With the start of the fall season staff at Peninsula Players find themselves multitasking not only during the day, but also in the evenings prior to the performance. Managing Director Brian Kelsey can be seen sporting a fashionable orange safety vest directing traffic alongside other staff members. Master Electrician Michael Trudeau tends the Luna Bar and bonfire. Costume Shop Manager Kyle Pingel helps Asst. Box Office Manager Peter Brian Kelly, Development and Events Coordinator Danielle Szmanda and I can be found bouncing between the Box Office and Will Call windows.
While working at the Will Call window I have the pleasure of visiting with patrons for a little bit as they pick up their pre-purchased tickets. We discuss a variety of topics including the weather, who has the best pie and past shows at the Players. We swap stories and fond memories.
A highlight for me is when they get a twinkle in their eye and mention how happy they are to see the return of our refurbished flagstone staircase, the entryway into the enchanted world of Peninsula Players. Last season readers may recall I mentioned how the Players lost the stairs 10 years ago during the demolition, excavation and construction of the new theater.
The staircase began in the upper parking lot, but led nowhere. For a decade it was roped off because the bottom portion of the steps were accidently crushed. It remained roped off, unable to be safely used by patrons and harkened to those who saw it, repair me.
This nostalgic “welcome way” returned this season through the generous support of the Raibrook Foundation, who partially funded the refurbishment in time to celebrate the Players 80th season.
I have very fond memories of the staircase and I know many of our patrons, volunteers and company members do as well. If you were or are a frequent visitor to the Players, perhaps fond memories are coming to your mind as you are reading this. Was your first descent down those stairs with your parents, grandparents or a first date? Perhaps you were an usher who stood at the foot of the stairs and welcomed patrons.
Maybe you, a grandparent or parent, were a camper at Camp Meenahga or Camp Wildwood for Boys. Long before the Fisher family founded Peninsula Players the flagstone staircase was the original entrance for Camp Wildwood for Boys. The camp occupied the shoreline location prior to 1937, which was when the Players moved in. In the 1920s, Door County boomed with summer camps for girls and boys including Camp Wildwood.
Boys from all over the country graced the Juddville/Fish Creek area and would descend the flagstone staircase anticipating their summer adventures. Girls from Wildwood’s sister camp, Camp Meenahga in Peninsula State Park, would visit the boys camp and use the grand staircase.
Many members of the Players Box Office staff, including myself, would stand at the top of those magical stairs and issue admission tickets from a gazebo. Long before computers and the internet we would take bundles of tickets and a cash box with us as we climbed those stairs each night. Several seasons later I would stand at the foot of the stairwell with ushers and greet patrons each evening.
When patrons first descended that staircase in 1937 it led to an open grassy knoll and they sat on garden chairs under the stars. They were enchanted by the performances of Leo Lucker, Caroline Fisher, Sam Wannamaker, Helen “Casey” Bragdon and others.
Since the Players first used the staircase in 1937, generations of theatergoers have descended those flagstone in anticipation of the more than 500 musicals, comedies, dramas, mysteries, pre-Broadway tryouts and world premières presented by steadfast Players such as Harvey Korman, Bill Munchow, Robert Thompson, Amy McKenzie, Dennis Kennedy, Jean Sincere, Jeannette Leahy, Greg Vinkler, Tom Mula and many, many more.
Many memories are carried back up those stairs as well. Memories of cozy nights along the shoreline, laughing at the high jinks of a fast-paced comedy or perhaps making an emotional connection with one of the characters or situations. Some of you may have carried recollections of relaxing by the intermission bonfire or the lingering impressions of a poignant performance.
Peninsula Players is very thrilled Door County residents, patrons and visitors can once again access the magical gateway. The flagstone stairs are an iconic and nostalgic element at the Players, connecting the past to the present. They connect the hectic outside world to the enchanting environment that is Peninsula Players theater-in-a-garden. Everyone at the Players extends a big thank you to the Raibrook Foundation and to the many annual donors who helped bring back this functional element of the Peninsula Players experience for many future generations to enjoy.
There is still time to use those stairs and enjoy a performance of “Nunsense.” Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7 p.m., except for the final performance Sunday, Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. We hope to see you by the bay this fall. For more information or tickets to our toe-tapping musical, visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or call (920) 868-3287.