Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, opens the riveting murder mystery “Miss Holmes,” by Christopher M. Walsh, based on the characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on Wednesday, July 4. In this deadly and thrilling story, Walsh’s Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are intelligent and independent women in 19th Century England.
“It starts with the simple question, ‘What if Sherlock and Watson were women?’ Walsh said. “Given what we know about the characters as Arthur Conan Doyle conceived them, what would have to change for two women in Victorian England to start solving mysteries together? How would their backgrounds differ from their canon counterparts? How would other characters react? And what would stay the same? And why?”
Artistic Director Greg Vinkler selected “Miss Holmes” for the Peninsula Players winter play reading program, The Play’s the Thing, at Björklunden in 2017. “At the end of the reading I asked the audience if they’d like to see it on our stage,” Vinkler said. “And they unanimously and enthusiastically said ‘YES!!”
Neither woman abides by the conventions of the times. Instead, they forego domestic accomplishments in the pursuit of helping other women in peril. Trapped in an era that refuses to accept them, these unconventional women work together to uncover the secrets surrounding the past of a high-ranking and corrupt Scotland Yard investigator whose previous two wives turned up dead.
Elizabeth Margolius, who directed last year’s production of “The Bridges of Madison County,” returns to Peninsula Players to direct “Miss Holmes.” Margolius is an alumna of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York and a Chicago-based director. She has earned several Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for her stage and movement direction.
“As in most Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries, what begins as a seemingly simple request turns into an unraveling of events and the investigation of a murder or two,” said Margolius.
Miss Holmes possesses one of the greatest deductive minds of her generation, and Dr. Dorothy Watson struggles to make a difference at the only hospital in London that will hire female doctors. Their investigation into mysterious deaths is made even more difficult by a rigid Victorian society that does not condone two women who challenge the societal norms of their day. Peninsula Players veterans Cassandra Bissell and Maggie Kettering reprise their roles as Sherlock and Dr. Watson from the winter play reading series.
“Both women are incredible actresses,” Margolius said. “They are each able to bring very different airs to their characters. Cassie is deftly able to portray the steady, analytical side of the character and Maggie energetically brings the honesty and kindness to hers. And, they are both so much fun to be in the rehearsal room with – always open to exploration!”
Bissell has performed in several Peninsula Players productions including “Opus,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Is He Dead?,” “Be My Baby,” “Doubt,” “Red Herring,” “Proof” and “A Man for All Seasons.” She has performed across the country at such theaters as Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Arizona Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Cleveland Play House, Company of Fools (Sun Valley, Idaho), freeFall Theatre (St. Petersburg, Florida), Great Lakes Theater (Cleveland, Ohio), Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory, People’s Light (Malvern, Pennsylvania), Renaissance Theaterworks (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
Kettering was last seen in the Players’ production of “Outside Mullingar” and “Lend Me a Tenor.” Her regional theater work includes House Theatre’s production of “Season on the Line” which earned her a Joseph Jefferson Nomination; “Holmes and Watson” at Milwaukee Repertory Theater; Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of “Henry IV, parts 1 and 2;” and several productions with Great Lakes Theater and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.
Vinkler and Margolius agree that Walsh does a wonderful job of recreating the style and world of Conan Doyle’s stories. “This new take on the genre is cunning and highly enjoyable and absolutely captivating,” Vinkler said. “’Miss Holmes’ is a must-see for all Baker Street Irregulars. I’m an avid Sherlock Holmes fan and I’m just crazy about this piece!”
Peninsula Players veterans under Margolius’ direction include Neil Brookshire (“The 39 Steps”); Erica Elam (“Now and Then,” “The Actuary,” “Almost, Maine”); Sean Fortunato (“Butler,” “Chicago,” “And Then There Were None”) as Mycroft Holmes; Karl Hamilton (“The Bridges of Madison County,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”); Dan Klarer (“Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”); Tim Monsion (“Dial M for Murder,” “Angel Street,” “Opus”) as Inspector Lestrade; and Barbara Robertson (“Now and Then,” “Noises Off,” “Broadway Bound”) as Mrs. Hudson and Eudora, the mother of a suspected murder victim.
The performance credits of the cast span regional theaters across the country from the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Seattle’s ACT to Asolo Rep in Sarasota, Florida to Playwrights Horizon in New York.
Regional and award-winning designers crafting the cobble-stoned streets of Victorian London include scenic designer Jack Magaw (“The Bridges of Madison County,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”) lighting designer Jason Fassl (“The Full Monty,” “Always…Patsy Cline”), costume designer Rachel Lambert (“Now and Then,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”) sound designer Christopher Kriz (“Peter and the Starcatcher,” “The 39 Steps”) and properties designer Amanda Hermann (“The Tin Woman,” “The Hollow.”)
“Miss Holmes” is sponsored by a Friend of the Players and True Essence Healing Arts – Margaret and Dale West.
Nestled along Door County, Wisconsin’s scenic shore, the award-winning acting company of Peninsula Players has been enthralling generations of audiences in its 600-plus seat, all-weather pavilion since 1935, presenting hundreds of pre-Broadway tryouts, world premières, classic dramas, comedies and musicals.
Peninsula Players is a professional not-for-profit theater that collaborates with members of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers; United Scenic Artists (USA), a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople; and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), a theatrical union of stage directors and choreographers.
“Miss Holmes” perform Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m., except for Sunday, July 22 at 4 p.m. A post-show discussion will be held Tuesday, July 10 with the creative team and cast and Saturday, July 14 when playwright Christopher M. Walsh joins the discussion. For information or tickets phone the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.