Ghost Light (ghost_light) wrote,
Ghost Light
ghost_light

Home again, home again jiggity-jig

Made it back from Valdez last night, partly sad, partly relieved. I hit the ground running with ATY this morning, but there WILL be a giant update in your near future chronicling such feats as actually speaking to Courtney B. Vance.

In the meantime - here is the article I wrote on the 2002 preview for Art Matters:


"Places like this remind us of the 3 basic human drives - food, sex and
the desire to rewrite someone else's script" Joseph Robinette, author
of "Good Fences"

From the first moment my husband and I arrived in Valdez we
were joking it was like being back at summer camp. Lugging our
sleeping bags around, looking for our cabin and 10 days of nothing but
carefully structured fun ahead. Last year we were only able to attend
to a weekend, so the prospect of being part of The Theatre Conference
from start to finish was intoxicating.
The 10th annual Prince William Sound Community College Last
Frontier Theatre Conference scheduled up to 30 play readings each day
plus fully staged evening events, luncheon lectures and after-play
receptions. Every Day. For 9 straight days. With 2 panels of 10
minute plays running simultaneously there was some good natured
ballyhooing by the readers/actors to "help" the audience decide which
play to hear. The commitment to the readings was astounding. There was
a power outage during the first few minutes of a reading on the second
day. Hardly missing a beat, the readers and audience packed up their
chairs and trooped outside to re-start the play outside on the lawn. I
spent an average of 10 hours a day in the Valdez Civic Center listening
to readings, rehearsing for retrospectives of honored playwrights such
as John Guare and Jack Gelber, and enjoying evening events. One night
was a tour of what musicals are currently playing on Broadway by singer
Connie Barron accompanied by Dennis Buck. The few people who missed it
don't believe they covered EVERYTHING, including "Urinetown", "The Full
Monty" and "The Producers". At one point they invited the audience to
sing along with "Springtime for Hitler" from "The Producers". Connie
had trouble keeping her false Hitler mustache on and the audience
enjoyed singing a chorus all by themselves.
2002 also saw the Return of the Fringe, after-hours gatherings
to share some of the creativity the conference's atmosphere inspires.
The 10-minute play portion of the conference started as the Fringe in
1998 and was co-opted into an official event in 2001. Some say that
was because the readers were staying up too late and sleeping through
early-morning presentations.

"So, I was at the urinal talking with Edward Albee...." - Any
male attendee, any conference, any year

Perhaps more important that the plays and the readings to some
are the after-play receptions and after-hours parties - the chance to
chat with playwrights, actors, critics and directors and make
connections with folks you might never meet otherwise. This year
featured the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Edward Albee, of
course, plus other playwrights August Wilson and Jason Sherman, critic
Mel Gussow and famous former Alaskans like Bostin Christopher.
Luminaries and luminaries-to-be were everywhere and no one wanted to
miss their chance to say "Omigod! I just love all your plays" in a
relaxed, casual setting. Geof Ritchie entertained me for a good 10
minutes pretending
to practice holding his Anchorage Community Theatre binder in the
perfect, casual position which happened to show off his name the best.
Director Tracy Campbell came to the Conference with the intent of
talking with former Perseverance Artistic Director Molly Smith about
what she would need to do to get an internship at the Arena Theatre in
Washington D.C. And does making
these acquaintances with other theatre professionals over cheese and a
no-host bar ever pay off? Two words: Hell yes! "I've had 3 of my
short plays produced in New York as a direct result of people I met at
the Conference," says playwright and former Alaskan Dawson Moore, now
co-Artistic Director of Three Wise Monkeys in San Francisco. "Plus I
know I've always
got a place to stay when I go there." Connections can help closer to
home as well. A large number of plays which were heard as part of last
year's Conference have been staged in Anchorage during the past season
and one local actor lamented "My wife was in 2 full-length play
readings last year and everybody knows who she is. I had my picture in
the paper twice this year and there are still people who have no idea
who I am."
As the Conference progressed sleep deprivation, that sense of
summer camp time-dilation and, occasionally, "bottle-fatigue" began to
take its toll on the participants. By Day 4 I woke up realizing I
could no longer reliably keep track of what day of the week it was,
but I had the times of all the readings I wanted to hear that day
memorized. I'm already looking forward to next year.
Tags: theatre, valdez
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