The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Ron Holmstrom
Special to the Star 

Theatre Conference in full swing at the Civic Center

A week plays, labs and featured productions fill calendar to the brink


The conference is off to its usual rousing start - with attendees arriving from around the world throughout the week.

There is always plenty to do, attendees say, whether you want to take part in one of the many workshops and seminars, attend an evening performance or sit in on the day-long presentations of new plays - many being read publicly for the first time.

Even if you are not a regular visitor to the Last Frontier Theatre Conference or have never attended the Saturday Night Gala on the final day of the event, you will want to be there for this one -especially if you are a long-time resident of Valdez. This year's Jerry Harper Service Award, named in honor of the late Jerry Harper, will be presented to Stan and Mary Helen Stephens for their many years of generosity to the conference.

Sandy Harper, the other half of the Jerry and Sandy Harper duo who began Cyrano's Theatre Company over twenty years ago in Anchorage, told the Star, "Presenting the Harper Award this year to the Stephens is a most fitting tribute to their long support of this conference."

Before Saturday's gala, there are still the plays. The latest installment of the ever-popular Play Lab has already been heralded as one of the best ever. A great part of the lab is being able to see/hear, for the first time, brand new works that could go on to become the next popular additions to the world theatre scene. After each reading, the plays are critiqued by a panel of professionals and then the room is open to comments and discussion from audience members.

"Scenes from a Coffee Shop" by Barry Levine and Rand Higbee's raucous space comedy, "Shuala: Queen of the Universe" have been so well-received by panelists and audience members that most of the attendees fully expect to see these plays in full-blown productions at some point.

"Whenever I finish a new play, this conference is always the first place I send it," Levine said.

Other events include the Monologue Workshop; Acting for Singers; Improvisation; Character Development; Collaborating with Theatre Designers; Stage Combat; Script Development; Acting Shakespeare and much more. For the first time this year, Writing for Adventure Film will be presented by locals Meg McKinney and D.B. Palmer, two seasoned producers of the genre.

The evening events in the Civic Center Auditorium are always a treat. Thursday night, TBA's presentation of "Absolution" featuring four short plays from the first decade of the Alaska Overnighters. The Overnighters consist of entire plays being written and fully produced within a 24 hour period.

Valdez Star photo

TV personality Ron Holmstrom is a regular yearly contributor to the Last Frontier Theatre Conference and its coverage in The Valdez Star.

The Fringe Festival will run every night until Thursday. This is a presentation of original, short plays written during the current festival. The Fringe was begun a few years ago by Erick Hayden and Barry Levine and continue now with the efforts of Alaska's own Janna Shaw. This event seems to be a popular way for the more indefatigable conference-goers to find a way to get absolutely no sleep whatsoever during their stay in Valdez. Still, it is great fun and the scene of some very wacky short plays. The fun takes place at The Fat Mermaid.

As usual, accolades are due to conference coordinator Dawson Moore and his hard-working staff and Prince William Sound Community College for the continuing excellence of what has become a world-renowned event in the world-wide theatrical community

More information about the conference, as well as tickets and descriptions of the event and it's storied history can be had at the website:

Next week, the Valdez Star will feature the wrap-up of this year's conference and a look forward toward the next one.


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