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ACT opens doors during pandemic with one-man show

Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 7:03 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been more quiet than usual at the Anchorage Community Theatre. Executive Director Matt Fernandez said, by now, they should have their show season started, but the pandemic has kept the doors closed. Now, they’re getting ready to put on a play with the most obvious safety solution as a foundation: doing a one-man-show.

The play is called “Karloff,” for which Fernandez will be playing the lead and only role.

Having only one person on stage is the first, but is not at all the only safety measure the theater is putting in place for the performance.

Fernandez said only 15 tickets are being sold for the in-house showings. Regulars of ACT will notice that many of the seats have been removed from the main room where performances are held.

Additionally, he said there are entrance and exit routes for the performance; only a certain number of people are allowed in the lobby; they’re in the process of making a patio for an outdoor intermission and there will be a streaming option available for folks who couldn’t get a ticket or just feel better staying at home for this one.

“We want to give something that the community can come to if they are ready to go out,” he said. "You know it’s not time to say, ‘Let’s just try to go back to the way it was,’ but to see what we can do with what we have right now.”

The fact that it’s a one-man show allows the theater to put on a performance that isn’t hampered by actors needing to wear masks or staying socially distanced according to the play’s director, Devin Merilatt.

She said it’s a show about perseverance and working until you make it, a lesson she feels is important to keep in mind these days.

“He went through so much,” Merilatt said about Karloff’s story, “and still just never gave up and kept going for what he wanted.”

The significance of the story of “Karloff” and ACT go way back, according to Fernandez.

He said actor Boris Karloff had a late break, being middle-aged when he got the part of Frankenstein in the 1931 classic film. Years later, in 1957, the founder of ACT, Frank Brink, got him up here to do a show.

The way Fernandez tells the story, Karloff came to Anchorage and became a part of the community in the theater like he was just another player — but he was very famous at that point. Brink apparently tried to pay him for his time, but Karloff wasn’t having it.

"He gave his money back to the theater so we could buy our first building,” Fernandez said.

So in a way, Fernandez said Karloff did a single act of community service that set the foundation for decades of performances done by community members at ACT.

On top of Karloff’s connection to the theater, Fernandez said the choice to put on this performance in particular during the hard times of the pandemic is meant to reflect the essence of the type of community-building action that helped the theater become what it is today.

The first showing is Friday, Oct. 16 and runs for three weekends.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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