characters for Native performers?
And also strong female Native leads, which is really cool. It’s great. I never thought there would be this much opportunity.
What’s the importance of an openness to casting regardless of ethnic backgrounds, if a character’s race isn’t specified?
White seems to be the default for a lot of people. Like, if you don’t need it to be a specific ethnicity, then obviously it’s white, and that’s something that’s a problem also in literature. I think just having a strong representation makes sense. That’s something I’ve encountered even outside of Alaska. People will post their things for something, and it will say “Caucasian” and I’ll read the script and say “Why?” That’s a thing. I’d love to be represented elsewhere.
It seems like sometimes people do decide they want to make an effort to increase representation, does it seem like people think very hard about it when it comes to indigenous folks?
I almost feel like no one thinks about Native people. If you’re thinking of mainstream media, we’re kind of forgotten. We’re not often thought about in that way.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.