|The Alaska Repertory
The Alaska Repertory Theater -- the state's first nonprofit, professional theater -- was founded by Paul V. Brown in June 1976 and opened March 1, 1977, with the production of SCAPINO. Housed primarily in the municipally owned Sidney Lawrence Auditorium in Anchorage, performances are also given in the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, auditorium.
The company was part of the second wave of regional theater development, the first having taken place during the 1960s. Anchorage had, at the time of the ART's founding, several nonprofessional community theater organizations, including the Anchorage Theater Guild, the Anchorage Community Theater and the Anchorage Opera Guild. Additionally, the University of Alaska Theater Department and Arts in Alaska, Inc. -- a nonprofit organization that toured skits and short programs -- contributed to an active theatrical scene.
There was some concern on the part of these rival groups at the ART's founding that the new theater would reduce the public's interest in and contribution to community theaters; Brown reassured them, however, pointing out that the ART could spur growth and, through leadership, promote higher standards and quality.
Paul V. Brown, with Robert J. Farley, founded the company with the aim of providing theatrical productions and services to all residents of the state, whether in villages or cities. They also envisioned the company as a resource for other arts organizations. Brown is a member of the executive committee of the Alaska Arts Alliance and a founding member of the Anchorage Arts Commission. Farley began his career with the APA Phoenix Theater in New York and has worked in a variety of regional theaters, including the McCarter Theater Company in Princeton, the Intiman Theater Company in Seattle and the Alliance Theater in Atlanta.
The ART began with strong support from the business community as well as from the state. By fiscal year 1980 the company received 75 percent of all funds distributed by the State Arts Council ($750,000 that year). In fiscal year 1985 the company still received that amount of money from the council, now 60 percent of the organization's disbursements; however, the ART also received that year a $400,000 line item grant from the state legislature.
Community support was evidenced by the construction of a performing arts complex in Anchorage, completed in 1988, which provided permanent housing for the opera, community theater, and the ART.
The company's original ambitious touring program had to be somewhat curtailed, since sets, properties, costumes, and equipment had to not only fit in trucks, but into small planes and boats as well, which made touring a complicated and expensive proposition. Touring to outlying districts, although limited, still exists, however, and the company continues to offer statewide consultation for theatrical production as well as educational services.
In its first ten seasons the ART has mounted forty-five productions, ranging from Shakespeare (THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, TWELFTH NIGHT) and Moliere (TARTUFFE) to G. B. Shaw (MAJOR BARBARA) and Neil Simon (BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS).
The majority of the company's productions have been comedies; more serious works, however, were also successfully presented. These included works by Ibsen (AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE), Arthur Kopit (WINGS) and Ted Tally (TERRA NOVA).
In addition, the company has presented productions such as the McClain Family Band, the Alex McCowen production of St. Mark's Gospel, and the Joffrey II Dancers. Finally, the ART has presented a series of educational programs on play making and play reading.
The ART has regularly employed production, lighting, costume, and sound designers, stage and production managers, and, when necessary, choreographers and musical directors. The acting company has been composed of a large number of actors and actresses (many of whom have appeared in only one production) and guest stars. Chief among those actors and actresses who have appeared in several productions are William Arnold, Mitchell Edmonds, Harry Frazier, Sharon Harrison, Steve McKean, Joe Meek, James Morrison, Richard Riehle, Donn Ruddy, Luan Schooler, James Hotchkiss and Philip Pleasants. Many of the company's actors and actresses have gone on from the ART to perform at such theaters as the Guthrie Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and the Portland (Maine) Stage Company, as well as moving into television.
Though the ART began in 1977, James Morrison is listed as being at the ART from 1978 - 1980. Below is a list of plays performed by the company from its beginning through Morrison's tenure.
1977: SCAPINO, PRIVATE LIVES, CLARENCE DARROW
1977 - 78: SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE FOURPOSTER, THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE, DIAMOND STUDS
1978 - 79: THE FOURPOSTER, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, TERRA NOVA (West Coast premier), THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, SLOW DANCE ON THE KILLING GROUND, DEATHTRAP
1979 - 80: DIAMOND STUDS, TALLEY'S FOLLY (West Coast premier), A CHRISTMAS CAROL, SOMETHING'S AFOOT, SLY FOX, LOOSE ENDS
James returned to the Alaska Repertory Theater Company in 1986 to play Cowboy in I'M NOT RAPPAPORT -- again in 1987 to do CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, playing Brick.
The Alaska Repertory Theater is now closed.