Ketchikan’s own play, The Fish Pirate’s Daughter, has become a town tradition. As it heads into its final weekend, KRBD looks into its past and what it has become.
So it’s back. The 49-year-old play, Fish Pirate’s Daughter, is back — at least for one more weekend. Most people living in Ketchikan know it well, often mentioning that either they or their mother, brother or cousin had been in it, and that they’d seen it many times.
One of this year’s two directors, Elizabeth Nelson, has been associated with the play in one way or another for a very long time.
“Almost every year since, this is going to hurt, 1985.”
“That’s like 30 years.”
“Yeeeaaannnoo, yeah. No, not quite 30, is it? Yeah, it is. It’s– it’s a long time.”
She says the play, which is set in Ketchikan, originally was written by Bob Kinerk and Jim Alguire in 1966, so that the newly-formed Ketchikan theatre company, the First City Players, could get a grant. At the time, she says, it was meant to be something fun that tourists could enjoy while visiting.
And somehow, this campy production has moved from simple tourist entertainment, which wasn’t as big back then, to what it is now: a full-scale dinner theatre with crab, salmon and a whooping crowd of locals who come back time and time again.
“We’re at 49 years of doing the show. At this point in the show, most audiences know the show almost as well as the actors do, so if the actors don’t actually say the lines that were written, there’s a weird response because people are waiting for certain lines.”
“Good lord, could it be?”
Audience: “Oh, yes”
“My momma would die before sinking to that!”
Nelson says the play was never about being serious, and actors can adopt nearly any fun, over-the-top character traits they want, as long as they stick to the script. That makes each year’s production a slightly different show.
One example Nelson mentioned was first-time actor David Dentinger’s take on the naïve hero, Sweet William Uprightly.
“He’s tall. He’s good looking. He’s got dark hair, a very sculpted, good-looking face and white teeth. So we have added the ‘toothpaste smile’ for him. And it’s just, whenever he doesn’t know what else to do, he just gives one of his fake smiles, that’s the toothpaste smile, and it’s right along with the ‘da-da-da-dah-duh-da-da-duh’, which is his theme.”
“Oh, if my beloved but unknown mother knew I was speaking to you, what would she say?!”
(Pause, then audience laughter.)
After only two and a half weeks of rehearsal, this troupe of new and nuanced cast members are about to end the 3-weekend run with one final hurrah. Nelson says it probably will be the biggest crowd yet. This is good, she says, because that’ll mean more money to fund scholarships for the art school and help fund the upcoming season, which Nelson says isn’t ready to be released yet. But she did give one hint.
“It is a musical that most of us grew up loving the film … The main character flies–and it’s not Peter Pan.”
More information on current and upcoming Ketchikan theatrical events and ticket prices are available through the First City Players’ website, found here.
This story has been updated to include the names of the play authors.