Since 1973, Pier One Theatre has been a mainstay for community theatre. From their first production of “The Drunkard” with a cast of 16 to their most recent production of “Beauty and the Beast” with more than 80 people working on the show, Pier One has held more than 300 productions and provided opportunities on and off stage for thousands of community members.
During a public ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Homer Theatre, eight individuals were recognized with Lifetime Achievement awards. Organized by Cathy Stingley, Pier One’s board president, these individuals were selected by a board-appointed awards committee who solicited names from board members and community members.
“These folks have helped build Pier One Theatre from the ground up,” said Stingley. “They have been the hard working inspiration of talent, energy and creativity that forged the foundation of our theatre, and it was time to honor them for their dedication and generosity to our community.”
Mark Robinson served as the Choral Director for Homer High School and Homer Middle School for 23 years, and for 18 years, as artistic director for the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. He brought the orchestra, adult community choir, and students together for musicals and took choir groups around the United States and Europe to sing. He holds a Master of Music degree in conducting and has received numerous local, state and national awards. Since retirement in 2012, he has worked with Pier One Theatre on several productions.
Nancy Chambers, a violinist and KPO concertmaster spent more than 20 years sitting to Robinson’s left.
“Mark inherited me along with the orchestra, which was under the umbrella of Pier One for many years,” Chambers said. “I appreciate that Mark strived to make music important and meaningful, like when he took a choir of high school and community singers to Europe where they sang at the gates to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where more than 90,000 people perished. What Mark accomplished during his career was giving hundreds of people the opportunity to learn, grow and perform.”
Peter Norton has been performing on stage for the past 54 years, 42 of those with Pier One in more than 100 productions. His first stepped on stage in 1969 when a college friend challenged him to audition for a play. Norton’s debut with Pier One was in 1981 in the role of Dick Wilkins in “Scrooge.” In addition to his prolific resume as an actor, he has had his hand in nearly every other aspect of theatre — assistant director, stage manager, set construction, tech crew, graphic design and trombonist for the musicals he’s not singing in.
Val Sheppard is Pier One Theatre’s office manager and grew up watching Norton on stage.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to share the stage with Peter,” she shared. “He has always been there. Amidst the ever-changing sea of faces in the landscape of Pier One, Peter was the one who stood out to me as the actor I always recognized. His presence on the stage is unmistakable, his deep voice, wry smile and hearty laugh always distinct and recognizable, and his performances never anything short of captivating. Peter was always the highlight of any show I watched and that has carried into the present day.”
Laura Norton joined Pier One in 1981 as a clarinet player in the pit orchestra for the production of “Scrooge.” Since that time, with both of her daughters by her side, she has served as musician, book holder, props mistress, set builder, poster distributor, stage crew, sound and lighting technician, stage and house manager, singer, producer, director, production manager, and bookkeeper. She has also managed and performed with the KPO and community choir. A trustee for Pier One since 2005, she has served as acting president after the Petersens retired in 2016.
Jessie Dabney, a Pier One performer took high school choir when Norton volunteered.
“Laura is a woman of many hats and with a tremendous drive to help,” Dabney said. “She is a powerhouse, spending thousands of hours working behind the scenes — mother, wife, friend, artist, member of KPO, Kenai Peninsula Community Choir, Pier One Theater, Youth Theater and others. She is indispensable.”
Lynne Roff moved to Homer in 1982 where she met her now husband Dick Sanders who introduced her to the local theatre and dance community. A skilled choreographer, Roff has a bachelor of fine arts in Modern Dance, master of arts in performing arts, and doctorate in Transformative Studies. She has served as technical director for the Mariner Theatre, provided lighting direction for her dance shows and Pier One productions, and for 10 years, co-taught the high school Stage Craft class. She has also acted in a number of roles, including one of her favorite characters, Martha from Shirley Timmreck’s play “Louisa.”
Pier One Theatre board member Mary Fries met Roff when she took her dance class.
“Lynne brought something unique to our little dance world with her avant garde approach to movement,” Fries said. “She produced 14 dance shows in her then company Dance Theatre North, under the auspices of Pier One Theatre. One participant said upon leaving a performance that she couldn’t believe she was seeing this caliber of production in Homer, Alaska.”
Dick Sanders came to Homer in 1978, attended Pier One’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” and moved to Homer the following year, beginning his affiliation with the theater by volunteering to photograph a production of “West Side Story.” Along with acting and directing, Sanders has been active behind the scenes over the years, selling ads for programs, writing grants, taking pictures, ushering, manning the concession stands, building sets, teaching youth theater and for a few years, served as Office Manager.
David Webster met Sanders for the first time when Sanders was in a show that Webster’s wife and daughter were in.
“Dick’s comedic gifts are legendary and his generous nature makes him beloved by those fortunate enough to share a stage with him,” Webster said. “He always goes above and beyond when preparing for a role. When I cast him in ‘The Foreigner’ as a Cockney, he worked for six weeks perfecting his accent. After one performance, an audience member from London asked him what neighborhood he grew up in, as she couldn’t quite pinpoint the area from his accent.”
Ken Landfield auditioned for a role in a Pier One production in 1983 and after being cast in three parts, there was no going back. In 1989, he directed “My Three Angels” and for the past 40 years, has directed and acted with an occasional title role, including in “Frankenstein: the Musical.”
Maynard Smith has acted alongside Landfield throughout the years.
“What sustains the theatre is the joyful and communal energy that is fostered in the telling of a good story both in and between the producers, the performers, and the audience,” Smith said. “Nowhere is that more clearly evident than in Ken’s 40-year participation. From one-line offstage parts through multi-character performances, from featured supporting characters to leading roles, Ken has consistently given his attention and focus to his performance, and to the support of his fellow actors, both on and off the stage. He has produced, directed and authored short plays, managed the stage and the house, run lights and sound from the wings while changing costume, and supported the works of others in every way.”
Lance Petersen grew up in Alaska, and has been integral to the growth and support of the performing arts in the State, including co-founding Pier One Theatre. He has served on the Alaska State Council for the Arts, taught theatre to high school and college students across the peninsula and has written, directed and acted. He has helped those new to the theater find their light, both literally on the stage and in what they wanted to do in and around the theater.
Barb Petersen moved to Anchorage in the early 1960s and discovered theater when she joined a production of the Lion in Winter. Since then, she has explored and pushed herself to grow and evolve in all aspects of the performing arts, from acting and directing to designing programs, managing volunteers, getting sponsors, working concessions, and hosting youth theater instructors. On stage and behind the scenes, Petersen was an integral part of making every production happen.
Stingley met the Petersens in 1973 when she bought a house that came with a storage shed full of theater equipment which she donated to the couple.
“Lance and Barbara are the reason we are here tonight because without them, there would be no Pier One Theatre,” Stingley said. “They lived, ate and breathed theater. They had big roles in Anchorage and at the same time were working and managing the theater in Homer and driving to Kenai to participate in productions. Early on, their days would be mornings constructing and building sets, afternoons rehearsing, live theater at night, to bed, and then back out at the theater in the morning, day after day after day. Every awardee has a story to share about how this couple and their theater has influenced their lives. Pier One is a family and the legacy of Lance and Barbara continues today.”