Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s Oldest Professional Resident Summer Theatre and Door County’s theatrical icon, announces artistic company members for its 82nd season, running June 13 through October 15, 2017. The “must-see” list at the theater-in-a-garden includes a world premiere comedy/drama, a swashbuckling comedy, a lush and romantic musical, a murderous misadventure and a charming comedy. Peninsula Players works with members of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDCS), United Scenic Artists (USA) and Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) for its productions. Peninsula Players is a member of AEA, the union of professional actors and stage managers, and employs professional actors.
Company members work in regional theaters from Los Angeles to New York and internationally, as well as in film, television and radio. Many of the directors, designers and cast members are recipients of or have been nominated for Chicago’s prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award and other regional theater awards.
The season and casts were selected by Artistic Director Greg Vinkler who returns to Peninsula Players for his 29th season where his directing credits include “The Full Monty,” “Outside Mullingar,” “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Chicago” and “Lombardi.” His acting credits at the Players include “Alabama Story,” “Chapatti,” “A Real Lulu,” “Butler,” “Heroes” and “A Man for All Seasons.” Vinkler will perform in the opening play of the season, “The Actuary” as well as direct “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime.”
“The artists of the 2017 company are very talented and necessarily versatile,” Vinkler said. “Nine of the actors, four directors, one designer and one musician will be making their Players debut this season. There are also many familiar and loved performers, designers and musicians who are returning. ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ has a cast of 12, four of which will also perform in ‘The Bridges of Madison County.’ Then eight members of those two casts will join two others to perform in ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime.’ We have 14 returning Players in the acting company, 15 designers, five musicians and two scenic painters. It is a multi-talented group all together – a great combination for our diverse line-up of shows.”
Peninsula Players opens its 82nd season on June 13 with the world première of “The Actuary” by Steven Peterson, is a new comedy-drama, told in reverse. It is performing through July 2. The story begins with a sealed envelope – the “Baby Shower Bombshell” – which announces whether Ed’s daughter will have a boy or a girl. The surprising news within shakes everyone up, and Ed takes us back in time to show how they all got to that point and how he resolves it.
Vinkler is cast as Ed and returning company members include Erica Elam and Matt Holzfiend, both of whom were in “The Tin Woman,” “The Hollow” and “And Then There Were None.” Making their Players debut are Judy Blue, Kyle Hatley and Emma Rosenthal. Blue has numerous Chicago stage credits and is a veteran of multiple tours of “Menopause, The Musical.” Hatley’s regional credits include Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Geva Theatre Center and his television credits include “Chicago Fire,” “Prison Break” and “As The World Turns.” Rosenthal performed in the Goodman’s production of “Brigadoon” and portrayed Anybodys in Drury Lane Oakbrook’s “West Side Story.”
“The Actuary” cast is under the direction of Kevin Christopher Fox, who makes his Players debut. Fox has directed the world premières of “The Spiritualist” by Robert Ford and “Sundown Town” by Kevin Cohea both at TheatreSquared. “Kevin worked with playwright Steven Peterson during the workshop process of ‘The Actuary,’” Vinkler adds. “I am very thrilled that both Kevin and Steven will be a part of the rehearsal process for this funny, romantic and touching story of a father’s journey to ensure happiness for the family he loves by doing the seemingly unimaginable.”
In July, the Tony Award-winning “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Peter Pan’s adult prequel, takes audiences on a swashbuckling adventure starting July 5 through July 23. This hilarious play by Rick Elice is a wildly theatrical adaptation of the best-selling children’s novel series “Peter and the Starcatchers” by David Barry and Ridley Pearson, and features music by Wayne Barker.
“There is a distinction between theater for adults and that crafted for children,” Vinkler said. “’Peter and the Starcatcher’ is based on a series of books written for young adults. The play is crafted for an adult’s attention span; yet, it is brilliantly hilarious and most ages groups can enjoy it. Audiences will embark on a pirate’s adventures, encounter spectacular mermaids and discover the secret to eternal youth!”
