Thayne Andersen, a substance abuse counselor for the 80th Area Support Group in Mons, Belgium, performs his one-act play "Alaska Nuggets —Mostly Golden.”

Thayne Andersen, a substance abuse counselor for the 80th Area Support Group in Mons, Belgium, performs his one-act play "Alaska Nuggets —Mostly Golden.” (Special to Stripes)

In times of stress, some people need a good song to hear and a reason to smile.

Enter Thayne Andersen, who wrote and performed “Alaska Nuggets — Mostly Golden” because the timing was right.

“At this time, when there is a lot of war and bad feelings, it just is [right],” Andersen said. “I wanted to do something that was patriotic, to do our part in helping the morale of the troops."

Andersen, the clinical director for the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Mons, Belgium, was inspired by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to write his one-man play about his home state of Alaska.

“Nuggets” is based on three poems by the Scottish writer, Robert W. Service: “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” “The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill,” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Some think of Service as the Mark Twain of Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.

Andersen most recently performed the play in Mons. It lasts 50 minutes and features costumes and props and his wife, Ann, on piano. He had previously performed “Nuggets” in Germany at Chimsee, Garmisch, Rhein-Main and Bad Aibling, where he worked for four years.

Andersen met Ann when she answered an advertisement for a pianist to accompany him in song. She has now been accompanying him for 38 years.

“What I admire the most about his acting is he is so totally uninhibited,” Ann Andersen said. “When he gets onstage, he doesn’t mind doing silly things or making fun of himself, and it makes him a lot more believable in these roles.”

Andersen does not come across as a song and dance man. As a substance abuse counselor, he confidentially counsels people with drinking problems through thoughtful give and take.

“Generally it’s single soldiers a long way from home who do a lot of drinking and tend to get in trouble,” Andersen said. “They seem to appreciate it when someone points out that there other things to do than just drink.”

Debbie Solis, an administrative assistant at the clinic, said Andersen comes alive on stage but is serious and reserved as a clinician.

“He has a willingness to listen, to treat each person as an individual, and a desire to see them get well again,” Solis said. “Whenever he gets a referral he’s eager to make contact with the person and interview them.”

Andersen performed his play on Oct. 1-2 as part of SHAPE’s one-act play festival. The audience this time was pretty small, Andersen said, but that’s OK.

“We were competing against Oktoberfest,” he said. “You can imagine a soldier, if they have a choice, will choose beer. We still did our share, so it doesn’t bother me.

“The people who went to it stop me in the road and say, ‘We remember those songs.’ It makes you feel good, like you’ve done something, that you don’t just go to work, earn money and go home.”

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