Sunday, June 12, 2016

Notes on Last Frontier: Day One

Facing forward.
FWith almost sixteen hours a travel ahead of me, the plan was to relax and enjoy my solitude. Observe. Read. Write. Drowse. Unfortunately, my three hour layover at O’Hare was marred by two things; the Cavs game (just don’t) and the fact that my connecting flight had no gate announcement. It would, certainly, eventually but until it did, I kept glancing at the board in no-man’s land.

As this happened, I was getting more tired. I no longer like to stay up late, it does not agree with me, but though I had an hour - and an alarm set - I could not fall asleep in my chair without opening my eyes every few moments to check the board and fret over Draymond Green.

Eventually I wandered around Terminal 3 until I located an Alaska Airlines jet outside the window and a crowd preparing to board. So, lucky me, I guess (wtf?) The plane was no full, which was weird, I did have the chance to lay across three seats and attempt to sleep, and I must have but not well. I was headachy and cold.

However, I did get a cheap sleep mask at Walgreen’s and that is my new best friend, forever.

The short flight from Anchorage to Valdez was where my real journey truly began. An intimate Dash-8 I only had to eavesdrop on certain conversations to realize, hey, of the two dozen people in this plane at least a quarter of us are headed for the conference. The flight itself had filled me with a bit of trepidation, but it was not only a smooth ride, but hosted by an utterly charming flight attendant who looked a bit like either Bob Balaban or Fred Sternfeld.

I was not expecting drink service on a thirty minute flight. I did not expect a locally-sourced cookie. Mad props to Ravn Airlines.

As we landed I noticed my headache had finally subsided, and several of us got acquainted at bag check. I am looking forward to the kind of person who attends this event, the many different or even unique ways for a person to look at theater as a profession.

Then I checked into my dorm, which will eventually house ten men. (I paid extra for an actual bed.) I took an hour-long disco nap -- the wife’s phrase -- and then I took a run. This past week has been so busy, from theater camp to rehearsals for Twelfth Night, I haven’t run since last weekend. After all the stiffness, exhaustion and discomfort of the previous night, it was heavenly to run in the light rain, surrounded by snow-swept mountains, every way I turned.

There weren’t any scheduled events until the event, so the afternoon was much more leisurely and what I was in the mood for. A young actor from Anchorage and one of my roommates for the week, Skyler, joined me as we headed over the the conference center to check-in for the week and just kind of poke around the facility where all of the regular events will take place.

Photo: Mark Muro
Evening events, like the Fringe Festival, will be at the Best Western, about two-tenths of a mile from the conference center. Nothing is very far from anything else here, the grocery store is right across the street from the dorm which totally rocks.

Dawson Moore, conference coordinator, was great enough to meet and greet us at the airport when we first arrived (he was also shuttling featured artists to their housing) and we had a chance to chat for a bit at registration, which was very nice as soon the place is going to be bustling with around 250 artists and participants. I am glad I got his ear for a nice, relaxed moment. I spent most of that time asking him questions he will no doubt be addressing at orientation but he genially thanked me for the rehearsal.

I also took a quiet walk around the water’s edge, and checked out some beach shops. There is a narrow waterfall coming down the mountain near the dorms, and I went to check that out but could not longer spot them from the base of the mountain. Also, I did not wish to be attacked by bears, so I headed back.

First Night Fringe
For dinner, roommate and playwright Rand suggested the Alaska Halibut House, where I was introduced to Joe, another playwright and political science professor, and after a bit of hedging and weaving, plunged head-deep into a rousing discussion of the American political situation as we each consumed a basket of fried cod and french fries, before heading to the early conference arrivals’ pre-conference mixer and pre-Fringe Fringe Festival performance.

The sun is deceptive, and by ten pm I was fully prepared to join some of my new acquaintances at the karaoke bar only really, it’s 2 am in my blood and last night I barely slept. Tomorrow we roll into the festivities and if my sleep mask and this Benadryl I am about to take is effective, I may even be something like my normal, laid-back and entirely relaxed self.

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