from Senior Voice -- Vol. 38, No. 7.
From a tent city in a U.S. territory, Anchorage has grown to an official All-American City and international hub in the 49th state. Cyrano's Off Center Playhouse is celebrating the phenomenal amount of change with an equally sweeping theater project: 10 plays, one per decade, over 10 weeks. The first show is in the first week of July.
Local residents and their visitors will know the big stops on the timeline from 1915 to 2015 – statehood, the Good Friday earthquake, the Trans-Alaska pipeline – but the plays also page back through less-remembered chapters. Anyone remember Cap Lathrop's efforts to turn Anchorage into the Hollywood of the North? The studio he built was on Third Avenue, where the Snow Goose Restaurant is now.
These plays share the characters and behind-the-scenes dealings, from organized crime to major philanthropy, that shaped the town into a city.
Anchorage's history makes entertaining as well as informative theater, populated as it is with real-life Alaska characters like Anchorage madams Gladys Happybottom, who ran her House of Joy, and Zula Swanson, who became known as the "richest black woman in Alaska" by selling land to J.C. Penney. (By the way, did you know women got the vote in Alaska sooner than at the national level?)
Archival film footage will be a big star in the shows, said Cyrano's co-founder Sandy Harper, so some of the story telling will be done in the language of the time.
Harper asked Charles Wohlforth, the Anchorage author commissioned to write "From the Shores of Ship Creek," the official history for the centennial celebration, to act as a history consultant for the shows.
Wohlforth invited a group of Alaska history all-stars to throw out ideas...