AFAA executive director steps down as arts group regroups

Friday, December 22, 2017 - 13:44
  • Cast members from the Alaska Fine Arts Academy’s summer production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” ride a float in the Bear Paw Festival grand parade on July 15, 2017. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

Though the lights have dimmed at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy, the Eagle River arts organization isn’t closing the curtains entirely.

Call it an intermission.

“We’re kind of taking a sabbatical as an organization,” said Lailani Cook, who recently stepped down as the group’s executive director.

AFAA vacated its longtime downtown Eagle River home at the end of October, and since then the group has been winding down its ongoing arts classes — most of which end this month.

In the new year, Cook said the group will be largely dormant — though the nonprofit and its board of directors will continue to work behind the scenes to determine where to go next.

“I think we’ve needed to stop and redo things for a long time,” Cook said.

Though the AFAA will have a less active role in the community in the coming months, Cook stressed it’s not going away.

“We are not dissolving,” she said. “We’re more just kind of taking a long nap.”

For those dreaming of future AFAA theater productions, there’s good news: a new production is already in the works. Cook said the AFAA is teaming up with Cyrano’s Theatre Company in Anchorage on a joint production of “Disenchanted,” an off-Broadway play that puts an irreverent spin on the Disney princess theme.

“When these royal renegades toss off their tiaras, this hilariously subversive, not-for-the-kiddies musical cleverly reveals what really happened ‘ever after’!” reads a description of the play on the Cyrano’s website.

Cook said the material is “PG-13.”

“It’s very powerful women speaking out,” said Cook, who will act in the play, which is directed by Warren J. Weinstein.

Cook said working with the Anchorage-based theater company is one way the AFAA will continue to stay active in the theater scene.

“That’s why we’re doing a co-production, to keep our name out there,” she said.

She said Weinstein — who directed the AFAA production of Ordinary Day earlier this year — was instrumental in bringing the two groups together.

“He kind of made this connection happen,” she said.

The show has been cast with 10 actresses from both Anchorage and Chugiak-Eagle River, Cook said. It will run Jan. 26-Feb. 11 at the new Cyrano’s location on Debarr road in East Anchorage.

Based on early rehearsals, Cook said she thinks audiences will be impressed.

“It’s probably going to be one of my favorite shows,” Cook said.

For audiences looking for a more 13-and-under entertainment, the AFAA is also tuning up for its Children’s Choir production of “Toy Camp,” a musical performed by AFAA students ranging from 4 to 12 years of age.

“It’s super cute,” Cook said.

The production features songs about a world of make-believe where “toys learn to be good toys…at Toy Camp,” according to a description on the AFAA Facebook page.

The Eagle River Church of Latter Day Saints (10012 Chandalar Street) is hosting the free show, which runs Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2 and 7 p.m. For more information visit the AFAA online at

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