Peninsula Players Theatre presents a reading of Kristine Thatcher’s “Apparitions.” Thatcher was commissioned by the Peninsula Players in the mid-1990s to write a play using Door County’s history and unique character as its major influence. “Apparitions” will be performed February 4 at 7 p.m. at Björklunden, located at 7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor. “Apparitions” is produced with support from and in coordination with Door County Reads and its exploration of its book selections “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” by Dan Egan and “Wintering” by Peter Geye. Admission is free.
Thatcher, an award-winning playwright, performed in the Players productions of “The Tin Woman” and “And Then There Were None” and directed “Over the Tavern” and “Miracle on South Division Street.”
“Apparitions,” which made its world première in 1995 at Peninsula Players, centers on some well-known and lesser-known stories of Death’s Door, including early Door County explorers and settlers such as Roy Thorp, Kee-wau-nay, a Potawatomi Indian, Robert Noble, Joseph Judson Lobdell, Mrs. Dalbert (Eva) Ranney, Coyren Kealiher and Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. These seven characters tell their often grim stories and help bring some of Door County’s history and legends to life.
One should not underestimate the power of Mother Nature around Plum and Washington Islands. If you do, perilous situations arise – a ship goes down in the treacherous waters, people break through the ice – and harsh games of life and death result.
In “Apparitions” it is when these precarious moments occur that the “Guardians of the Door,” as Thatcher calls them, gather to help those who find themselves in dire peril near Death’s Door. “Apparitions” visits moments in Door County’s history when some people were tested with severe hardships, and either survived and went on to live productive lives here – or didn’t.
Cast in the reading of “Apparitions” are Peninsula Players veteran actors Cassandra Bissell (“Miss Holmes,” “Around the World in 80 Days”); Neil Brookshire (“Miss Holmes,” “The 39 Steps”), Mark Moede (“The Full Monty,” “And Then There Were None”); Noah Simon (“A Trick of the Light,” the reading, “Once a Ponzi Time”); Barbara Simpson Fuhrmann (“The Trip to Bountiful,” “Waiting for Tina Myer” the readings); Larry “Thor” Thoreson (“Population 485” the reading); and newcomers Sam Hubbard, David Stobbe and Matthew C. Yee.
The cast is under the direction of Peninsula Players Artistic Director Greg Vinkler, who directed its world première and is thrilled to bring “Apparitions” to Door County audiences once again.
“I love the play because it is not only about the incredible history of Door County and some amazing real characters who lived here, but it captures the indomitability of the human spirit and the bravery and the heart of so many people who have passed through this area,” Vinkler said.
Bissell will be reading the stage directions while Brookshire is cast as historical figure and French explorer Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle. Bissell has performed across the country at such theaters as Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Arizona Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Cleveland Play House, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Brookshire’s stage credits are as diverse and also include Door Shakespeare’s productions as well as play readings with Third Avenue Playhouse. Both are performing in Renaissance Theaterworks’s production of “Photograph 51.”
Fuhrmann, Moede and Thorson, are performers that call Door County home and are slated to portray Door County pioneers. Moede as Joseph Judson Lobdell and Thorson as Roy Thorp. Fuhrmann originated the role of Eva Ranney in “Apparitions” and reprises the role for the reading.
Simon, a veteran Chicago performer who has worked with such companies as Goodman Theatre, Shattered Globe, Strawdog, Remy Bumppo and Red Twist, is cast as the well-meaning Coyren Kealiher.
Making their Peninsula Players debut are Chicago-based actors Sam Hubbard as John Cornell, a young newlywed; David Stobbe as Door County settler, Robert Nobel and Mathew C. Yee as Kee-wau-nay, a spiritual Potawatomi Indian.
Hubbard’s credits include “The Book of Will” with Northlight Theatre and “Cymbeline” and “Neighborhood 3” with Strawdog Theatre. Stobbe performed as Rosencrantz in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” for Metropolis Theater. His additional credits include “Bad Date” for Stage Left’s Leap-fest and “New Faces Sing Broadway 1969” with Porchlight.
Yee’s Chicago stage credits include “Once” with Paramount Theatre, “Treasure Island” for Lookingglass Theatre Company, “The Wheel” with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and several productions with Chicago Children’s Theatre. Yee’s television credits include “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Justice” (NBC) and “Empire” (Fox).
Fuhrmann portrayed another of Thatcher’s historical characters, Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker, at Milwaukee Rep as well as in the Players reading of Thatcher’s “Niedecker.” Thatcher’s writing credits also include “Voice of Good Hope,” a glimpse into Barbara Charline Jordan’s life as the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate.
Thatcher’s “Emma’s Child,” a play about the adoption of a newborn who is born with congenital disabilities, received the 1995 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the 1997 After Dark Award, the 1997 Resolve Award for Excellence in the Arts, the 1997 Cunningham Prize, and a 1997 Illinois Fellowship for Playwriting.
The Wilde Awards honored Thatcher with the Council Cargle Award for dedication to the Michigan theater community in 2015. The Wilde Awards were named after Oscar Wilde and is Michigan’s version of the Tony award.
The 2019 season of The Play’s the Thing also includes “Tales of Men and Ghosts” adapted by Steve Pickering from stories by Edith Wharton, which will be performed Monday, March 4, and “Love, the Cracksman,” a new fast-paced comedy by Mark Brown on Monday, April 1.
The Play’s the Thing is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, as well as generous grants from Door County Medical Center and Friends of Door County Libraries.
Door County Reads is in its ninth year, having grown out of the Library/Players partnership to bring The Big Read to Door County for three years. A full listing of events is available at www.doorcountyreads.org.
Peninsula Players Theatre is America’s Oldest Professional Resident Summer Theatre. The Play’s the Thing is part of the Players’ continuing winter outreach programming, presenting professional play readings for the public. Learn more about Peninsula Players at www.peninsulaplayers.com.