Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s Oldest Professional Resident Summer Theatre and Door County’s theatrical icon, is thrilled to announce the artistic company for its 84th season, running June 18 through October 20, 2019. 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.
“It’s an exciting week at the theater as a majority of the creative staff, 11 college-age interns and the cast of our first show arrive to begin rehearsals for our first show of the season,” said Artistic Director Greg Vinkler. The line-up of shows, designers and casts were selected by Vinkler, who celebrates his 31st season at Peninsula Players. He is currently performing in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Hamlet.” Vinkler will direct the autumn Midwest première of Mark St. Germain’s new fast-paced comedy, “George Washington’s Teeth.”
The “must-see” 2019 season includes a world première comedy, a riveting whodunit, a thrilling and romantic musical fantasy, an enthralling drama and a new madcap comedy. Peninsula Players is a professional, not-for-profit theater, which employs professional actors and 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.
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, After Dark Award, Black Theatre Alliance Award and other regional theater awards such as the Sarah Siddons Award and Florence Herscher Award.
“The artists of the 2019 company are exceptionally talented and very versatile,” Vinkler said. “Ten actors will make their Players debut, and many familiar and loved performers, designers and musicians will return as well. The shows slated for this season comprise a wide variety of styles needing singers, comedians and dramatic actors who can take audiences from America in the 1890s to a small English village in the 1940s all the way to contemporary urban settings.”
“‘Ghost The Musical’ has a cast of 10, six of whom will also perform in ‘A Murder is Announced.’ We have ten returning Players in the acting company and 13 staff members. Our small army of artists also includes 16 designers, 11 interns, six administrators, seven musicians, three scenic painters, two stitchers, three draftsmen/carpenters, two union stage managers, two cooks, a master electrician, a properties manager, a costume shop manager and lots of collaborative creativity. It’s non-stop busy all season. It’s a very multi-talented group coming together – which is, of course, absolutely necessary for our diverse line-up of shows.”
Peninsula Players opens its 84th season on June 18 with the world première of Peter Moore’s “A Trick of the Light,” a new comedy performing through July 7. Eddie is a 40-something guy who discovers he can become invisible to everyone around him – except his wife. Neil Brookshire (“Miss Holmes,” “The 39 Steps”) returns as Eddie, and familiar faces Joe Foust and Noah Simon are his good friends Darrell and Marty. Simon was last seen at the Players in Foust’s comedy “Once a Ponzi Time” and in the 2018 winter play reading of “A Trick of the Light” with Brookshire and Foust. Cassandra Bissell, who was the title character in last season’s “Miss Holmes,” plays Beth, Eddie’s wife, and newcomer Hayley Burgess is cast in the multiple roles of a movie usher, waitress, co-worker and therapist.
Moore is a Minneapolis-based playwright whose new comedy was featured as part of the 2018 Peninsula Players Theatre’s winter play reading series, The Play’s the Thing. “Audiences had a hoot hearing ‘A Trick of the Light’ last March, and I am thrilled Peter will be with us in rehearsals to help us launch this new play onto the world stage,” Vinkler said. “It’s been wonderful to help playwrights bring new work to the theatrical landscape and see these plays have a life beyond Door County.”
Tom Mula, who celebrates his 25th season with Peninsula Players, is slated as director for “A Trick of the Light.” Mula directed “Chapatti,” “A Real Lulu,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Amadeus” and performed in many more. Mula and Foust are steadfast Players veterans who have performed in more than 35 Peninsula Players productions including “The Hollow,” “Cabaret” and “Tom, Dick and Harry.”
“Tom is also a playwright and has a wonderful aptitude for collaborating with other playwrights and actors in the rehearsal room,” Vinkler said. “Tom has directed several world premières for us including Sean Grennan’s ‘Now and Then,’ ‘Making God Laugh’ and ‘The Tin Woman.’ I am very excited to see the work Peter, Tom and the cast bring to our audiences.”
“A Murder is Announced,” by Leslie Darbon and adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel, takes the stage July 10 through July 28. Penny Slusher (“Chapatti,” “The Hollow” and “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”) is cast to play Christie’s endearing amateur detective, Miss Marple. “An announcement in the local paper states the time and place when a murder is to occur in Miss Blacklock’s charming house, and that, of course, causes quite a bit of consternation,” Vinkler said. It’s a classic Christie puzzle of mixed motives, concealed identities, a second death, a determined inspector and Miss Marple on hand to provide, at some danger to herself, the final solution. “It’s intriguing as only Miss Christie can be and full of fun, fascinating characters who will indeed keep you guessing until the very end.”
Foust, who directed the Players’ productions of “The Hollow” and “Dial M for Murder,” will direct himself as well as returning Players Bissell, Brookshire, Cindy Gold (“Rain,” “Spider’s Web”) Ashley Lanyon (“Lend Me a Tenor,” Nunsense”) Carmen Roman (“Alabama Story,” “Lombardi,” “Master Class”) and Will Skrip (“Chicago”). Making their Door County debut are Christie Coran, Lee Palmer and Alexis J. Roston.
Romance, music and even more thrills follow when “Ghost The Musical” performs July 31 through August 18. This timeless musical fantasy about the power of love is by Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) and Glen Ballard. “Our third show is a musical based on a compelling story, adapted from the hit film by its Academy Award-winning screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin,” Vinkler said. “I came across a wonderful production of it this past year and thought it was pretty amazing. I took my Mom and she LOVED it!”