Newcomer Matt Crowle directs the cast of 12 featuring Holzfeind, Rosenthal and Peninsula Players veteran performers Harter Clingman (“Alabama Story,” “The Full Monty”); Jackson Evans (“The Full Monty”); Sean Fortunato (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Sunday in the Park with George”); Joe Foust (“The 39 Steps,” “The Game’s Afoot”); Bruce Newbern (“Nunsense,” “Always…Patsy Cline”) and James Rank (“A Little Night Music,” “Sunday in the Park with George”). Making their Peninsula Players debut are Karl Hamilton, Dan Klarer, Henry McGinniss and Nick Vidal.
“Harter Clingman made his Players debut a few seasons ago in a play where the audience got to hear him sing a few bars of song,” Vinkler said. “Harter was supposed to also perform in the musical that season but was cast in the national tour of ‘Peter and Starcatcher’ and left us earlier than planned to start rehearsal. Last season’s audiences loved Harter’s performance in ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Alabama Story’ and we are thrilled that he and other great singers and comedians are cast in this hilarious adventure.”
Hamilton recently performed in Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre’s production of “Mama Mia!” and off-Broadway with Evans in “Ride the Cyclone.” Klarer is familiar to Door County audiences having performed in productions at Northern Sky Theater and Third Avenue Playhouse. He recently performed in “Whistling In The Dark: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure” with Artists’ Ensemble Theater. McGinniss’ credits include “Urintown” with Boho Theatre and “Bat Boy” with Griffin Theatre. Vidal’s credits include work with Signal Ensemble, Next Theatre Company, Steppenwolf for Young Adults and the national tour of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
“The Bridges of Madison County,” a ravishingly beautiful musical with music by Jason Robert Brown and book by Marsha Norman, takes the stage July 26 through August 13. Based on the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller and the acclaimed 1995 film, this gorgeous musical won the Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations. “The Bridges of Madison County” captures the lyrical expanse of America’s heartland, along with the yearning entangled in the eternal question, “What if…?”
“It’s a beautiful story,” Vinkler said. “Francesca, a lovely woman who married an American soldier to flee WWII-ravaged Italy, looks forward to a rare four days alone on her Iowa farm when her husband and two children head to the 1965 Indiana State Fair. When ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid pulls into her driveway seeking directions, though, what happens in those four days may very well alter the course of Francesca’s life.
“I didn’t know the book or movie before, but after reading the script and listening to the Broadway sound track, I fell in love with this musical immediately. The romance – the roads we travel, the doors we open, the bridges we cross – I was just left breathless at the end.”
Steve Koehler (“The Hollow,” “The Full Monty”) and newcomer Cory Goodrich are cast in the leading roles of star-crossed lovers Robert and Francesca. Goodrich is a Chicago-based performer and recipient of two Joseph Jefferson Awards. Koehler performed “Guys on Ice” at Milwaukee Rep and on television as Agent Holcomb in “The Untouchables.”
The remaining cast includes Katherine Duffy (“The Hollow,” “The Full Monty”), Klarer, Hamilton, McGinniss and Rank as well as returning Player Rengin Altay (“You Can’t Take It With You,” “All My Sons”). Newcomers include Dara Cameron and Elizabeth Haley, both whom have musical theater credits at Chicago’s Marriott Theatre. The cast and musicians will be under the musical direction of Val Maze (“Nunsense,” “The Full Monty”). Director Elizabeth Margolius makes her Players debut with “The Bridges of Madison County.” Her directorial credits include productions with Santa Fe Opera, Florida Studio Theatre, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and New York’s Encompass New Opera Theatre.
Vinkler directs the next offering of the 2017 season, “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” adapted by Constance Cox from Oscar Wilde’s short story. This delightfully silly comedy is chock-full of muddled murder attempts and will entertain audiences August 15 through September 3.
“The play is set in the drawing room of young Lord Arthur’s London home in 1900,” Vinkler said. “His soon-to-be mother-in-law insists that Arthur have his palm read to see if he’s suitable enough to marry her daughter. Arthur learns from that encounter that he will murder someone in the future. Arthur believes it would be unfair to murder somebody after the wedding, so, rather than waiting for destiny to unfold, Arthur and his butler, Baines, work out their little problem.
