Monday, June 20, 2016

Notes on Last Frontier: The Final

Heading back.
George Michael reference. Bonus points if you get it.

The Last Frontier Theatre Conference is closed for 2016. Hundreds of theater artists have spread out from this port town, flowing to points south, west, east and yes, even north, returning to their points of origin.

If they are anything like myself they departed with a touch of melancholy, sad to have to say goodbye to newly made colleagues (or in many cases, dear friends they only see in Valdez) but also energized by positive memories, thrilled by wisdom and guidance, sated by stories.

Excuse me for waxing poetic (or indulging in clichĂ©) I am just trying to spell it all out. And I’ve had about six hours of sleep over the past three nights so, you know. Give me a break.

Many of us were not attending the Gala Saturday night. Had I done so I might still be in transit, and I need to be at my desk tomorrow.

Also, I would have deeply regretted missing Game Seven here at home with my family. Yes, indeed.

Rihannon performs an excerpt from "Thou Hadst One Job"
But it was bittersweet to know we would be missing a big party, the group photo, et cetera. Joe Barnes was tactfully dismissive. “Nah,” he said. “You aren’t missing anything. The boat ride’s really the end of the conference.” Joe’s very good at making you feel like whatever decision you made was the right one.

It is true, I never went on any long hikes, nor did I run on any of the paths. I was, quite honestly, fretful of bears. I was quite happy to take a three mile run most days, get my fresh air and aerobic activity in to begin each day, and you cannot suggest that the 360° mountain view from the streets of Valdez is any small shakes.

Rising early, I made a point of getting out, skulking into the conference center each morning, to see who I might encounter there. It was always different. Good God, I met a lot of people. I have never friended so many people on Facebook all at once in my life.

So many asked, “Will we see you next year? Will you be back next year?” I dearly wish, I truly do. Such an intensive learning experience, and so well organized and facilitated. Never a dull moment, I almost burned myself out, which was exactly what I wanted. And it is true, I always need and can use professional development. Whether the calendar or our account can accommodate is a question for the future.

But Dawson Moore and his team have created an extremely well organized event, featuring a diverse assemblage of featured artists and instructor, and excellent and varied professional productions in the evening. Doesn’t hurt to be concentrated in the most interested locale I have yet enjoyed a communal theatrical experience.

Valdez? Yeah, I’d like to be back. I’ll try to send Toni first.

"We close. We do not end."
The journey home was not painful as the one to the conference had been but it was still disorienting, first wandering in circles around Valdez, waiting a couple hours for the shuttle, then the constant movement in what seemed to me a straight line for home. Even then I had the opportunity to meet with and talk to new people on the brief flight from Valdez to Anchorage.

An old college girlfriend met me at the airport and we had a leisurely dinner before I got all panicky about making my connecting flight. We rushed back to her home so I could meet with the rest of the family and made the plane now laden with several pounds of vacuum-packed, frozen salmon.

The rest of the journey was brief, and I actually slept. There were moments where I actually lost time, which is to say fell asleep, and was actually surprised when I woke up. It was all so new. The wife, the kids picked me up in Cleveland. On our way home we stopped by to visit my dad.  Happy Father’s Day.

Next Up: Shakespeare's First Folio

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