Dan Fruits hangs his paintings at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum as he readies for a summer-long exhibit. Fruits’ latest project has been paintings to be projected during the opera commissioned by the Orpheus Project will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Princess Sophia, which claimed the lives of more than 350 people. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Dan Fruits hangs his paintings at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum as he readies for a summer-long exhibit. Fruits’ latest project has been paintings to be projected during the opera commissioned by the Orpheus Project will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Princess Sophia, which claimed the lives of more than 350 people. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Local artist creates 25 pieces for ‘Princess Sophia Opera’

Laser projectors allow Dan Fruits’ works to serve as backdrops

The set of the “Princess Sophia” opera changes dozens of times without the introduction of new props or breaks in the action.

Instead, the backdrop behind performers changes to reflect shifts in time and place.

This is accomplished via large, laser projectors shipped from Seattle that blast large versions of works by local artist Dan Fruits onto a screen.

“I’ve got various projectors, and I’ve changed the scale of things, but nothing like that before, but that was kind of a shock — the fact they held up better than I expected,” Fruits told the Capital City Weekly after seeing the works projected at full size for the first time.

Fruits saw them Monday night, during a dress rehearsal at Juneau-Douglas High School, where the opera will show Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

[Opera commemorates tragedy 100 years later]

“It was really, really impressive,” Fruits said. “My initial thought was they were going be like an old Carousel Kodak projector, sort of a click-click-click, or at most a slow dissolve, but they ended up so much more than that.

“Part of me would like to paint that size. It changes the work a great deal, and yet it stays kind of true to my marks. I thought they’d be blown up so large, they’d be reduced to dots or texture, but it stayed true to it.”

Fruits said he gives a lot of credit to Greg Mitchell, projection designer for the opera, with coming up with creative ways to display his work.

“Greg’s really a talent,” Fruits said. “I like the effects so much, there’s a piece there that Greg did that’s so much better than the work. It was an unsuccessful painting I did called ‘Panic On Board.’ He made that so — I wish I’d painted that, but he’s working with three different half sketches.”

While “The Princess Sophia” opera served as a jumping off point, Fruits said he had some leeway with his art.

“I took his (librettist Dave Hunsaker’s) script and made notes of salient points, but the intent was not to make illustrations, but to make artwork out of the story,” Fruits said.

The 25 pieces Fruits made for the opera took about a year to complete.

“It works out to be one every two weeks, but some of them took months to complete,” Fruits said.

The art work will be on display in the high school before the two-act opera and during its intermission.

Fruits has moved to a new project, but it’s subject matter is not far removed from The Princess Sophia.

“I’m gathering pieces and starting to work on something called ‘The Arctic Voyage,’ it’s going to be a very abstract series of ice and water and vague ship shapes.”

Know & Go

What: “The Princess Sophia” opera

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium, 1639 Glacier Ave.

Admission: $20-$45 and tickets are available online at orpheusproject.org.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


Dave Hunsaker, “The Princess Sophia” opera’s librettist, shows artwork by local artist Dan Fruits that was created for “The Princess Sophia.” Hunsaker and Fruits have known each other for years, and Hunsaker praised the artwork’s contribution to the opera. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Dave Hunsaker, “The Princess Sophia” opera’s librettist, shows artwork by local artist Dan Fruits that was created for “The Princess Sophia.” Hunsaker and Fruits have known each other for years, and Hunsaker praised the artwork’s contribution to the opera. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Laser projectors and work by Greg Mitchell, projection designer for “The Princess Sophia,” allow artwork to tower as a backdrop for “The Princess Sophia” opera. Local artist Dan Fruits produced 25 pieces of Sophia-themed work for the opera. Fruits said he’s been impressed by what Mitchell was able to do with them. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Laser projectors and work by Greg Mitchell, projection designer for “The Princess Sophia,” allow artwork to tower as a backdrop for “The Princess Sophia” opera. Local artist Dan Fruits produced 25 pieces of Sophia-themed work for the opera. Fruits said he’s been impressed by what Mitchell was able to do with them. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

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