The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature extends a round of applause for the talents and entertainment of Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse in Anchorage.
The Anchorage arts community is rich with culture and history, and Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse has been at the center of local theatre producing independent productions since the early 90’s. Jerry and Sandy Harper met as actors and fell in love in 1962 in Los Angeles and were mentored by OBIE Award Winner, Rachel Rosenthal. They were core members in the development of Rosenthal’s innovative new theatre form called “Instant Theatre” and “Instant Fairytales”, influences they brought to Alaska. Their passion for theater and for each other laid the groundwork for the creative performance troupe, Eccentric Theatre. In the mid 1980’s, the Harpers inherited the Loussac Building, on the corner of D Street and the historic 4th Avenue, originally owned by Z.J. “Zack” Loussac, Jerry Harper’s stepfather. Soon after, it was restored as part of former Anchorage mayor Tony Knowles’ plan for a renewed 4th Avenue downtown district. With a $1 million loan, the Harpers created a “cultural mini-mall” that included a bookstore and café under the name, Cyrano’s. The northwest corner of the building was occupied by the Anchorage Police Department until the early 1990’s. The Harpers converted this space into the 89 seat black box theater of Jerry Harper’s dream, bringing Alaskan culture and theatre to life.
Cyrano’s has worked with many actors, producers, and technicians from Juneau to Valdez to Fairbanks, always presenting traditional, contemporary, and Alaskan productions that would entertain the local audiences during the cold, long and dark months. Aside from bringing to communities across the state superior works from local talents, they have been committed to enhancing the community by working closely with the University of Alaska’s Theatre Department graduates. Nurturing and cultivating regional talent from academic theatre to professional careers remains an important goal of their dedication to the arts and the community. In 2005, UAA renamed the campus’s black box theater after Jerry Harper, who died of cancer on April 8 the same year.
Today, the black box theater is simple and charming, providing the best atmosphere to appreciate the vast array of performances on the stage. Alaskans enjoy the convenience of the relaxed atmosphere and find an evening at Cyrano’s intimate and affordable, a retreat built into the historic downtown district.
Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse has been recognized in many awards around the state and the Alaska Legislature joins in these accolades with a standing ovation for their influence and consistent quality of stage theatre that has made a lasting impression on the statewide progress of the performing arts culture.