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.
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).