Pay It Forward: Pier One Then and Now

When we arrived in Homer forty years ago, Peter was sure that he had left his theatrical opportunities behind. He was delighted to discover that he was wrong – despite the lack of a permanent home, Pier One Theatre was thriving! Our first winter here Peter acted in the production of Scrooge, while I played in the pit orchestra.

Most of the shows that Pier One produces are not musicals so, since I wasn’t excited by the idea of acting, I had to learn some new skills in order to participate in the shows. I became a prompter, a set builder, a stage manager, a lighting technician, a sound board operator, a props mistress, an assistant director, and ultimately, a director. Throughout all that our kids tagged along and learned to use a screw gun, a tape measure, a saw, a paint brush; to pull curtains, hang lights, create costumes, and learn lines.

More importantly we all learned problem solving and gained self-confidence. We learned the importance of working together, the joy of creating and the pride of success. We learned the importance of being inclusive and kind, that in a community project everyone contributes and all contributions are valid. That it is necessary to respect others’ opinions and to compromise to get the job done. We also learned that it is necessary to make a commitment if you want to participate, and that it is your responsibility to follow through and do the best that you can if you want the project to succeed.

I can think of few better communities in which to raise children or to experience more fulfillment as an individual.

In January of 2020, the Pier One Theatre Board of Directors took the unprecedented step of hiring a fulltime, paid Executive Director, Jennifer Norton. We were only able to take this momentous step because we had received a legacy in 2018 from Billi Joanne Kaho who had lived in Soldotna and participated in Pier One shows in the early 70’s. Her legacy, “she always had small parts” but obviously they were very meaningful to her.

The timing of this step could not have been better, as the pandemic has been very challenging for Pier One. Our home on the Spit is too small to safely house many performers, and we can only seat 10 socially-distanced people in the audience at a time. Our secondary home, the Mariner Theatre in Homer High School, has been unavailable since last March. Luckily, Jennifer has proven to be very creative in finding ways to keep the Pier One community engaged. We have collaborated with KBBI to present radio theatre, with Kenai Peninsula College to present Second Sunday Shakespeare virtually, and with the Pratt Museum to present outdoor theatre. With a grant from the Homer Foundation, we provided packets of theatrical projects for our youth theatre campers and the Alaska State Council on the Arts provided funding for an acting workshop. Most importantly, our local community has been incredibly supportive, and our Raven’s Club membership reached a new high in 2020.

For 2021 we intend to continue with radio theatre, outdoor theatre, and youth theatre efforts while exploring other possibilities.

Pier One Theatre, as conceived and implemented by Lance and Barb Petersen, has always been a community that welcomed everyone, no matter their age, or experience, or even natural talent – believing that a willingness to learn is sufficient.

With your support we will continue to do our best to provide the community of Homer the opportunity to participate and experience community theatre.

On with the show!

Laura Norton

Laura is on the Board of Directors for Pier One Theatre, in addition to all of her other roles with the organization. When she is not working on a production, she enjoys time with her family, including her grandchildren.