Homer playwright’s first play premieres

Golden’s ‘Maud of the Island’ came out of pandemic Zoom workshop

A play written during the COVID-19 pandemic by Homer playwright Jessica Golden opened last Thursday. “Maud of the Island,” written specifically for Pier One, premiered at the Pratt Museum’s forest stage on June 29 for the first weekend with a small cast of nine. Shows will run again Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Pratt.

“I wrote this during COVID so I wanted the smallest cast possible. I wanted to keep it really, really small,” Golden said.

The Island referred to in the title is Prince Edward Island in Eastern Canada, north of Nova Scotia and east of New Brunswick. It is the setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.” Montgomery wrote in the early 20th century and set many of her other novels, essays and poetry on the island.

Prince Edward Island also is the background structure for Golden’s play, but as her playwright introduction states in the program, “Don’t worry. If you haven’t made it through that daunting first chapter … you can still enjoy this play.”

“It was meant to be subtle. If you love ‘Anne of Green Gables’ you’ll get it, and if you don’t, it’s still a good, funny play,” Golden said.

While “Maud of the Island” is Golden’s first full-length play, she has been writing in various formats since she was eight years old.

“This play originated as part of the Alaska Writers Workshop,” Golden said. “During the pandemic they did a statewide event via Zoom with 22 writers from across the state. We had writers from the Slope, from Southeast. Some people were working on revisions and I wanted to write a new play. Before this, I had rewritten King Lear for the Valdez Theatre Conference, and when I first applied for the conference that’s what I was assigned to work on, but it’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something funny.”

When the Alaska Writers Workshop ended, the four other writers in her group continued to meet and she joined also.

“They’ve been very lovely and welcoming,” Golden said of the group. “It’s amazing to write with other playwrights because they approach the writing process completely differently than other structures of writing. Before this, I have mostly worked in poetry and it was a very guarded process, but with playwriting you have to be like ‘Here’s my scene, tear it up!’ Everyone tears it up and there’s no time to be hurt — you just have to fix it. There’s a practicality to it that the group has really helped me with.”

Golden talked about the cast. She said Katia Holmes’ role of Frede was written specifically for her.

“You never know quite what is going to come out of her mouth!” Golden said of Holmes. “She stays within parameters and boundaries, but she’s an explosion within them! It’s fun to watch what she does with your work. When she stepped in to do a second role as Prescott, I was happy.”

Cristen San Roman performs as Maud Montgomery and is onstage for most of the performance. In addition to her lead in this production, San Roman is also co-directing Pier One’s upcoming musical “Cannibal” with Christine Kulcheski.

Another significant component to observe in the play is artistry in the hats the performers wear. Jessica Williams put out a call with the Homer Council on the Arts to people “we know are interested in costume design,” Golden said.

The group gathered flowers and hats in early April and started some workshop time with the arts council.

Rehearsals for Maud started in April, but without a full cast, as Holmes was still in New York at the time. In May, rehearsal continued without actors Raiden Skorski-O’Donnell or Finnley Stineff, because they were busy with high school choir.

Skorski-O’Donnell plays the character of Mrs. McElroy, a loud neighbor woman.

“That character is named after my grandmother, Margaret McElroy, who was a huge Anne fan. She gave herself the middle name ‘Anne’ because she liked the book so much,” Golden said. “It has been such a delight to see Raiden in that role.”

The rest of the cast includes Carolyn Norton, Regi Johanos, Mebahaia Eller and Val Sheppard.

Summer is busy in Homer with so many projects going on. Prior to the first performances, the cast only had one week for rehearsals.

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking but all of the pieces have fit together,” Golden said.

Mebahiah Eller, Katia Holmes, Regi Johanos and Cristen San Roman perform in “Maud of the Island” on the Pratt Museum’s forest stage in Homer on June 29.

Mebahiah Eller, Katia Holmes, Regi Johanos and Cristen San Roman perform in “Maud of the Island” on the Pratt Museum’s forest stage in Homer on June 29.