Call for stories for Willoughby District history project

Juneau Histories Theater Project (working title)

An interview-based performance of communities, histories, & connections

A production of Ping Chong + Company’s Undesirable Elements series Co-produced & presented by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council

The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council is producing an arts and community engagement project that shares the people and stories of our community, with guest artistic company Ping Chong + Company: the Juneau Histories Theater Project (working title). The piece will be created by Ping Chong (Artistic Director of PC+C, based in New York City), Ryan Conarro (Juneau artist and Collaborator in Residence with PC+C), and Frank Kaash Katasse (Tlingit) (Juneau artist and collaborator with PC+C).

The project will explore the stories, experiences, and histories of those linked to the earliest Tlingit-Haida residents of the place we now call Juneau–with particular focus on families of the Old Indian Village (now referred to as “the Willoughby District”). The project will explore how those stories and experiences may affect our present and our future in the Capital City. The artists are also interested in engaging stories of Juneauites who may have personal or family connections to the Juneau Arts & Culture Center building, formerly the National Guard Armory.

Ping Chong + Company is an internationally recognized theater ensemble known for making space onstage for unheard through its Undesirable Elements series. The company is led by acclaimed artist Ping Chong, whose awards and recognition include the 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Undesirable Elements is a community-specific oral history theater project that uses first-hand personal testimonies to examine issues of culture and identity through individuals whose voices may be less regularly heard in a public forum. With the ongoing development of Juneau’s Willoughby District, the initiative to build the new JACC, and the city’s attention to the neighborhood since the 2012 Urban Revitalization Plan, which focused on the Willoughby District, the JAHC is interested in initiating this project as a way to bring the vital and urgently important voices of southeast Alaska’s first residents to the center of the community conversation.

In Summer 2014, Ryan Conarro conducted a series of initial exploratory interviews for the project.


In Summer 2015, Frank Katasse joined Ping Chong + Company’s Summer Training Intensive in New York City, to prepare to engage in this project.


In January 2018, Conarro, Katasse, and Chong will conduct interviews with Juneau-area community members. Then, the artists will craft a theatrical

script from these in-depth interviews, weaving together participants’ individual experiences with past events in a chronological narrative touching on the historical, the political, and the personal. The culminating event will take place at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center in March 2018: community participants will rehearse and perform their own stories in a series of theatrical performances for Juneau audiences, and engage in a series of facilitated community dialogues.

In addition, the artists of Ping Chong + Company will offer workshops and gathering opportunities for Alaskan artists, educators, and community workers, sharing strategies from the company’s methodology to use the arts to activate dialogue and community understanding.

The aim of the Juneau Histories Theater Project is to engage the power and beauty of theater, personal testimony, and documentary research to create awareness and understanding in Juneau’s diverse communities, and to open avenues for dialogue about ongoing and future development in these historic and culturally vital neighborhoods.

If you would like to be a part of this project, we want to hear from you! Please contact:

Ping Chong, Ryan Conarro and Frank Kaash Katasse, co-creators of Juneau Histories Theater Project | 907 321 2888 (Ryan Conarro cell) | 907 957 6128 (Frank Katasse cell)

Nancy DeCherney, Executive Director of the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council | 907 586 2787 (office)

Annie Calkins | | 310 625 8233 (cell)