Alaska Native Artist Awarded National Artist Residency Placement
In three years, Perseverance Theatre playwright-in-residence Vera Starbard has developed legendary worlds in prehistoric Tlingit country, adapted Jane Austen for Alaska village life, and interviewed dynamic Alaska Native leaders for biographical stories. Through the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Perseverance Theatre will be continuing its partnership with Starbard for at least three more years. The Mellon Foundation has extended Starbard's National Playwright Residency Program with Perseverance through June 2022, administered in partnership with HowlRound.
The Mellon Foundation began the residency program in 2012 with the intent of providing playwrights the time and space to write without distraction via a full-time salaried position within theatres. By allowing access to theatre resources and encouraging theatres to be more inclusive of artists' ideas and needs, more ambitious and inclusive art can be created in that artist's own region.
"We at Perseverance Theatre are grateful for The Mellon Foundation support-Vera Starbard is creating ground-breaking work that the American Theatre hasn't seen before Vera came along. Vera's creative brilliance has her grappling with longstanding and contemporary issues in relationship with traditional knowledge. Her plays are insightful with humor, pathos, and what I call, "truth lines", that are full of wisdom for the ages. It is such an honor to direct Vera's world premiere, Devilfish, and we are excited for Vera to continue with Perseverance through this residency program." said Perseverance Theatre's Interim Artistic Director Leslie Ishii.
Vera's first full-length play produced under the first round of the residency with Perseverance, "Devilfish," will premiere Sept. 20 in Juneau, and Oct. 25 in Anchorage. It is an imagining of a prehistoric Southeast Alaska, inspired by stories Vera was told throughout childhood about Tlingit origins.
"This is a tale I've been creating since childhood," said Starbard. "But only with this residency have I been allowed the time, freedom and resources to put a pretty ambitious story onto the stage."
Starbard is a Tlingit and Dena'ina artist who was born in Southeast Alaska, and grew up all over the state. She currently lives in Anchorage, where she is editor of First Alaskans Magazine, and writer for the PBS Kids animated children's program "Molly of Denali." Starbard has won multiple state and national awards for writing and editing, including Rasmuson Foundation's Individual Artist Award and the 2018 Alaska Literary Award.
"This residency has been a game changer for my writing," said Starbard. "But I'm also so excited about what it's lending to Alaska Native Theatre as a whole. The time I can dedicate to being a bridge between other Native artists and the theatre, and other Native community partnerships, is just plain exciting. The future of Alaska Native Theatre is bright."
The Mellon Foundation residency comes with a $220,000 grant to Perseverance for the three additional years of Starbard's residency, going to salary and benefits, theatre administration costs, and other play development activities. Starbard will be commissioned for at least three more full-length plays, for a total of six new plays written over the full length of the residency.