Trish and Harold's Weblog

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

Saturday, June 21, 2008

North To Alaska Day 8: Winding Down

Howdy folks

And so, here we are... the final day of the Last Frontier Theater Conference. It's truly been an amazing week; I've reconnected with a lot of old friends, seen some wonderful shows, read some amazing new plays (a stack of which I'm taking back to Portland to show around to production companies), have met tons of new people, and have generally loved being back at the top of the world, surrounded by eagles, mountains, and nature.

In a way, today feels like the closing performance of a show... Trish and I are tired, and are looking forward to our return to "normal life" (after a couple days in Anchorage), but we're mourning the passing of this wonderful week and the new family we've formed with the conference attendees. It's easy to see why people make a yearly trip up here to attend the conference again and again; this week has been more than just a chance to see new plays and network. It's been a communal, artistic experience in an isolated corner of the world. All of us have come together here to rededicate ourselves to our work... and I'm taking that rededicated feeling back home with me.

So, with that, let me bring you up to speed on the past couple days:

Wednesday saw me rehearse Samuel Brett Williams' The Revival and then hustle over to the reading of Sandra Hoskings' play Detours. Detours is a wacky little play that deals with corporate America, trying too hard to reach for the American dream (however you choose to define it), con artists and space aliens. The feedback session was, I think, very useful to Sandra. I think the play is in great shape; with a little polish it'll be ready for a fully staged production.

That evening, the Civic Center Main Stage was taken up with two selection from Anchorage's Out North Theater's Under 30 program. Under 30 gives Alaskan artists a place to develop solo shows to be performed on the Out North stage. Wednesday's program featured Brian Hutton's 20th Century Man and Allison Warden's Ode To The Polar Bear (you can see the Achorage Daily News' review of the two pieces - when they were originally performed in Anchorage - by clicking here).

Thursday morning was the performance of The Revival... I have to say, I feel so privileged to have read the lead part in that show. The play deals with a Southern Baptist preacher who's struggling to draw people to the church his father built, while fighting against his own homosexual feelings. When a young drifter comes into town everything (if you'll excuse the expression) "goes to Hell." At turns funny and heart-wrenching, The Revival is a powerful play, and amazingly even-handed in the way it treats people of faith. It's ready for a full production, with the most minor of massaging. Whomever gets to play Eli, the lead, is in for a ride.

That afternoon I had a rehearsal for Kluonie Frey's The Lighthouse, a wonderful little seaside fable. Kluonie is a first-year playwrighting student at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. One of the requirements for the playwrighting course at UAA is the submission of the finished works to the conference for consideration... and much to her surprise, Kluonie's play was accepted. She seemed a bit dazed by it all in rehearsal... but having read it, I can see why she was accepted.

Thursday evening saw an evening of plays by Alaskan artists entitled The End: A One-Act Showcase of Earth, Heaven and Hell on the main stage... my good friend Dawson Moore's play Bile In The Afterlife (a very funny show that's been performed all over the country and in Italy) started things off with it's tripped-out view of a corporate CEO's decent into the Egyptian afterlife. Then, Linda Billington's Hot Spot took over the stage with a day at the beach... at the end of the world (both literally and figuratively). The evening closed with P. Shane Mitchell's Omega, a light-hearted look at St. Peter's last day at the pearly gates. It was a great evening of the theatre; all three plays were very strong, and the overall production flowed easily from one play into the other (with the help of a stage crew made up of "elements," who moved the very simple set pieces and performed a brief introduction to each play). TBA Theater, the company that produced the evening, really deserves a lot of credit for how smoothly things went.

Friday was another light day for Trish and I... I had nothing firmly scheduled until my reading of The Lighthouse at 2:45, so I slept in. The reading went really well; Kluonie got some good feedback. I really think the play is in good shape and only needs a little more re-working (one of the major things she needs to decide is whether the play is intended for young audiences or adults. My own feeling is that it's a great young audience play).

After the reading Anchorage's Cyrano's Off-Center Playhouse their three person Cyrano DeBergerac. The treatment of the play was interesting - all the female and male parts were played by two actors except for Cyrano. Broadly comedic, I found out later that the adaptation was intended as a children's show. A much cheaper form to produce that still gets the story across to audiences of all levels.

After Cyrano the attendees boarded two boats in the harbor (there were too many of us for just one), and we took an hour-and-a-half cruise into the harbor and up to the Shoup Glacier. It was wonderful to get out of the town limits and see all the natural wonder around us up close. The glacier was particularly impressive, if smaller in recent years than it has been in the last 50 years of Alaska statehood. We even got to taste a little glacier ice fished out of the water!

Saturday morning came early. We had to be at the Civic Center at 8:30 am to tech the Ten Minute Play Slam. As it turned out, we didn't need that much time; all we had to work through was entrances and exits, and a few other details. The slam itself was a great close to the conference; 9 ten-minute plays that were at turns funny and heart-wrenching (and no feedback panel afterward).

Then, after a brief lunch, we filed back into the theater to see Patricia Neal, the grand dame of the American Theater, describe her life in a simply produced one woman show. The years have not been easy on this giant of American stage and film; she handled her own story of triumph and tragedy with grace and dignity, however. It was truly a wonderful hour.

Finally, it was time for the closing night's gala. Everyone got a little dressed up and met on the Civic Center's back lawn for champaign and chocolate covered strawberries. Photos were taken and final goodbyes were said. Then it was inside to a marvelous buffet dinner and speeches by representatives of the State House, the Univeristy of Alaska, Dawson, Doug Desorcie (the president of our host institution, Prince William Sound Community College - a great guy who works hard and still keeps a smile on his face), and the presentation of the Jerry Harper Service Award to a true Alaskan artist, Jim Cucril.

As I say, a very satisfying last day of the conference... a little bitter-sweet, since we're leaving our new family and scattering back to the four corners of the world, but a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the week that we've had together.

So, that's it. The Festival is officially done. Now it's time to pack our suitcases and leave our little enclave in Valdez (the Best Western Harbor Inn has been very good to us this week), and hit the road back to Anchorage. I've posted more photos on our Photobucket page; stop by and take a look (a word about the Photobucket gallery - Photobucket doesn't let me re-order the images, so they're up there in the order they were uploaded. Some of the curise photos, particularly, are scattered throughout the gallery... you'll have to sort of hunt around for them).

Hope you're all doing well...