Every year, a performance takes place in Ketchikan, with a handful of competing performers vying for the chance at a crown through singing, dancing and theater.
Traditionally, the First City Players' Divas and Divos show takes place at the Ted Ferry Civic Center every September, and features four men (hopeful "divos") and four women (hopeful "divas") who face off to compete for the title of reigning diva or divo by seeing who can raise the most money and deliver the most entertaining performance along the way.
The show did not go on in September due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which in Ketchikan has halted a handful of local theater productions.
However, FCP has staged modified productions throughout the pandemic, including a radio production of, "The Importance of Being Earnest;" a masked production of the annual melodrama, the "Fish Pirate's Daughter;" and two children's musicals, "Into the Woods Jr," and "Frog and Toad are Friends."
And earlier this week, FCP announced that the Divas and Divos competition would take place virtually next week.
FCP Executive Director Elizabeth Nelson wrote in a Friday email to the Daily News that the organization wants to keep an active role in Ketchikan's art scene.
"We (FCP) know that everyone is hungry for some type of normal, including events that are fun and can help us forget the strange world we are living in right now," Nelson wrote. "That is what motivated us to find a way to produce The Fish Pirate's Daughter and to offer ArtsCool, though modified. Producing Divas & Divos this year is just staying that course."
Nelson continued, "While it traditionally has been FCP's largest fundraiser of the year, this year we are more focused on using the show to give Ketchikan a fun performing arts event that feels safe for performers and audience alike — doing the show virtually with the help and skills of KPU seemed like a natural fit. The contestants have been simply wonderful, and as always, Ketchikan has been exceedingly generous."
This year, Divas and Divos will feature three men and three women — a reduced cast of competitors in order to help maintain social distancing.
This year's participants include Hannah Karrick and Valerie McLaren; and Rudy Saccomano, James North and James Vincent.
The event is hosted by Sharolyn Kroscavage and Russell Thomas, and also features reigning divo Bill Tatsuda and reigning diva Harmila Earth, who will give over their titles to this year's winners.
The contestants have been rehearsing for the show, which will be released Saturday, for about three weeks at the FCP offices.
On Saturday night, the show will be made available to viewers. It was filmed by KPU and features different segments, performances and advertisements to replicate the experience of a typical night of Divas and Divos.
Viewers may purchase a ticket online under the name of the contestant they want to win the competition, according to FCP information.
The two contestants who sell the most tickets will be named reigning diva and reigning divo.
The Daily News spoke five of the six competitors — and last year's champions — over the past week about their experiences in rehearsal so far.
Being the reigning diva is hard work, according to Harmila Earth.
As last year's winning diva, Earth has been tasked with sporting the diva crown throughout the year.
"The kids are always fascinated, they think I'm of royal blood," Earth joked during a Thursday interview with the Daily News.
Earth believes that the crown is an important statement for a reigning diva — something to be taken seriously by the next bearer.
"They (community members) like being able to see that they voted for someone and that person actually exists and is out there in the community, as opposed to voting and then they never see that person," Earth commented.
Before she gives over her title, she'll give a farewell performance during Saturday's show.
"I was trying to figure out what song and what would be the most relative, and I chose to do a melody, about, well, I guess you can say it's just about what everybody needs, regardless of their political faith, sexual preference, or general attitude," Earth explained. "Something that everybody can use."
A four-time participant, Bill Tatsuda is no stranger to the world of Divas and Divos.
In 2016, he hosted the show with his daughter, Katherine Tatsuda.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, he competed in the show. Last year, he won the crown, making him reigning divo for the year.
"It was kind of like the highlight of my year last year," he told the Daily News.
Like Earth, Tatsuda knows the importance of wearing the crown around town.
Tatsuda said that he wore the crown "to the point where if I didn't wear it people would ask me, 'Where's the crown?'"
For his role in this year's show, Tatsuda wants to give some hope to viewers during the hard times created by COVID-19.
"It's seemed like 2020 came crashing down," Tatsuda joked, referencing the February rockslide that damaged his family business, Tatsuda's IGA.
His song of choice for his farewell performance is a popular one, and he spent a lot of time choosing it.
"It just felt like this was a song that felt like the situation," Tatsuda said.
About this year's batch of competitors, Tatsuda said they are all phenomenal.
"It's going to be a really good show with lots of talent," he said.
Valerie McLaren was last year's runner-up diva, coming up short only by about $300 in ticket sales — but this year, she's back for the title.
McLaren is taking to the (virtual) stage this year with her sights set on improving her vocals.
"I love singing, it's kind of like my art form, in a sense," she said on Thursday. "Like, it brings me peace and joy and it's just a part of my life that I have been trying to develop, and so the diva show kind of gave me that opportunity."
As someone with Divas and Divos experience, McLaren said that the virtual show model was "still fun, just different."
"I think adapting to the constant changes because of COVID (is hard), it's just a new platform," she said. "So it's kind of like doing the diva show for the first time."
During the three weeks of filming her performance, McLaren's been enjoying learning to sing along with a live band.
"I think I just hope that I come out of it a better performer, and I hope that people enjoy the show in its new format," she said.
For longtime Ketchikan resident James North, participating in this year's show is just another change during 2020.
"This year out of all years, I've been making a lot of changes," he said. "Like, I had just joined Legacy real estate firm and I was like, 'You know, why not this year try it?'"
North also works at the Potlatch Bar.
"This is my first time doing anything outside of the Potlatch's karoke," he said, noting he had never been in a FCP performance and had only seen short clips of past shows.
For North, the hardest part of prepping for the competition has been learning his song.
"My case, I've picked a song that's in Italian, so I've had to try to learn the Italian," North explained.
"It was a song that I felt people could connect with in a sense that the Spanish (version) was in 'Step Brothers,'" he said, referencing a comedy movie starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.
North said he has most enjoyed getting to know his fellow contestants.
A 32-year resident of the First City, Rudy Saccomano has been working with FCP since he first came to town.
"I saw Elizabeth (Nelson) in Fish Pirate's Daughter the first year I was here and was just enamored with the quality of the production they were able to do," he said.
Since that first performance, Saccomano has taken up roles in dozens of FCP shows.
He said that the opportunity to do something with the FCP was unexpected this year, due to COVID-19.
"I didn't anticipate there being anything to go on in the way of a production," Saccomano said. "That FCP was still able to do something this year was a surprise and a wonderful thing."
Due to the digital nature of this year's show, Saccomano said that there has been less rehearsal and "much more time dedicated to actually getting the ads out in front of people," and making sure the digital portions of the show are ready to go.
"It's come together pretty quickly," he said.
For Saccomano, the only hard part of the preparation is remembering his lines.
"Nothing is hard about this," he said. "This is just a joy. Total joy."
James Vincent is going out of his comfort zone for the Divas and Divos show, although he's not a stranger to performances.
Vincent, a member of the local cover band known as The Sheets, was pushed to participate by his wife and daughter.
"I think they just wanted to see me do something out of my element," he guessed at their motivation.
Vincent described the prep work for his performance as "challenging and kind of fun at the same time.
Even with a musical background, it's still a new experience for Vincent to perform in a community production. For Vincent, that's been one of the biggest challenges.
"I guess it really has been (hard) being out of my element, and as far as the music's concerned, me always being on the more rock and roll side of life and then softening myself up a little bit for this."
Vincent said he has been enjoying the chance to perform without a live audience.
The Divas and Divos show will become available from FCP (after tickets are purchased) at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.