Shifting Values, Shifting Practice

by Joanne Alcantara
from the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska
Volume VIII. August-September 2013

Community engagement is finding new life and new rhythm as Perseverance Theatre prepares for its 2013-2014 season. Drawing from the experience and excitement of building an audience for the road weeps, the well runs dry, theatre staff are preparing a new series that will broaden and deepen relationships with local partners. In addition to reaching out, the Perseverance team is also focusing inward, reflecting on values and shifting priorities.

The theatre’s thirty-fifth season is opening with a pressing dialogue about the organization’s value statement. The mission of Perseverance Theatre is to create professional theatre by and for Alaskans. The theatre states that it values community engagement, professional rigor and regional voice. A year ago, the board and staff met for an annual retreat where Artistic Director, Art Rotch raised the question of amending the values statement, specifically adding diversity to the framework. The conversation began, then stopped abruptly as an unprepared room moved for other topics to take priority.

This month, the board and staff will gather again to revisit the theatre’s values. Art Rotch plans to return to the previous year’s conversation and discuss language around diversity, cultural inclusion or social justice. If the board makes this shift, it will push the organization to change how it plans and assesses a season. It will also open the door for more training on inclusive practices.

On the ground, this work is already moving forward. A staff committee formed this summer, taking lessons from the road weeps, to strategize a more coordinated season-wide community engagement effort. This team is developing a calendar for the 2013-2014 Perseverance season which will include tabling opportunities, outreach events, educational programming as well as a new series designed to bring in familiar and unfamiliar faces to the theatre.

The series, which will function like a theatre club, will launch during the second show of the season, Treasure Island. Community partners, like Sealaska, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, the Filipino Community, Black Awareness Association and Pride Chorus, will be invited to join Perseverance staff for an ongoing dialogue about creating art, strengthening community and forging partnerships.

Shona Strauser, Artistic Associate and Director of Education, commented, “There’s so much talent in our community. I think a series like this will give us a chance to build new connections and expose emerging artists.”

In addition to these gatherings, the theatre plans to develop first Saturday events which will open the doors for Perseverance to thank existing donors, business sponsors and other stewards of the theatre. The goal for the first Saturday of God of Carnage, which will open the season, is to give community members a sneak peek for the season and raise excitement for the coming year.

The road weeps, the well runs dry is moving on to other cities. We expect that it will continue to build momentum, creating waves and opening hearts as new audiences and new communities find ways to engage with the story and bring it home. For Perseverance, an old conversation on diversity and social change is finding new breath and new life. We are grateful for the way that the road weeps intensified the dialogue and look forward to the discussions ahead as we take hold of our values and live them out day by day.

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