The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Fern Greenbank
LOG Editor 

Port City Players to present Capra play at conference


Some might say historian Doug Capra is obsessed. He has notebooks full of information about his obsession. He will talk to anyone who will listen about his obsession. He is a cheerleader for the obsession. Capra is obsessed with the work of artist Rockwell Kent and he’s found a new way to share it.

Capra is considered an expert on the life and work of an eccentric East Coast artist that also had an obssession. Rockwell Kent’s obsession was Alaska and in particular, Fox Island in Resurrection Bay from 1918-1919. Capra has researched and documented an ever so brief period of Kent’s life and weaved a story from it that is fascinating, a bit myserious and a testament to the majesty of Resurrection Bay.

Capra was asked to write the foreward to the reprint of a Kent book, one of the highlights of his career as an historian and researcher.

“He is an example of people who came to Alaska for its wilderness and wildness, for its healing purposes,” said Capra. “That solitude begs questions like who am ? What is my purpose? What am I doing with my life?”

The Seward-based historian is known for his ability to bring history alive. He recently released a book named “The Spaces Between: Stories from the Kenai Mountains to the Kenai Fjords.” The book is an anthology of short stories about big periods in history. Included in his book are two chapters about Rockwell Kent. During the Alaska Historical Society and Alaska Museum Conference this week in Seward, Capra will reveal a reader’s theatre workshop with the help of Seward’s Port City Players.

An abridged version of a full length play Capra is working on, “And Now the World Again,” is based on letters Kent wrote to his misstress that have never been published.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Capra. “This is just a small segment of the big picture and the workshop will help me see how the story unfolds for the audience.”

The play title, “And the World Again,” comes from Kent himself when he was getting ready to leave Fox Island to return to the hustle and bustle of the real world. The play is a “memory play,” said Capra. It takes place in Kent’s mind and is set on Fox Island. The play takes the audience on a journey from Kent’s mind to Fox Island to Seward and it moves back and forth between Fox Island and Washington D.C. and Newfoundland, or anywhere in Kent’s memory.

The lead role of Capra will be played by Jim Doepken and pioneer Lars Olson will be played by Mike Britain. Kent’s son will be played by Hunter Hollingsworth and his wife will be played by Nita Hollingsworth. Rounding out the cast is Kent’s lover played by Shannon Wolf and Sen. Joseph McCarthy is plaed by Hank West.

Producing and serving as assistant director is Linnea Hollingsworth with Hilda Lespron as stage manager and assistant director. The costumes are coordinated by Barbara Anderson and Doreen Valadez rounds out the Port City Player production as the assistant stage manager.

Capra said the researsals have been going better than he ever expected.

“It’s exciting because I get to see the characters I’ve written about for so long come alive,” said Capra. “Words are just words until you put them in someone’s mouth and then it turns into real dialogue. I am watching the story with new eyes.”

It is fitting that the play is being offered as a reader’s workshop during the Alaska Historical Society and Alaska Museum conference because Kent played a significant role in the history of the conservation movement in Alaska, said Capra.

“He brought land stewardship and a deep love for the pristine nature of Alaska out in the open,” said Capra.

Capra often points out the paradox of Kent’s book title, “Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska.” Capra said Kent considered solitude an “inner adventure.” His is a book of spirituality even though Kent was an aetheist. This is just one more paradox that makes Kent a fascinating study.

“He had an ambivalent relationship with the world,” said Capra. “This is often the case with artistic geniuses.”

Kent was known for his politics as well as his art, but it is his dramatic realist painting that captivated the art world. It was Kent’s book about his Alaskan experience that catapulted the East Coast artist to a new level of recognition. Later, in 1941, Kent took some of the chapters of his book and published a slim book called “A Northern Christmas” that recounts his Fox Island Christmas experience.

Capra likes to quote Kent often and one of his favorite quotes refers to the expansion of the soul, something Kent wanted his paintings for viewers. He said ‘the greatest festival is when we dance with ourselves,’” said Capra.

For Capra, the writing of a play that chronicles the life of Rockwell Kent, is an attempt to encourage people to “dance with themslves” and walk away with a deep appreciation for Kent’s contribution to Alaska’s history.


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