Perseverance Theatre was founded in 1979 by Molly Smith (now of Arena Stage fame) in Juneau, Alaska, the state’s capital (and third largest city) at a population just over 31,000. The name comes from one of the gold mines that defined Juneau's early history, but it is also an apt name for a non-profit arts organization. It is important to note that there are no roads in and out of Juneau, it is only accessible by boat or plane.
Now in our 33rd season, Perseverance is the state’s flagship professional theatre with an operating budget around $1million, and this year we are launching a new initiative to help us serve more of our vast state. Starting in the winter of 2012, Perseverance will produce a second season in Anchorage. We envision a model in which productions originate in Juneau and transfer to Anchorage – 700 miles from Juneau as the crow (or Alaska Airlines) flies – for a second run, allowing us to not only spread costs across a larger audience base, but Anchorage’s location on the road system makes it an access point to the rest of the state.
This raised the question: What if we are able to use the economic engine of multi-city operations to support a statewide company of artists? Is it sustainable, and will it strengthen the artistic and financial health of Alaskan Theatre artists?
Over the next year Perseverance Theatre will hold a series of conversations with stakeholders across the state. In these conversations we will examine specific questions including: How do we identify potential statewide company members? What skills will a statewide company member have and how do they differ from our current Juneau company? How do we continuously engage artists throughout the year both remotely and in person? What types of training are desired? How would they develop a collective identity? How would they be compensated? These conversations will take place in 6-10 Alaskan cities ranging from the more urban areas like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, to the more rural and bush communities such as Homer, Nome, and Kodiak.
From these conversations, Perseverance Theatre will identify up to 10 representatives from various cities in Alaska and bring them to Juneau for a 2 day retreat. At this point we will present a digest of our findings from the statewide meetings. These will serve as the springboard for a more in depth discussion around the economics of the company, how many artists would be involved, how they would be identified, and how Perseverance would serve them through job opportunities and training.
Artistic Director Art Rotch and Director of Education Shona Strauser recently held the first of these conversations in Skagway (just up the Alaska Marine Highway from Juneau), but we will cover that in our next post.
We look forward to sharing our experience over the next year with you!
-Ruth Kostik, Producing Director