Capital Campaign


June 22, 2005. Fish Creek, Wisconsin. A $6.2 million capital campaign to restore and preserve a Door County tradition was announced last night at Peninsula Players Theatre by Willard A. Hartman, President, and Todd Schmidt, Executive Producer prior to the opening performance of “The Uneasy Chair.”

“For 70 years Peninsula Players has been distinctive among summer theaters in the United States for its diverse show selection and beautiful setting along the shores of Green Bay,” Schmidt said. “The theater’s grounds possess a quiet and natural beauty that encourages study and contemplation. It is essential that this be preserved for future generations of artists and theatergoers to enjoy.”

The $6.2 million goal for the “Protecting the Past, Insuring the Future” campaign will replace the stage house, audience pavilion, canteen and scene shop. All infrastructures required for the project will also be completed.

A challenge gift of $1 million from the Carla and Ellsworth Peterson Foundation Trust will launch the campaign. Once the campaign has raised $2 million from the Door County community, the Petersons will initiate their gift.

Carla Peterson, who was a member of the Peninsula Players Board of Directors for 11 years, has served as an integral member of the campaign planning team.

“Peninsula Players is not just a unique entity in Door County,” she said. “It is unlike any other summer theater in the United States. By protecting this treasure, we are not only preserving local history, but also preserving national history.”

The restoration project is the result of more than six years of intense study by the Peninsula Players Board of Directors and its advisors. “Since Richard and Caroline Fisher founded the theater in 1935, Peninsula Players has had passionate and dynamic leaders working to maintain and preserve it,” Hartman said. “After careful analysis and consideration, the Board of Directors is confident that this capital campaign is the next step to take to insure the future of the organization.”

The new stage house will incorporate a flexible proscenium and a 55-foot high flytower to enable the Players to enhance its artistic productions. The new audience pavilion will retain the intimacy of the current theater while improving audience seating comfort and sightlines. The pavilion will be a “green” building with a vegetative roof and a design that will enable the Players to maintain its tradition of the live spoken word. The theater complex will be restored in its current location ensuring that the shoreline, picnic areas, forest trails and gardens are preserved.

“While the old stage magic of theater often effectively hides what goes on behind the scenes, it has become impossible for us to ignore the fact that the stage house is the original one built more than 60 years ago. Time has revolutionized the theater and we are unable to keep up with these advances with the current stage house. The renovated facilities will allow us to produce more challenging productions and provide audiences with a similar, yet more comfortable and rewarding experience,” Schmidt said.

The Peninsula Players Theatre is America’s oldest professional resident summer theater, and traditionally presents a season of five productions each year from late-June to mid-October. The 2005 season has been shortened to accommodate construction plans, and includes “The Uneasy Chair” by Evan Smith, “Red Herring” by Michael Hollinger, “Tom, Dick, and Harry” by Ray and Michael Cooney, and “Escanaba in Da Moonlight” by Jeff Daniels.

Since 1935, when the Peninsula Players’ founders first staged a production of “Hay Fever” behind the former Bonnie Brook Cottage/Motel in Fish Creek, the theater has been committed to developing the arts and artists in Door County. Over the years, Peninsula Players has mounted more than 500 productions at the Theatre in a Garden and has attracted thousands of patrons. Peninsula Players’ open-air, garden-like setting is located three miles from Fish Creek and one-half mile west of State 42.