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Watch revenge and redemption play out 'on Cannery Island'


Orin Pierson / Petersburg Pilot

Tammie Wales, a local tattoo artist and painter, put some finishing touches on the largest of her three painted backdrop pieces on Wednesday night.

It's got humor, romance, revenge and redemption. The Mitkof Mummers Theater Company's "Shipwreck on Cannery Island" hits the stage next week during the Little Norway Festival.

It's writer/director Orin Pierson and co-writer Mary Koppes' first play, and a portion of proceeds will go toward the Mummers' newly founded Vara Wright Memorial Scholarship for high school students who plan to continue performing arts in college.

Wright, a Mitkof Mummers founder who wrote and directed their plays for many years, passed away this January. Pierson said she was the one who first dragged him onto the stage years ago.

They pay homage to many of her traditional comic motifs including the "infamous playful jab at Wrangell."

The musical melodrama is about two vikings and three captive nuns who, after "a mysterious storm," wash ashore on an island where "shenanigans ensue," Koppes said. Pierson added that they have to learn how to survive in an "old timey Alaskan fishing village." Some get jobs at the cannery, some don't fit in.

He added that he's been "chewing on a few different ideas for plots" for years.

"That's when the work starts, after the idea, when you can figure out how to make it come to life," Koppes said. "Orin definitely loves the ideation process and I like to make things happen."

She and Pierson built the characters and wrote the dialogue through improvisation exercises - "just becoming the characters," Koppes said, though nothing came easy.

Pierson and Koppes began writing the play in June and finished the final draft around the New Year.

Practices began in late March and have been running four to five days a week.

There are 13 cast members, half a dozen extras, including the live band, and seven crew members. The leads include Brookes Evans as the villain, Toler Alexander as the hero and Beth Loesch as the heroine.

"Watching it come to life has been one of the coolest things," Koppes said, seeing what each actor brings to their character.

Pierson added that he had help from experienced directors Irene Littleton, who has directed the Mummers' plays the last five years or so, and Tiffany Christensen, who directs plays at the high school.

Tammie Wales painted three backdrops, one the largest she's done at 40x12 feet. Chris and Cindy Fry built the props and costumes.

The play covers a lot of territory in its quick one and half hour run time. Koppes said every scene and line "moves the play forward."

"Shipwreck on Cannery Island" opens in Wright Auditorium on May 14 with performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are only available at the door.

The musical melodrama is just one of many Little Norway festival events.


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