PUBLISHED: 11:12 AM on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Youth begin Perseverance Theatre program
As Juneau's summer churns along, and children enjoy their school days off playing outside or scooting around with friends, some take advantage of the educational programs available. Offering great opportunities for students ages 10-18, the Perseverance Theatre's 2007 Summer Theatre Arts Rendezvous Program begins July 16, through Aug. 10.

STAR is a five-week acting program providing intense theatrical training to youth who are serious about theatre. Taking place at the University of Alaska Southeast, the class sizes are small for personalized instruction with each group comprised of students within their age group. Class themes include intense theater training, unforgettable stories and a world of wonder.

For over 20 years, the STAR program has had a significant connection with the community.

"It started out as an adult program, and then it became clear there was a need for training programs for youth. We've been really trying to do three to four plays each year. Over the past four years it's become a festival of theater for youths," said educational director David Charles Goyette.

Last year around 42 students attended the program, he said. Students were mainly from Juneau with a couple from Kake, California and Ketchikan.

"The Theatre has a huge commitment to the community and we try to provide programs for them to use," Goyett said.

STAR is divided into a junior program, ages 10-13, and a high school conservatory, ages 14-18.

The high school conservatory explores the musical theatre form through workshops and participation in the musical production, "Children of Eden." The play will be directed by Roger Bennington, artistic director for Tooth and Nail Theatre, of Salt Lake City.

The number, by Stephen Schwartz and John Caird, is a joyous and inspirational musical about parents, children, faith and centuries of unresolved family business. Freely based on the story of Genesis, "Children Of Eden" is a frank, heartfelt and often humorous examination of the age-old conflict between parents and children. The show ultimately delivers the inspiring message: "the hardest part of love is letting go."

Students in the junior program explore dramatic principles through workshops and participation in the choice of two productions. "William Shakespeare: Merry Wives of Windsor" or Haida mask and puppet s1/4how.

The play revolves around event of Sir John Falstaff setting out to woo a rich mistress to solve his financial worries. He soon discovers that the Wives of Windsor are more than a match for him.

"I really wanted them to do a comedy because I think they have a lot of fun with comedies. It felt like it had that same natural spirit, as last year's play, it really made sense," Goyett said.

He said children would love the obnoxious male characters with ladies outwitting them; he also wanted to have a play with strong female leads.

The play will be directed by Abby Gerdts, a renowned worldwide teacher and student of Juilliard, is coming directly from South Africa to share her talents.

In the Haida Mask and Puppet show, "The Woman Carried Away by the Killer Whales," a Haida/English language production, students explore Alaska Native culture by building masks and puppets for a Haida story to be written by a playwright commissioned in partnership with Sealaska Heritage Institute.

The show will be directed by puppet artist and actor Bill Hubner, of New York. He's also worked on the company cast of "Lion King" and Little Shop of Horrors."

Another visiting instructor is Karin Abromaitis, staff at George Washington University in Washington D.C., who specializes in fight-choreography and movement.

"They're working with professional artists," Goyett said. "Instructors are important, they're a really high caliber group of people; I'm amazed at the kind of people we can bring up here."

"It's great to have that perspective if they really want to go out and work in the theatre world and being able to pick their brains. The danger of living in Juneau is to get only what it is to live here-it allows students to broaden their horizons and think of all the places they can live and work."

Students accepted needed to audition, interview or recommended before registering into the STAR program.

"It has to be somebody who is willing to throw themselves into any exercise, it takes a special kind of person who is wants to be there and support their fellow actors and make it fun for the people who are primarily in with them," Goyett said.

Skills students learn at STAR are more than theatrical but enhance character as well.

"It benefits them in multiple ways, language skills are being developed (and) confidence building skills, in terms of being able to get up in front of other people and speak.

One of the major things theatre does is it turns kids into communicators, so they can speak with confidence, and we're also developing performers," he said.

Performances will be available for the public beginning Friday, August 10 through Saturday, August 18 at the University of Alaska Noyes Pavilion.

For more information contact Perseverance Theatre at 364-2421 or visit