When people ask me how I like working at Peninsula Players, I often reply, “Well, anytime you can wake up and do what you love to do, that’s pretty great. But to be able to do that in a place like this… that’s something special.”
Well, fortunately for me, I’ve been waking up here, doing what I love to do, since mid-May. This is my fourth season at Peninsula Players, and this year I was cast in four of its five show season. When all is said and done, I will have spent nearly five months in Door County, doing what I love. I’m pretty lucky.
A lot happens over the summer. It all begins with a welcome party at Sister Bay Bowl. Everyone who is here at the start of the season —the amazing staff and the incredible interns, who work tirelessly throughout the summer in all facets of administration and production and the cast and director and designers of the first show—all get together to raise a glass to a new season.
The first rehearsal begins the next day. “The Actuary” —a world premiere play—has a little more than two weeks to rehearse. Then we open, and the next show, “Peter and the Starcatcher” begins rehearsals the next day. A handful of us move into “double duty”—rehearsing “Peter…” during the day, and performing “The Actuary” at night. I’d say it’s a lot of work—and it is. But if you’re doing what you love to do, it’s also pretty great.
There are also extra-curricular activities that help the time go by. There are a handful of after-hours parties hosted on-site by company members (the Garden Party, the Boathouse Party, the C-D Deck Party—all various shades of “classy.”)
There is the epic “P.I.T.H. Tournament”—a competition where teams compete to try to sink into a hole of a table top the small rocks that populate our lovely shoreline. And then there is Christmas in July, the crown jewel of the Players festivities. A week of Secret Santas, gift-giving, shenanigans and practical jokes, which culminates in a big Christmas party. Everyone dresses up, and the entire lodge is decked out in holiday regalia. It’s all magical.
Oh, and did I mention the food? We get fed here at Peninsula Players—a lot. They ring a bell, and three times a day, Deb Lampert, our illustrious cook, lays out a consistently delicious spread for the entire company – which can reach 50-plus people. Everyone breaks bread together and eats as a family. It’s pretty great (so much so, that I even wrote a song about it once—true story!)
By now we have opened “The Bridges of Madison County” and are already in rehearsals for “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”—directed by Player’s Artistic Director, Greg Vinkler. This will be the fourth show of the season, and we have, by this time, seen two others close. Things here always seem to be hurtling forward.
Theater is, by its nature, ephemeral. You can’t binge-watch it at-will on Netflix, nor can you pause it or record it for later viewing. Once the curtain falls, the performance is gone for good. You see that here, vividly. But there is also a comfort in knowing that the next show is on its way. Over the summer, cast members have come and gone home. Sets have been built, disassembled and those bits that can’t be re-purposed are added to the burn bin (in our great Beer Garden bonfire), and new ones have been built to replace them. Nowhere else can you better see this circle of life: where art is born, lives, dies, and is then reborn again in time for the next curtain.
Finally, we come to the last show of the season, which runs for six weeks. “Almost, Maine” has only a four-person cast and many of the staff (with no more shows to build) have left for the season. This makes for a very small group of people on campus.
It’s still a lovely time, but a bit more laid-back than it is during the height of summer. There are still activities: like pumpkin carving and game nights in the lodge. But mostly, this is a great time to get off campus and experience the beauty of Door County with a little more time in your back pocket.
As I write, we are winding down to the end here. “Almost, Maine” closes October 15. Then Peninsula Players will close its doors, for the season. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here since May. A long time, but in a way, it seems like only yesterday.
Over that time, we’ve seen five shows open and (eventually) close; have had professional actors, designers and craftspeople from across the Midwest come to Door County to ply their trade. Thousands of people walk these grounds, watch the sunset, then sit down and are entertained in these beautiful Wisconsin woods, in a theater by the bay. So much has come and gone, and I feel very fortunate to have been here from the beginning. It is indeed something special.
“Almost, Maine” now through Saturday at 7 p.m., except for Sundays October 15 at 3 p.m. For information or tickets, please call the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.
Matt Holzfeind is a Chicago-based actor whose regional credits include the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, New Theatre, Paramount Theatre and Cardinal Stage.