Coordinator, Valdez Theatre Conference, 2003 - present
I started attending the Valdez Theatre Conference in 1995, its third year, the first of the
Play Lab. I was finishing my BA in Theatre at UAA, and had a couple of my first plays staged there. The Lab was only open to Alaskan playwrights when it
began; I was one of seven writers presented that year.
It was there that I met my primary life mentor and substitute father-figure,
Michael Warren Powell. He was in charge of creating the Lab, and his
initial vision still provides the philosophical bones of the entire
Michael was on the play response panel, which also included Jack Davidson,
playwrights Timothy Mason and William Hoffman, and Anchorage critic
Catherine Stadem. My lifelong collaborator Schatzie Schaefers had fully
staged my play, Sand & Granite On Liberty, and we got a little
light slap on the wrist for that over-reaching afterward. We also got
a lot of kudos for putting on a fun show, and a heated conversation
about my generally mediocre play. Being treated as a peer by the panelists
is one of the first times I felt I might be able to make a career in
I attended for the next eight years, presenting my plays in the Lab through 1999, winning a 5th place prize in
1999 for Bile in the Afterlife, back before prizes were discontinued, as they were
against the spirit of the event I wanted to create.
2000-2, they kept rejecting my work. I kept attending as an actor, but any playwright attending a week of plays that
have been selected over theirs SHOULD be annoyed how the work their seeing isn't as good as theirs (or probably start
doing something else instead of writing). I was growingly annoyed, and when they got my name wrong on the form
letter rejection, I decided to make 2002 my swansong attendance. Time for one last party and on to the future.
In 2007, we presented Michael Warren Powell with the first Jerry
Harper Service Award. It's intended to honor people who have been
instrumental in the life of the event, and there was no one else
who I could have conceived of giving this first award to. When
we were looking at each other as I gave the award… one of the
top five moments of my life. It's become a great part of the week,
honoring people who've given a lot of themselves for others.
How do you make God laugh? Make a plan.
First thing on the event's first day, I was drafted on three hours of sleep to be a responding panelist. When
I left the room for our lunch break, there were volunteers handing everyone a sheet of paper with my headshot
and bio, trumpeting my addition to the featured artist staff. By the end of the week, they were recruiting me
for next year's staff.
I was made Coordinator by March 2003, and took over full leadership of it in August 2005 when the founder moved on
from the Presidency of Prince William Sound College. I remain grateful to Jo Ann C. McDowell for the life-changing
job opportunity and the mentorship she provided me in the first two years.
The spirit of the Conference is bigger than me, and is created on multiple levels, primarily through volunteers.
I could not have created it, but I like to think that my laid-back leadership has helped the event continue to positively
evolve into being a very useful experience for theatre artists, particularly playwrights. We're a Brigadoon-type experience.
Once a year, our magical place opens up for a week and creates something exceptional.
More info about the event here.