shak nerdsThere were times, when bringing FCA’s first presentation of a play to Fairbanks seemed like Shackleton’s epic voyage itself.

The story unfolds over several years. It began in NY, we saw “Endurance” in the showcase listings and recognized it immediately as pertaining to Shackleton. We thought “That would resonate with Fairbanks.”

FCA board member Barb Hameister, chair of our artist selection committee would not let the project die. Barb became “my Shackleton,” positive, encouraging… “just keep trying …” She prodded in her sweet, gentle and oh-so-effective way.

Just to be sure, I asked NY friends, discerning theater aficionados who attend everything including Manhattan Theater Club, Broadway, Lincoln Center… Their response:

WE DID IT!!  We got there!! Went to last night’s performance and I meant to write you imMEdiately … but it has taken me 24 hours. (sorry!)  Can you still get to booth #614 tomorrow and tell them you WANT THEM TO COME TO FAIRBANKS?????

Can you tell I’m (we’re) enthusiastic about the performance of Endurance???  I thought it was just amazing. The versatility of the actors is mind blowing and I thought the crafting of the whole play quite brilliant! Not to mention the minimal and brilliant (also versatile) props. Also the use of music. I can go on and on.

The play toured with a SMALL AMOUNT OF FRIEGHT. Issues of that freight surfaced like so much sea ice for Shackleton. Other challenges ensued, costs mounted, logistics were crazy, we pushed onward. Shackleton renamed Endurance after his family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus—”by endurance we conquer.”

One obstacle which did not present itself was where to present the production and with whom. I knocked on the door of Theater UAF and was welcomed with the warmth of a warm fire on a cold night. They loved the idea – and Professor Brian Cook even got a People’s Endowment Award which helped with the marketing budget.

photo(4)The University came on board with enthusiasm. Faculty members including Dr. Andy Mahoney from Geophysical Institute, Dr. Michael Castellini, Dean of the School of Fisheries, Professor Leonard Kamerling from the English Department and UAF Museum and Dr. Paul Krejci of the Music Department agreed to give talks around the subject matter and a series, held at the Palace Saloon, unfolded. You can’t beat the subject and the stature of the speakers was extraordinary. We expected 20 – 30 people. 120 showed up the first night and it grew from there.

Along the way UAF’s Mike Sfraga helped us with a much needed extra Alaska Air voucher to get Artistic Director Greg Webster here from NY, Alaska Airlines donated the travel for actors and crew, Alaska Air Cargo got “the small amount of freight” from Anchorage to Fairbanks and Ravn Alaska stepped up — on hours notice — to get everyone here from Anchorage. Wells Fargo added to their annual donation which helped us put on the workshops as well as the performances.

This has been a true labor of love and it’s been worth it. Along with my enthusiasm, and Barb’s, I’ve watched as our staff, UAF, the school district, and all of you, joined me in “Shackletonian nerdiness.” We’ve launched Jamelle’s career in cardboard art and have had an impact on local students as her great display in the Great Hall now becomes a traveling display in high school libraries.   IMG_8230

As I write this, the group is in the state, held in Anchorage en route to their first performance in Kodiak. This production, which has seen so many challenges – and had them all miraculously calm like a sea anchor in a storm, will no doubt weather this too. As Shackleton said “Optimism is true moral courage.”



Split Knuckle made it to Kodiak!

“Great turnout tonight for our Actors Workshop! And Michael Toomey is our hero for running it with charm and humor one hour after stepping off a plane (following a 24-hour weather delay). We love Split Knuckle!”

“Split Knuckle fans for life! Audience lept to their feet, and lots of people stayed for the talk-back which was great.”

“Split Knuckle Theatre…what a fabulous show. The timing, the physical movements, everything so wonderfully executed. So happy Kodiak Arts Council brought such a fine performing group to the island.”