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Fairbanks theater company pushing its artistic limits

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Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012 7:03 pm | Updated: 11:23 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A burgeoning theater group is pushing the limits of the stage in Fairbanks, and it wants you to be a part of it.

Revive the Red Tent is an up-and-coming theater company founded just a few years ago, but it is one that has found its place in an art world crafted to stretch the imagination and open a dialogue to higher critical thinking.

“I think that so much of classism and racism and homophobia and sexism can be attributed to thinking, ‘I don’t know anyone like that,’” co-founder Anna Gagne-Hawes said.

A goal of Revive the Red Tent is to foster discussion about minorities, women or members of society who fall into the fringe by using art to expose the lesser-knowns to the masses. And that is the nexus of Gagne-Hawes’ production company: To provide an outlet for Fairbanks playwrights and artists who want to push the boundaries and host productions that fall outside populist, mainstream appeal. “My Fair Lady” this is not.

The most recent project the group did was titled “As Sure as God Made Little Green Apples” which was financed by the Pride Foundation. Gagne-Hawes and board member Fiona Zachel interviewed local lesbians about what it is like being a gay woman in Fairbanks. They turned those interviews into a 50-minute play involving text, movement and stories.

RTRT, as Gagne-Hawes calls it, started as a side gig with fellow board member Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy when they were students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It was an offshoot of a campus group called Righteous Ladies Rebelling, and the two formed RTRT to bring theater productions that might be too racy for campus productions to off-campus locales. RTRT was a side project for the two women for about three years, and in 2009, the organization was granted nonprofit corporation status. Since then, RTRT had a goal of producing two shows per year, a fall and spring performance.

This year, the theater company is hosting its biggest year yet — five shows — and board members are trying to get the word out about their organization.

“We saw two voids. We’re looking to support everything in the local art scene, local authors, local playwrights, to get them out there,” Gagne-Hawes said. “The other void I saw was we have this amazing presence of local artists who don’t have a venue to showcase their art.”

To get the arts community familiar with Revive the Red Tent, and to get the word out that there is a production company in Fairbanks that is OK with art that falls outside the mainstream, the theater is hosting a sort of “come out and get to know us” event Sunday at the Empress Theater, downtown on Third Avenue.

At Sunday’s introduction, local singer songwriter Jesse Hobbs will perform, as will Donald Crocker, who is performing some spoken-word pieces. Each board member also will showcase projects he or she is working on.

“The Empress is kind of our home base,” Gagne-Hawes said. “We have a good working relationship with them. The Empress also is the closest thing the city has to an affordable facility to rent to put on shows.”

Sunday’s goal is to get RTRT’s name into the public consciousness and to host a meet-and-greet with performers and board members.

“I think theater is an amazing venue to talk about things that people think they can’t talk about,” Gagne-Hawes said.

Board members

Anna Gagne-Hawes

Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy

Stephanie Gottschalk

Anna Dale

Fiona Zachel

Melissa Buchta

Alex Gagne-Hawes

Molly Proue

Jenny Harding

Upcoming projects

• “Solstice” — Premiering in late October, a play written by local playwright Alex Gagne-Hawes

• “Holiday Improv” — A night of comedy centering around the themes of holidays and family featuring Improv performers Molly Proue and Anna Gagne-Hawes

• “Fear” — A piece choreographed, composed and directed by Jill Osier and Stephanie Gottshcalk, this movement-themed piece will center around the concept of fear.

• “One Flea Spare” — by Naomi Wallace and directed by Anna Gagne-Hawes, it will open in late April.

• RTRT and the Fairbanks Youth Advocates are collaborating on a show about youth homelessness to highlight the opening of the Youth Homelessness Center. This show will open in July.

If you go

what: Revive the Red Tent season announcement party

When: 7-9 p.m., Empress Theater, second floor of the Co-op Building. Entrance is on Third Avenue. Local artists will perform, short films will be screened starting at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at @FDNMfeatures.

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