For three days at the beginning of March, Perseverance Theatre hosted a workshop in preparation for the world premier of the road weeps, the well runs dry. This event provided an opportunity for Juneau actors, including Austin Tagaban and Erin Tripp, to dig their teeth into the play with Director Aaron Davidman, finding the voice and vision of their characters. Tagaban and Tripp are cast as Goodbird and Sweet Tea, the play’s clandestine young lovers.
Austin Tagaban is no stranger to the theatre. He joined the Perseverance family at the age of nine and took part in various youth training opportunities such as Young Company and STAR until he eventually gained a role on the main stage. His first main stage appearance was in the production of Tlingit Macbeth.
Tripp came to the theatre later in life. She came upon Perseverance while studying at the University of Alaska. Tripp told me, “I was a freshman in college at UAS and they needed someone to fill a part for Eight Stars of Gold in 2009. They needed a native girl and they were looking around for someone. They heard of me–a few people recommended that I try it and I thought, ‘Why not?’ … Then I did Reincarnation of Stories, a native play with Generator [Theater Company] and now I’m in this one!”
The two actors both credit Shona Strauser, Perseverance Theatre’s Education Director and Artistic Associate, for encouraging them to audition for the road weeps. When Tripp and Tagaban came to the script, they saw the challenges before them. Tagaban shared, “The language of the show is a different way of speaking. It’s hard to wrap your mouth around the words. It helped me a lot to be with the director, figuring out how [these characters] speak, the pitch of their voice, sound of their voice.”
“[The workshop] was so useful,” Tripp emphasized, “because I’m really new to acting and I’m definitely one of the younger people in the cast. I have a lot a lot a lot to learn.” She continued, “After reading [the play] more and exploring the motivations of each character… I feel like I have a better understanding of the play and appreciate it more. There were a lot of ‘aha’ moments for me… [The process] made me feel like my character was more important.”
This workshop allowed the actors to more deeply explore their connections to their characters and the themes of the play. The process, for example, illuminated for Tripp the mother-daughter relationship between Sweet Tea and Mary South. For Tagaban, the story of forbidden love between Goodbird and Sweet Tea compelled him. He said, “A lot of people’s parents don’t like the person that they’re dating. I think it’s interesting, because Goodbird’s parents come from this era where they are divided, but he and the girl he’s in love with are able to transcend the division and fall in love with each other.”
I asked Tagaban if he felt the story was relevant to Juneau. “I think it relates,” he said, “it’s a community of people trying to resolve these big conflicts about what has happened in the past. It relates to any community that has been downtrodden and struggles. Or the plight of people removed from their homeland, forced somewhere else and coping with that.”
“When I see plays like this,” Tripp shared, “they bring up hard subjects, but make the stories easier to digest. They show history from the eyes of the people who it’s happening to. I want everyone to see it!”
The road weeps, the well runs dry opens the first weekend of May. Who do you want to see this play?