“The two of them decide it ought to be someone related to Arthur and so, like Jeeves and Wooster, off they go, trying to bump off family members one after another in various ways. Needless to say, they’re not very good at it. We did a table reading of this last year and giggled all the way through.”Under Vinkler’s direction are Altay, Cameron, Clingman, Duffy, Foust, Hamilton, Holzfeind, Klarer and retuning Players veterans Penny Slusher (“Chapatti,” “The Hollow”) and Karen Woditsch (“Always…Patsy Cline,” “Murder on the Nile”).
Closing the Peninsula Players 82nd season is “Almost, Maine” September 6 to October 15. Love is lost and found among residents of this mythical small northern Maine town in John Cariani’s charming off-beat comedy. On a cold, clear, moonless night with the northern lights hovering in the star-filled sky above the residents of Almost find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways. The four actors portraying nine different couples are Players veterans Elam, Foust, Holzfeind and Woditsch.
“This is a sweet, poignant, witty and charming play about love,” Vinkler said. “It’s a series of warm absurdist vignettes that land somewhere between Norman Rockwell and ‘Our Town,’ with a touch of good-natured magic realism and nifty surprise endings. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. But the bruises heal, and the hearts mend – almost – in this delightful midwinter night’s dream. ‘Almost, Maine’ aims for the heart by way of the funny bone.” Returning to the Players to make his directorial debut is Players veteran Patrick New (“Is He Dead?”” “Around the World in 80 Days”).
Regional and award-winning designers crafting the worlds of the 2017 season include scenic designers J Branson, Jack Magaw, James Maronek and Sarah E. Ross; lighting designers Emil Boulous, Charlie Cooper and Stephen R. White; costume designers Rachel Lambert, Kärin Simonson Kopischke and Kyle Pingel; sound designers Chris Kriz and Megan Henninger; and properties designers Jesse Gaffney, Wendy Huber and Pauline Oleksy. Making his design debut is lighting designer Michael Trudeau.
“There is a wonderful variety of options for audiences to have a great time with the Players’ 82nd season,” Vinkler said. “I really love this line-up – they’re full of passionate characters, playful humor, heartwarming romance, lush music, charismatic personalities, murder attempts and the unexpected blessings and bumps of love. This season is a lot of fun and as varied as you can get.”
The 2017 season is being sponsored in part by Bill Hartman and Jim Nelson (“The Actuary”); a Friend of the Players and True Essence Healing Arts – Margaret and Dale West (“Peter and the Starcatcher”); Alibi Marina, Harbor Guest House and The Cordon Family Foundation (“The Bridges of Madison County”); Main Street Market (“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”); John and Dyan Smith, Door County Medical Center and Ken Raupach (“Almost, Maine”).
Peninsula Players has been entertaining and exciting audiences since 1935, when the theater opened behind the Bonnie Brook Motel in Fish Creek on July 25, with Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever.” The company was founded by a brother and sister team, Caroline and Richard Fisher, who dreamt of an artistic utopia in the north woods where actors, designers and technicians could focus on their craft while being surrounded by nature in a contemplative setting. Peninsula Players moved to the theater’s present location along the shores of Green Bay in 1937.
Prior to performances, patrons picnic and relax on the grounds while watching the setting sun over the waters of Green Bay from the cedar-lined shore and enjoy the ambience of the Beer Garden and other gardens.
The Fishers’ dream lives on. Professional actors, directors and designers work side-by-side with college interns fostering the craft of live theater to the next generation while living on the Peninsula Players 16-acre campus. The artistic company brings audiences a variety of works each season including dramas, mysteries, comedies and musicals.
The Peninsula Players perform Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. in the summer. The closing performances of the summer shows will have a 4 p.m. matinee, July 2, July 23, August 13 and September 3. With the opening of “Almost, Maine” Sept. 6 curtain times switch to Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees to 3 p.m. for performances on Sept. 17, Oct. 1, and 15.
Discount tickets are available for season ticket holders and groups. Individual ticket prices range from $38 to $47. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets phone the Peninsula Players Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.