FAIRBANKS — If Alaska Grown could stamp its marketing seal of approval on a theatrical performance, it would be inked all over the Fairbanks Drama Association’s latest production.
FDA is pulling out the best of its homegrown short plays for “Short & Sweet — 8 X 10 Festival Favorites,” which feature short original plays by Alaska playwrights. The eight plays for “Short & Sweet” have been selected as favorites from the first 10 years of the annual 8 X 10 Alaska Playwrights Festival that the drama association hosts each April. The plays were chosen because of their popularity with audiences, and each is a winning play from previous festivals.
“These eight short plays represent some of the best playwrights working in Alaska, and it is gratifying to fully produce them as the mission of developing and featuring Alaska playwrights is a shared goal of Looking Glass Theatre Group and Fairbanks Drama Association,” said Peggy Ferguson, FDA’s managing director and also a member of Looking Glass, a group that focuses strictly on Alaska authors.
Because of the nature of the plays — short, at 10 minutes max — audience members should go in expecting a raw, in-your-face performance. There are no elaborate sets or costumes, and lighting is used to transition between plays. The cast also acts as stage crew, hustling out what few set changes are needed between performances.
The black box theater concept — no stage enhancements, just walls and floor painted black — actually works well for the production, said Frank Yaska, the high-energy young director behind “Short & Sweet.”
“Black box is a great benefit. You don’t worry about scenery, just the acting and the actors on stage,” Yaska said. “There is room for imagination from both the audience and the actors. The actors can imagine how things might work, and the audience can imagine the scene. I’ve made the transitions very smooth so the scene changes go right into the next one.”
Short plays aren’t without their challenges. Occasionally, there is the challenge of understanding the author’s intention, especially when the authors are a mix of professional and amateur playwrights, Yaska said.
Each play is independent of the others, and because of that, there is no connecting factor between each performance.
“We’re trying to get the fluidity of all eight shorts back to back and making sure to keep up the pace,” he said.
Yaska should have no problem with pace. At 31, he’s full of energy on the set, jotting notes from where he sits in the theater while going over scenes with the actors. Yaska has been on stage since he was 11 years old in Seattle, where he grew up. He moved to Fairbanks in 1998, getting involved in the theater scene here, which eventually lead to directing positions and serving on the board of directors for FDA. “Short & Sweet” is the fifth production he’s directed.
“I’ve got a few under my belt now, so I know what to expect and anticipate,” he said.
If you go
What: “Short & Sweet — 8 X 10 Festival Favorites”
Where: Riverfront Theatre, 1852 Second Ave.
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., through Nov. 11. Opening night is tonight.
Tickets: Adults: $22 adults; $14 teens; $18 seniors, military and students. Tickets are available online at www.fairbanksdrama.org or by calling 456-play.
A look at Looking Glass
Looking Glass Theatre group has one goal in mind: The Alaska playwright.
It consists of Peggy Ferguson, director and Fairbanks Drama Association’s managing director; playwright Anne Hanley; and actress Susie Hackett. The three women decided to form the group 12 years ago with the goal of developing and assisting emerging playwrights in Alaska.
“We felt there was a need in this not only in Fairbanks but statewide because we have some talented people writing plays,” Ferguson said.
Each April, Looking Glass Theatre produces the annual 8 X 10 Festival, from which the productions in “Short & Sweet” have been selected.
Looking Glass Theatre is co-producing this year’s “Short & Sweet” production with FDA.
A look at the plays
‘Don’t Fence Me In’
• By D. John McKay of Anchorage
• Set in the ocean off the coast of British Columbia, three wild salmon heading back to Alaska come upon a fish farm where salmon are being raised in net pens. The lively, comic dialogue has the three wild salmon extolling on their freedom and three penned salmon both lamenting on but feeling safe in their controlled environment.
• Cast: Bic Pen played by Candice Roberson, Humphrey Pen played by Kevin Zayas, Sean Pen played by Ian Norsby, Oscar Wild played by JK Bowne, Thang Wild played by Hannah Hadaway, Ella Wild played by Dawn Clausen.
• By Dawson Moore of Valdez
• Trenton and Angela’s relationship is in a downward spiral because of Trenton’s increasingly wacky and depressive mood. Trenton is in denial regarding his problems, but his outrageous acting out is killing the relationship in this bitter and dark comedy.
• Cast: Trenton played by JK Bowne and Angela played by Yelena Petkova
• By Tom Moran of Fairbanks
• Sibling rivalry takes a turn for the surreal when Curt one-ups his brother Lee’s story with an outrageous tall tale. Unless, of course, he’s telling the truth.
• Cast: Lee is played by Kevin Zayas, Curt is played by Bryan Williams and Marcus is played by Nathan Jones.
‘The Importance of Ritual’
• By Linda Billington of Anchorage
Four women climb a hill and conduct a memorial service for a dead man, who was husband to the wife, father to the two teen-aged daughters and secret lover to the mistress who have come together to say goodbye.
• Cast: Karen, played by Dawn Clausen, Cori played by Yelena Petkova, Deanna played by Lilly Larson, Elin played by Candice Roberson.
• By Jason Hodges of Anchorage
• A visit to the doctor’s office provides Brent with life-shattering news in this very dark comedy.
• Cast: Brent played by Kevin Zayas, Dr. Paul played by JK Bowne
• By Steve Mitchell of Fairbanks
• A couple discusses the play they are attending, and their options for passing the time at intermission.
• Cast: Albert played by Nathan Jones and Betty played by Dawn Clausen
‘The Perfect Bride’
• By Mollie Ramos of Valdez
• An unexpected wedding announcement raises more questions than celebratory toasts.
• Cast: Sherry played by Yelena Petkova, Dorian played by Candice Robertson, the waiter played by Luke Williams
‘We Have to Tell Them’
• By Jon Bowne of Fairbanks
• A story about a real family couched in unconditional love and acceptance and not withholding truth from those you love, even though it is deeply shocking and wildly hilarious.
• Cast: Sharon played by Dawn Clausen, Robert played by Bryan Williams, Grandpa played by Nathan Jones, Sheila played by Candice Roberson, Gary played by JK Bowne, Derek played by Luke Williams.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at @FDNMfeatures