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

By Ron Holmstrom
Special to the Star 

Wrap-Up for the Last Frontier Theatre Conference

Smooth sailing for attendees after fast-paced week of stage crafting


Photo courtesy PWSCC

The Buffalo Laboratory Theatre production of Mystery of the Silver Chalice last week during the Last Frontier Theatre Conference; pictured are Taylor Campbell, Kate Dakota Kremer, Colby Bleicher, Ray Boucher, and John Kaczorowski.

It seems like the Last Frontier Theatre Conference has really hit its stride for this 23rd edition. Regardless of whatever minor emergencies (if any) may have occurred behind the scenes, the program this year again went off without a hitch.

"This was probably my smoothest conference to date," said Dawson Moore, conference coordinator. "The quality of work in the Play Lab has never been better, and our new visiting artists all expressed their awe at how organized the conference was, how smoothly it ran for an event with so many moving parts."

Others agreed.

"I wish Dawson and his staff could run every theatre conference in the country," said David Auburn, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright on his first visit to Valdez.

High praise, that.

With playwrights, actors and directors from far and wide, the energy level was inspiring. From the morning readings in the Play Lab, to the many workshops, evening performances and the late night short plays at the Fringe Fest at the Fat Mermaid, the attendees seemed indefatigable. There truly is so much to do that one could never squeeze it all in.

After suffering through the early week Valdez heat wave, the weather turned much kinder. Many first time visitors to Alaska were bewildered that we can actually have warm, much less sweltering weather here in the far north.

Friday night's Shoup Glacier cruise, provided by Stan Stephens Cruises, is always a big hit for everybody, both the old LFTC hands and especially the folks here for their first conference. The Stephens family has been supporting the conference since it's inception and their generosity continues.

Saturday's morning presentation of the work from the Monologue Workshop with Laura Gardner and Frank Collison, assisted this year by Alaskan Rob Lacrone, was, as always, a big success. Actors from the conference presented the monologues from the work of selected LFTC playwrights. Gardner and Collison have been attendees for many years and their workshop continues to be a favorite event at the conference.

Photo courtesy PWSCC

Ryan Buen and Colby Bleicher performing in the late night Fringe Festival, which was held nightly at the Fat Mermaid.

The Saturday night Gala this year was especially touching with the presentation of the Jerry Harper Service Award to Elizabeth Ware and David Edgecombe. The couple has retired from the UAA Theatre Department and were off very early Sunday morning to conduct their theatre history workshop in Athens, Greece. Ware and Edgecombe have many new projects planned in their "retirement." They will be greatly missed in Alaska, but Sandy Harper of Cyrano's Theatre Company in Anchorage promised to bring the duo back from time to time for their always popular presentations from Edgeware Productions. The Gala was emceed by Valdez actor/director Ryan Buen, who kept the proceedings moving along with wit and brevity. A couple of terrific tunes were performed by songstresses Christine A. Eagleson and reigning Miss Alaska, Zoe Grenier. The perfect ending to another successful conference week.

The Sunday wrap-up meeting of the conference's National Advisory Board took place before all of the folks had to board their planes, the ferry or their cars to return home. This meeting was remarkable in that there were very few comments on what to change or how to improve the conference. The brunch spread for the meeting by Michael Holcombe was, as usual, delicious.

In closing, I know that all of us are already making plans for next year's event. I certainly am. And special thanks from me to Spike and Annie for putting me up and putting up with me on my stays each year in Valdez. I LOVE this town! See you next year.


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