Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Players spoof Alaska purchase, historic figures of period

 


Lynn Canal Community Players presented a dinner theater reenactment of U.S. Secretary of State William Seward’s negotiations with the Russians for the purchase of the Alaska territory.

The comical, revisionist history Saturday explored an alternative explanation for how the Americans unnecessarily paid the Russians far more than they intended for “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.”

Wine and vodka flowed as a cast of Haines characters dressed as historical figures to witness the historic 1867 event.

Guests – who were encouraged to portray period personalities – included Charles Darwin, Leo Tolstoy, Calamity Jane, John D. Rockefeller and Susan B. Anthony.

The evening opened with secretary of state Seward surprised to see his deceased wife, Frances Seward, dolled up for the occasion.

“I always used to love a good party,” Frances said.

President Johnson then set the stage for the negotiations between Seward and Russian ambassador Baron de Stoeckl.

Stoeckl brought along his personal secretary, the flirtatious Minerva Getmiov, to the irritation of Stoeckl’s baroness.

A soldier misfired his rifle during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. The sudden blast surprised the audience and the smell of gunpowder hung in the air as the wait staff delivered piroshkies, salmon borscht, golubtsis and beef stroganoff to the diners.

The negotiating party tossed back more than a few shots of vodka during the dinner and Seward made a few blunders in his negotiations. After offering $5 million for the land, the baron was about to accept Seward’s offer. Before he could finish his sentence however, Seward threw back another shot.

“Okay, okay,” Seward mumbled. “Six million and that’s it.”

“Well, Mr. Seward, I don’t know what to say,” the baron responded.

“Okay, okay. Seven million and that’s it.”

Seward and Stoeckl finally settled on $7.2 million and the historic deal was made just before the entire negotiating party passed out. There was plenty of misadventure among the dinner guests as well.

Rockefeller suggested Monet see an eye doctor. He thought sharper vision would help decrease the blurriness in Monet’s impressionist paintings.

The cast of characters who arrived as guests stood up from their tables and introduced themselves to the dinner party at the end of the evening. Leo Tolstoy told the crowd he was almost finished writing his massive tome, “War and Peace.” The story is “a history of Haines,” he said.

The show ended with the cast singing “This Land is Your Land,” substituting lyrics about Alaska.

Michael Stark wrote the script to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Alaska’s purchase.

Carol Tuynman promoted the event. She said there’s been talk among organizers about trying to take the show on the road, perhaps to the governor’s mansion.

The cast included Dave Routh (William Henry Seward), Lorrie Dudzik, (Frances Seward), John Norton (President Andrew Johnson), Fred Shields (Baron de Stoeckl), Kristen Brumfield (Baroness de Stoeckl) and Margaret Sebens (Minerva Getmiov).

 
 

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