PUBLISHED: 4:21 PM on Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Rising STARs
Perseverance young actors program opens with three new performances
JUNEAU - Perseverance Theatre's latest batch of blossoming young actors will take the stage this weekend as the Summer Theatre Arts Rendezvous (S.T.A.R.) program launches three new productions.

Perseverance's S.T.A.R. program, now more than 20 years old, features 10-18 year olds who will perform in both local and nationally renowned stage productions.

photo courtesy of Perseverance Theatre
  From left: LeAndrea Makaily, Andrea Butler and Brooke Wes rehearse a dance routine for the play "Raven at the Head of the Nass." The group began rehearsals four weeks ago and will take their acting skills to the big stage Aug. 9
This year's performances include "Raven at the Head of the Nass," written by Alaska's own Ishamel Hope, an adaptation of "The Velveteen Rabbit," and a musical adaptation of the family classic "Willy Wonka Junior."

Performances will begin Aug. 9 and run through Aug. 16. Each will be held at University of Alaska Southeast's Noyes Pavilion. "Raven" will feature 14-18 year olds and the other two productions will be performed by the 10-13 age group.

About 40 young actors have spent the last four weeks honing their talents under the tutelage of Perseverance's stage actors. The result, said Shona Strauser, Perseverance's education director, is another group of young talent rediscovering their identities.

"I've seen a lot of voices getting stronger and louder, and kids getting excited to be on stage," she said. "It's been wonderful. There's some very energetic, exciting work going on here."

Strauser said the performances will include top-notch costume and prop designs by about a dozen professional theatre artists.

photos courtesy of Perseverance Theatre
  Austin Tagaban performs the opening number for "Raven at the Head of the Nass."
"I have incredible costume and props designers," she said. "(The performances) are given a lot of attention. As adults, we want to make sure their stuff is looking good. Everybody is working very hard."

The S.T.A.R. program also has served as a training ground for future Perseverance actors. Assistant Director Leona Schrader-Dee, who is working with the S.T.A.R. program for the second time, was a youth actor in the program just three years ago.

"It really is a (training ground)," said Schrader-Dee, who has been in three Perseverance productions in the past two seasons. "(Being a director) gives me a whole new understanding of what my assistant director went through in my group. It's a lot of fun to be able to reach out with the kids and pass on things I learned in my acting classes."

Schrader-Dee said she also has seen the young performers mature since beginning rehearsals July 14 and said the experience they receive now will pay dividends in the years to come. She knows first-hand how difficult transitioning to the big stage can be.

photo courtesy of Perseverance Theatre
  The actors playing the toys in "Velveteen Rabbit" take a break during rehearsal. The play will begin Aug. 9
"With (youth) theatre, the rehearsal process is usually two months long but with S.T.A.R. they only get four weeks of rehearsal," she said. "It really impressed me how you have to buckle down, pay attention and focus to memorize your lines as soon as possible. S.T.A.R. prepared me for shows with Perseverance where you're expected to know that."

Schrader-Dee said watching the young thespian talents develop and build relationships with one another has been rewarding.

"They're a lot more confident," she said. "The first week, there were the kids who were outgoing and willing to try anything but maybe half of the kids ... were very quiet, withdrawn, but now they know their plays, each other, and they've made friends they didn't have before. They're blossoming and it's fun to watch."

Ticket information

Festival Passes, where you can see any three shows, are $25 for adults and $13 for students. Tickets for any one show are $10 for adults and $5 for students and are sold at the door.

Show times

Raven at the Head of the Nass, by Ishmael Hope, as advised by Sealaska Heritage Institute and presented by the High School Conservatory

Saturday, Aug. 9 at 7:30pm

Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 7:30pm

Saturday, Aug. 16 at 2pm

The Velveteen Rabbit, story by Margery Williams and adapted by Thomas Olson

Saturday, Aug. 9 at 2pm

Thursday, Aug. 14 at 7:30pm

Saturday, Aug. 16 at 7:30pm

Willy Wonka Junior, adapted for stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy A. McDonald

Friday, Aug. 8 at 7:30pm

Sunday, Aug. 10 at 2pm

Friday, Aug. 15 at 7:30pm