Play Breaks New Ground in Anchorage
Juneau company brings "The Blue Bear" to town
Nationally acclaimed Perseverance Theater of Juneau launches its first partial season in Anchorage next month with the production of "The Blue Bear."
The play is based on the book by Juneau wilderness guide Lynn Schooler, regarding his friendship with the late Japanese wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino.
On this month’s First Friday event, at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art on D street, there was a fusion of media: books were being signed, a DVD player showed a recording of live theater, the visitors saw photos along a gallery wall -- and all of it in the service of a play that's coming to Anchorage.
The event was publicity for an upcoming theatrical milestone.
On hand was Juneau wilderness guide Lynn Schooler, who has achieved a measure of fame for his book, "The Blue Bear," about the Alaska wilderness experiences he shared with his friend, the late Michio Hoshino.
Hoshino has been described as the Ansel Adams of wildlife photography.
Now Perseverance is bringing that story to the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage in February -- thanks to Schooler's sister, Luan, who wrote a theatrical adaptation along with director Leon Ingulsrud.
"Having Luan Schooler adapt her brother's book was really, really valuable. Because Lynn really trusted her and because she's a really terrific writer who knows the story well," said Art Rotch, artistic director of Perseverance.
"When Perseverance theatre first approached me about adapting it, I couldn't imagine how they were going to do that," said Lynn Schooler. "And then just being in the audience watching that process was great for me because I learned a lot about how theater is made. And I think that's going to translate into being a better writer."
The two-character, 90-minute play had its world premiere a year ago this month, and now is the vehicle for launching Perseverance's first regular season in Anchorage.
"Plays are not books, and books aren't plays, so they do very different things,” Rotch said. “But this tells the story of a friendship, and a friendship in which one of the friends learns to trust because of the influence of the other. And that's what the book is about."
"Probably the biggest part I played in turning the book into the play was just telling the people doing the work what Michio was really like, as a friend and as a person," Schooler said.
Schooler remains a big fan of the photographer, whom he describes as extremely humble despite his rock star status in Japan and whom Schooler says had a trademark ability to connect viewers with his subjects.
The Perseverance production uses photos and videos to create a wilderness ambience, reflecting the lengthy trips that Schooler and Hoshino took together.
"It’s not my book anymore,” Schooler said. “It's a story that's got its own legs now."
And it's walking into the PAC on February 10.
The play will be performed seven times over eight days.
Perseverance will be back at the PAC in April with a production of the classic Lorraine Hans berry play, "A Raisin in the Sun."