Pier One raising curtain on season

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2002

Pier One Theatre opens its doors soon, and this year's plays and productions mirror those in contemporary theaters around the nation, organizers say.

"It's new," said Lance Petersen, the Homer theater's artistic director. "It's American theater right now."

The Pier One season actually already started with a series of short plays during the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival called "Short Flights," but actors and actresses take the Homer Spit theater's stage starting the first week of June. This year's offerings include plays about love, hate and humor as well as homegrown dance and musical productions.

The opening act will be "Love Letters," an A. R. Gurney Jr. play performed by Arthur and Mary Griffith. The play centers on a series of letters written between a couple, starting in childhood and progressing through to the end of their lives.

Petersen said while the couple's love is apparent through the writing, it isn't the complete focus of the play, which runs June 7 and 8.

"It's a love story, but it also explores how a relationship develops and changes over time," he said. "It's not just about romance."

Next on the calendar is "Alice in America," a full-length dance production by Homer's Dance Theatre North and directed by Lynne Roff.

Petersen said the modern dancers will explore life in modern America and the somewhat "fantastic" element of contemporary living. The show will run June 14-22.

The Pier One Youth Theatre production "The Search for Odysseus," finishes June's stage offerings with the adventures of Telemachus as he searches for his father.

As always, Pier One Youth Theatre aims high with a play that not only intrigues its young performers with fantastic adventures and a cast of gods, monsters and mortals, but also deals with some classic coming-of-age struggles.

The play will be directed by former Homer resident Laura Forbes, who returns from her work with the theater in Chicago to lead the Youth Theatre production.

July starts with the hold-your-sides comedy "Nunsense," written by Dan Goggin. The comedy starts with tragedy as 52 sisters die of food poisoning. The remaining sisters manage to pay for the burial of 48 of them, but run out of money before the final four are buried. As the dead nuns rest in the freezer, a fund-raising talent show ensues featuring the nuns performing acts from their pre-nun lives. The play, which runs July 4-20, is directed by Arthur Griffith and musical director is JulieAnn Smith.

Returning to the Pier One stage this year is "Invisible Ink," a forum for some of Homer's writers to read their works in a performance-like setting. The writers and poets will read entirely new works and the performance, playing July 8-9, will be directed by Jan Needham.

On July 26-27, the original conglomeration of theater camp skits, shows and creative ideas titled the "Youth Theatre Skills Camp Show" kicks off.

The show is directed by Kathleen Balsemo, Laura Forbes and Paul Jones, and is the culmination of three weeks of theater skills camp.

"The Laramie Project" starts in August and is based on interviews with residents of Laramie, Wyo., after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student. The play, which has been shown off-Broadway, is the work of Moises Kaufman and members of Tectonic Theater Project, who interviewed more than 200 people from the town following the murder and compiled characters from the interviews.

"It's about what happens to the community as a result of the national focus on their town," he said. "There is one character who says, 'The media is distorting all this. Laramie is not like this,' and another character says, 'We didn't think we are like this but we are like this. How do we change if we don't like who we are?'"

The play explores a variety of things, Petersen said, and while it's not light, it's not a "psycho-social horror bath either."

"It does what theater can do. It elicits powerful emotions and provocative thoughts," he said.

"The Laramie Project" runs Aug. 2-17.

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Summer String Festival kicks off Aug. 1 with performances around the community as well as the Gala Concert on Aug. 10.

The Pier One Theatre's season finale is "W;T" by Margaret Edson, the tale of a woman with ovarian cancer in the final stages of an experimental, last-ditch treatment. Set in a hospital, the play, which runs Aug. 23-31, focuses on end of life issues, but also on the joys of life and living.

"She can't avoid the fact that death isn't off somewhere, it's right there, it's going to happen, now how do we deal with that," Petersen said. "Every family is facing or is going to face things like this. It's a powerful play."

Petersen said the theater's line-up offers something for everyone while echoing the trends of self-examination currently prevalent in American theater and beyond.

He said the theater is also working to increase its educational role in the community through camps as well as assisting with high school productions.

As well, more productions like "Short Flights" are likely in the off-season winter months, Petersen said, in an effort to bring theater to the Southern Peninsula year-round.

"That's an ideal format. Lots of people have the opportunity to be involved without having to take on the responsibility" of a full-length play, he said.

While some shows may vary, in general, Pier One Theatre productions start at 8:15 on Friday and Saturday nights and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. The theater is located on the Homer Spit just past the Fishing Hole. Tickets, which are available at Etude Music Studio, the Homer Bookstore and at the theater, are $12 with discounts. Call 235-7333 for more information and reservations, and check out the Homer News Arts Calendar for updates on performance times.

Carey James is a reporter for the Homer News.

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