Pier One Theatre opens on a high note

  • Linda Ellsworth, first-time director of Pier One production, "Grace and Glorie."
  • A new mural by Jennifer Norton is on the north wall of Pier One Theatre on the Homer Spit.

Every season, Pier One Theatre brightens the Spit with its lively performances, but more than that, it brightens the whole community with its passion for the arts. With productions for any taste — comedy, drama, musicals and more — there is something for everyone. The standard holds true for this season as well.

Pier One kicked off its season on June 14, with a performance by Johnny B, which will occur every other Tuesday through Sept. 20.

Tonight and tomorrow night, June 16 and 17, Pier One debuts a new kind of membership drive. Attendees, instead of being charged admission, will be encouraged to become members. They will be entertained with a reading of “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars,” a parody by Ian Doescher based on the films by George Lucas, but done in verse with 16th century English. A recipe for laughter, certainly. Jennifer Norton, future artistic director of Pier One, also mentions that there is an interesting opportunity for those becoming members at the $350 level, saying that they can choose a plaque to be placed on the back of a Pier One seat in the name of whoever they choose: themselves, a family member or friend, a favorite actress or actor, or a business.

Also this weekend, June 18 and 19, Pier One welcomes the local improvisational group, Fresh Produce, directed by Martty Zeller. Their offering is bound to be a fun performance for those who already love improvisation, and also for those new to the art form. In the past, the group has travelled around Alaska, and performs often at the Art Barn, but Norton says, “We’re really happy to have them.”

Next, as a culmination of their achievements, the Skills Conservatory Camp attendees will hold a sharing performance next weekend, June 24 and 25 (more details in “Youth theatre camps…”, this page).

Following this comes a comedy from the mind of Tom Stoppard, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” a comedic play centered on two peripheral characters of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

Norton, who will be directing this production, said, “The play is them sort of trying to figure out what their purpose is. It’s a really wonderful exploration of what it’s like to be this two dimensional character, just roughly sketched out.”

Starring in this play will be Peter Sheppard as Rosencrantz, Carolyn Norton as Guildenstern, and Sarah Frary, new to the Pier One stage, as “The Player.”

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Sheppard about his role in this play, which Norton also says has elements reminiscent of the Marx Brothers and Terry Gilliam from Monty Python.

Shifting moods, Pier One will then be putting on the play, “Grace and Glorie,” created by Tom Ziegler.

Of Zeigler, first time director Linda Ellsworth says, “He likes to write about the human struggle… He likes to tackle these hard subjects.”

One of these difficult subjects is the topic of “Grace and Glorie,” in which a highly educated, New York woman, Glorie, becomes a hospice volunteer working with the old and ailing cancer patient, Grace. Though struggling initially to get along, the two women eventually form a strong bond.

Ellsworth, who is personally grateful for hospice, believes that many will be able to relate to the heartwarming and comedic play. She also adds that one of the later performances will honor Hospice of Homer and the work that it does.

The first week of August, a number of plays workshopped at a Valdez festival will then be brought to Pier One to make their debut through readings. All of these plays are written by Alaskans, and will showcase some of the talent our beautiful state boasts.

Following these entirely new works will be the culminating performance of the production camp, featuring the classic story, “Alice in Wonderland.” Pulled from the actual text of Lewis Carroll’s novel, this play is likely to be an instant hit (more about this in “Youth theatre camps…” this page).

The main drama of the season, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” will then take the stage. This four-person play stars two couples, one older, and one younger, who get together for an evening. The visit exposes the younger couple, Nick and Honey, to the toxicity of George and Martha’s (the older couple) marriage.

Director Peter Sheppard says, “The older couple’s relationship is basically based off of their mutual hatred.”

As the night goes on, as Nick and Honey become more involved in the problems of George and Martha, things get more and more heated.

“Basically everyone takes the opportunity, using the things they’ve learned over the evening, to tear down the others and form these mini alliances,” said Sheppard.

Of his cast, Sheppard has a high opinion.

“I’m very happy with the cast I’ve got. They’ve all shown great interest in the material and the characters they are cast as,” said Sheppard.

Closing out the season will be “The Drunkard,” a veteran play on the Pier One stage, directed this time by Laura Norton. This play, first performed in 1844, was Pier One’s first ever production in 1973, and also its first at their new location in 1987. The play returns in honor of Lance and Barb Petersen’s retirement following this season, and the incoming of Jennifer Norton, who will take Lance Petersen’s place as Artistic Director.

“The Drunkard” is what Norton calls a classic melodrama in that it features the sweet, young innocent thing, the hero led astray and the vengeful villain. Also a temperance play, this story was wildly popular upon its creation.

Setting it apart from past productions of this play at Pier One is the musical element added this time around. Johnny B comprises the orchestra for this play, providing mood music throughout the melodrama.

Norton also mentions that she is still looking for a few male cast members to fill all the roles of “The Drunkard.” Contact Pier One, or Laura Norton directly if interested.

Find more online at www.homernews.com.

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