Backstage Stories

June 23, 2005

Magical moments and special memories go with me from season to season at the Players.  In the 11 years of being a Player, I’ve experienced the front-of-house excitement and the backstage drama of an opening night, the pleasure of serving as tour guide to new company members to calling Bernie when the plumbing needs a tweaking; and the delight of reserving tickets and greeting patrons at our door.

My greatest joy has been as the unofficial archivist of the Players history, especially our oral history.  Many a folk tale is of Players who have entertained our audiences and who perhaps were rascals off the stage as well as on.  Amongst those told and re-told are the building of the housing unit called “the mansion” and how the “Love and be Loved” ghostly image on the back of the stagehouse came to be.

The stagehouse is a quick tale.  In the 1960s a few overly enthusiastic company members found some white paint and a ladder and left their mark for generations to come.  The stagehouse has been repainted barn red on numerous occasions since, and yet their motto stands out for all to see.  And it is one the company continues to share.

As to “the mansion,” the year is 1947 and Marion Forman Rathbone, the grand dame of the London theatre scene, is crossing the ocean to make her Fish Creek debut as Oscar Wilde’s overbearingly haughty Lady Bracknell in “The Importance of Being Earnest.”  Marion was our founder Caroline’s mother-in-law and the first wife of Basil Rathbone (who made his mark in Hollywood as Sherlock Holmes).

At that point in Players’ history a majority of the company lived four bunked in a dorm room.  Being the lady of theatrical pedigree and stature that she was, a private room for Mrs. Rathbone was a necessity.  Thus a small housing unit was built adjacent to the bathhouse the company shared (and still do) and christened “the mansion,” as it was larger than the dorm room with enough floor space to accommodate a small desk, chair and sofa as well as the usual bed and dresser.  I’ve never heard what she thought of her cabin by the lake, just that she requested private bath time.  The entire company knew not to go near the bathhouse while she was taking her respite.

Oscar Wilde is with us again these days in spirit, as our current production “The Uneasy Chair” plays homage to his comedy-of-manners plays – a spoof on the manners of the 19th-century.  Some of my favorite Wilde’s witticisms include, “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthington, may be regarded as a misfortune.  To lose both looks like carelessness.”  Or,  “Thirty-five is a very attractive age.  London is full of women of the highest society who have remained 35 for years.”

“The Uneasy Chair” follows the typical drawing room romance scenario; Capt. Wickett attempts to “set-up” his nephew with the niece of Miss Pickles, who also happens to be his landlady.  Through several severely misinterpreted notes, Miss Pickles believes she is to be betrothed to Mr. Wickett and sues for breach of promise.

Those who love watching talented actors at their craft will relish seeing Carmen Roman and Greg Vinkler portray these characters within their stylized context of proper manners.  I do hope you will get a chance to join us in our 70th year, for tickets you can visit our website at or phone the box office at 920-868-3287.  Perhaps I’ll see you by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!