Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

North To Alaska Day 5 - An Easy Morning

Good Morning, folks

Trish and I have an easy morning today - there are no official conference activities scheduled until noon (though I do have a rehearsal for Samuel Brett Williams' play The Revival at 11:00), so I can take a little time this morning to get caught up on the past few days.

And what a few days it's been... I really can't describe to you, folks, just how exciting and possessing the the tide of literary and artistic energy is that permeates the Valdez Civic Center during conference time. Sure, the readings, panels and workshops - the "official" functions of the conference - are highly educational and, in many cases, inspirational. The real power of this conference, though, is the gathering of artists from all disciplines in theater: playwrights, actors, directors, producers, designers... all these people from around the country (and around the world) in one place at one time, surrounded by the natural beauty of this small Alaskan town, meeting each other and engaging in discussions that range from the latest play read in one of the Playlab sessions to the current political situation to what they had for breakfast and how it makes their insides feel. There's a real, palpable sense of community and shared purpose, even though we're all from different communities and working on our own projects. The people I've met here (and reconnected with, in the case of the Alaskan artists in attendance) are all at the conference for the same reason: to make their work better, and to meet others who can help raise their artistic game to the next level.

This feeling is only reinforced by the environment... there's really not a lot to do here in Valdez except focus on the conference activities (and attendees); it's a small town with a few restaurants and a lot of natural beauty, but there aren't a lot of distractions; no all-night clubs or movie theaters. The midnight sun helps to keep people active and thinking, as well - since the sun doesn't go down until around 2:30 am (and then only for an hour or so), people are up and writing, or talking over coffee, or just sitting by themselves allowing their brains to free-associate and come up with new ideas.

So, anyway, on to the re-cap...

Monday was a pretty full day. Trish had a reading of Jon Kaiser's Hyperion (a very funny play about the New York art - and - collecting scene) at 9:00 am, I had a rehearsal for Meredith M. Taylor's The Cocoonery (a historical play about the post-civil war South and the struggles of newly-freed slaves) at 10:30 am, then a rehearsal for Arlitia Jones' Another Hollywood Ending (a very funny ten-minute play) and, finally, the Playlab reading of Daniel Damiano's Day of the Dog at 2:30.

The reading for Day of the Dog went swimmingly - the audience really loved it, and Danny got some good feedback from the adjudicating panel. I'm really very keen on this play - I know that Dan's going to be doing a little re-working of it, taking the panel's feedback into account... and then I've asked him to send it to me so I can shop it around in Portland.

After such a full day, Trish was pretty wiped. She elected to stay at the hotel in the evening while I went to see the fully-staged production of Arlitia Jones' Sway Me Moon on the Civic Center's main stage. I'm SO glad I saw this play; it's a lovely, lyrical play about an older woman with dementia who thinks she's married to Dean Martin (who makes several appearances as a ghost... Martin was played by my good friend from high school Frank Delaney). The woman is taken care of by her burned out, blue-collar son, a man beaten down by life. As the play progresses the son might just have finally found love, and his mother may have found her final happiness in the arms of "her husband..." nothing is tied up neatly, but the ride is worth the uncertainty. This is another play I'd love to see produced in Portland - it's a lovely, lyrical meditation on life and love that I think the audience down there would adore.

After the performance (and a too too brief congratulation to director Schatzie Schaeffers, her main squeeze and tech director Aaron Wiseman, and of course Frank) I headed out to Mineral Springs for the annual bonfire... not an official conference event per se, but a tradition nonetheless. Since Sway Me Moon had started as a reading at the conference, then moved on to a full run in Anchorage, and a final performance to close the circle back at the conference, the production team elected to burn the set at the bonfire. It was a wonderful cathartic moment (I posted some dark photos of the bonfire on our Photobucket page if you want to take a look -

Tuesday morning was a little ragged, after staying up so late at the performance and bonfire. I performed in the Playlab reading of The Cocoonery (some very good feedback in that session... the play has a long way yet to grow, but there's some very good things in it), grabbed a quick lunch and chatted with Trish and my old friend Mike Daniels, and then headed down to one of the Civic Center's dressing rooms for the rehearsal of Detours by Sandra Hosking. Detours is a blast - it's a fun little romp with type-A corporate exec's, con artists, clowns, and an alien or two. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the audience (and the adjudicating panel) thinks of it today.

After the rehearsal I got into a conversation with Laura Phizenmayer, a playwright from North Carolina, about how active that state's film and theater scene is. There's a huge amount of production happening all throughout her state, and the cost of living (and therefore the cost to the production companies) make it a very attractive place to shoot. Add to that the number of theatrical training schools which turning out local talent for use on the incoming films, and you've got a very active community. I may just have to jet down there some time in the future and check the place out.

After walking down to the room for a quick bite and to check in with Trish, I popped back up to see Laura's play Livin' and Comin' Back. It's a wonderful little examination of growing up in a small Southern Town in 1968 (one adjudicator said it was a "mythic time and place," and her treatment of it certainly fits that bill). After the play, she mentioned that Livin' is actually a prequel to a trilogy of plays that were very well received throughout the Southeast, all of which deal with the same characters that I met in the reading. Here's another bunch of plays I'll be bringing back to the Rose City - Laura's got a real gift for language and characterization that I think Portland audiences would just love!

So, that's the nutshell of what's been going on the past couple of days... it doesn't begin to do justice to the inspirational feeling instilled in me by just being around the conference, though. I have to say, yet again... if you folks can manage to get the funds together to come up here for a future conference, you really should. It's an experience that has to be... well, experienced.

Well, I'm off to my rehearsal for The Revival... hope you're all doing well, out there!