Fun Star: Experimental theater piece “ASUAF” closes
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Following 70 successful years of performance, “ASUAF” held its final show last Sunday.
“We’ve had an amazing run,” said Mathew Carrick, the play’s current director. “But I think it’s best to go out on top instead of growing stale.”
Show attendance had been in decline in recent years, but Carrick said ticket sales weren’t a factor in the show’s conclusion.
Conceived as a satire of government, “ASUAF” premiered at the University in 1946 under the name “ASUA.” The play is unscripted, relying on a cast of characters that improvise a weekly agenda and debate motions, issues and other imagined topics.
The show has undergone many changes since its inception, including a rename in 1985 to reflect the formation of the UA system. Spin-off performances were launched with the opening of campuses in Anchorage and Southeast.
Critics have long hailed the show as a cutting critique of governments in general and the ineffectual nature of student organizations in specific.
“The fact that it was a new conflict, a new crisis every week, is what made ‘ASUAF’ really special,” local theater critic Scott McCrea said. “When a cast member left, they didn’t find a new actor, they’d introduce a whole new character. It was never the same show twice”
Topics addressed by the cast of “ASUAF,” referred to as “the Senate” during performances, included funding initiatives, reactions to real-life state and national news events, and a host of interpersonal conflicts and feuds.
Recent performances have addressed the budgetary issues faced by the University of Alaska system and the December 17, 2015 performance featured a cameo by Governor Bill Walker. Earlier this semester, the cast of “ASUAF” traveled to Juneau and performed for members of the state legislature.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of UAF history,” “ASUAF” producer and theater student Colby Freel said. “‘ASUAF’ was one of the first shows I ever saw on campus, and it was great to work with such an amazing cast.”
Freel said that he had hoped to be the next director of the show before hearing of the cancellation. Traditionally, incoming directors announce their “candidacy” for the position, reflecting their commitment to the piece.
Members of the cast said they’d miss the opportunity to portray such unique roles on a regular basis.
“I was lucky to be able to finish my character’s arc with a dramatic flair,” Kate Libby, who played Senator Sabrina Martin in “ASUAF,” said. “It was the right time to go. Most of the cast won’t get that chance.”
Libby left the cast in February. In her final performance, she reacted to a piece of legislation drafted by Senator Cordero Ried with strong language and a raised voice.
“Most people want to play the hero, but that’s not how you grow as an actor,” said actor Jack Gleeson, who played Reid. “Being someone who gets a rise from the audience, that’s how you develop your talents.”
Gleeson said that he’d miss portraying his character in the weekly show.
“Being the same person every week, you really get wrapped up in your role,” Gleeson said. “It’s almost like they become a part of you.”