Not a tree, but a castle

Participants in Perseverance Theatre's "Theatre in the Wild" program get comfortable in a kayak last year. The theatre is now signing up interested high school students for this year's camp, scheduled for Aug. 3 - Aug. 8.

Perseverance to offer week-long ‘Theatre in the Wild’ camp in August


Juneau’s got a thriving arts community and plenty of wilderness, and for the second year in a row, outdoorsy artists plan to combine the two. Perseverance Theatre is signing kids up for “Theatre in the Wild,” a week-long camp at Eagle River Boy Scout Camp.

Over the week, students kayak, fish, learn wilderness skills, and have acting classes, rehearsals, and journaling opportunities, with a performance at the end.

“I fish like a crazy woman, and … it’s essentially a combination between BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman, an annual event put on by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and theater, because I’m a theater geek,” said creator Shona Strauser, Artistic Associate and Director of Education for Perseverance Theatre.

“There’s two reasons why I live here — because this arts community is incredible, and because the wilderness is here, and so incredible to play in. Just being around that for so long, there was something that kind of went off in my brain. There’s all these other people doing cool landscapes and taking photos, but there’s no real kind of performance response to nature that is in our community, that I’ve … seen. But at the same time… the environment, and the way an artist or actor lives in that environment, is really a crux of what we do onstage, anyway… It affects every single moment of everything.”

Long-time actor and recent Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Brita Fagerstrom has done lots of formal theater training, but Theatre in the Wild was “completely different,” she said.

“I think that those two spheres (theater and wilderness)… are such a great opportunity that we have in Juneau,” she said. “You don’t have that anywhere else. You’re not going to have that in a big city — to do “Midsummer Night’s Dream” monologues in that environment that Shakespeare intended.”

The outdoors, Strauser said, is “a very freeing place to be.”

“Maybe it’s all psychological, but it’s pretty incredible just being out there and not feeling like there’s any constrictions at all,” she said.

She hopes participants leave the camp with material they can use for auditions in college, and to practice with their theater teachers in high school.

There’s no real deadline, Strauser said. Though there’s room for more, she expects between 15 and 20 participants, from incoming high school freshman to seniors post-graduation. The camp runs Aug. 3-8 and the cost is $450 for the week. Meals are included and scholarships are available.

Fagerstrom grew up enjoying Juneau’s outdoors, something she said helps with creativity.

“This isn’t a tree, this is a fort; this is a treehouse; this is a castle. That childlike kind of mindset that you get into when you’re out there — seeing what isn’t seen — it’s a great, great way to experiment with the arts,” she said.

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