“Ghost The Musical” follows the same story line as in the movie, but has been updated. The film earned Whoopi Goldberg an Academy Award. Sam and Molly are a young couple whose relationship takes a shocking turn after Sam’s untimely death. Will Skrip, who was in the musical ‘Chicago,’ returns as Sam, and Ashley Lanyon, who was in ‘Bridges of Madison County’ and ‘Nunsense,’ is our Molly.”
Trapped between two worlds, Sam refuses to leave Molly when he learns she is in grave danger. Desperate to communicate with her, he turns to a storefront psychic, Oda Mae Brown, played by newcomer Alexis J. Roston, to help him protect Molly and avenge his death.
“Will and Ashley have extensive Chicago musical theater credits including ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Les Misérables,’ ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Crazy for You,’” Vinkler said. “Alexis’ portrayal of Billie Holiday in ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’ earned her Chicago’s Jeff Award and Black Theatre Alliance Award. I am thrilled Will, Ashley and Alexis will bring this romantic couple and comedic character to Door County audiences.”
Director Linda Fortunato (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Fox on the Fairway”) returns to direct the cast of “Ghost The Musical” which will also include Coran and Palmer and newcomers Esteban Andres Cruz, Jeffrey Todd Parrott, Camille Robinson and Denzel Tsopnang, all of whom have numerous musical theater stage credits. Valerie Maze (“Peter and the Starcatcher,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “The Drowsy Chaperone”) returns as music director with musicians Janet Anderson, Michael Dewhirst, Lynn Gudmundsen, Craig McClelland, Bruce Newbern and George Sawyn.
The fourth selection of the season features a work by the most produced playwright in North America last year, Lauren Gunderson, who only lagged behind Shakespeare in the total number of her plays produced in 2017. In “Silent Sky,” which performs August 21 through September 1, Gunderson introduces audiences to Henrietta Swan Leavitt and her touching human story behind a very important scientific discovery.
“I’m so delighted to include one of Gunderson’s most beautiful works,” Vinkler said. “’Silent Sky’ is a startling, entertaining true story of a brilliant, history-making woman, hitherto unknown to most of us. I’ve seen this performed and it’s really lovely, touching, smart and funny.” Director Elizabeth Margolius (“Miss Holmes,” “The Bridges of Madison County”) returns to helm “Silent Sky” and a cast featuring Bissell as Leavitt with Brookshire, Lanyon, Roman and Slusher.
Closing the Peninsula Players’ 84th season is the Midwest première of “George Washington’s Teeth,” a very silly comedy by Mark St. Germain, performing September 4 to October 20. “This hilarious story features the very enthusiastic ladies of the New Bunion Historical Society who are trying to stop the town council from kicking their little-visited history museum out of their old firehouse home. Their potential savior is a sure-fire crowd pleaser (if they could only get it for an exhibit): a pair of dentures made for George Washington right there in the town of New Bunion. Unfortunately, they’re owned by an unexpected rival who is very, very reluctant to let this happen.”
The cast, under Vinkler’s direction, includes Katherine Keberlein (“Dial M for Murder,” “A Real Lulu”), Lanyon (“The Full Monty”), Emma Rosenthal (“Lord Arthur’s Savile’s Crime,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”), Roman and Slusher. Vinkler’s directing credits with Peninsula Players include “Salvage,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “The Full Monty,” “Outside Mullingar,” “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” “Chicago” and “Lombardi.” His acting credits at the Players include “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Now and Then,” “The Actuary,” “Alabama Story,” “Chapatti,” “A Real Lulu,” “Butler” and “Heroes.”
Regional and award-winning designers crafting the worlds of the 2019 season include scenic designers J Branson, Jeff Kmiec, Jack Magaw and Keith Pitts; lighting designers Charlie Cooper, Guy Rhodes and Stephen R. White; costume designers Rachel Lambert, Kärin Simonson Kopischke, Kyle Pingel and Keith Pitts; sound designers Joe Court, Barry G. Funderburg and Christopher Kriz; and properties designers Wendy Huber and Emily Hartig.
The 2019 season is being sponsored in part by Tony and Judy Licata (“A Trick of the Light”); a Friend of the Players and Dale and Margaret West (“A Murder is Announced”); Alibi Marina and Harbor Guest House with support from The Cordon Family Foundation (“Ghost The Musical”); Main Street Market (“Silent Sky”); Tim and Jackie Danis and Door County Medical Center (“George Washington’s Teeth”).
“When I’m putting the pieces together, I really try to give patrons a group of widely different worlds to experience,” Vinkler said. “This season is full of shows I love, with LOTS of variety and great fun – thrills, heartache, suspense, humor, surprises and beautiful and exciting music, lights, scenery and costumes.”
Peninsula Players has been entertaining and exciting audiences since 1935, when the theater first 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 surrounded by nature in a contemplative setting. Peninsula Players moved to the theater’s present location along the waters of Green Bay in 1937. 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.
Each season, theatergoers discover the talents of the artistic company as well as its picturesque shoreline location. Before performances, patrons may bring food and relax on the grounds while watching the setting sun over the waters of Green Bay from the cedar-lined shore and enjoy the ambiance of the Beer Garden and other gardens. The grounds and Luna Bar open 90 minutes before curtain time. Wisconsin state statute prohibits the carry-in of alcohol, but food baskets are welcome in the Beer Garden.
The Peninsula Players perform Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. in the summer. The closing performance each summer show is 4 p.m. matinee on July 7, July 28, August 18 and September 1. With the opening of “George Washington’s Teeth,” on September 4, curtain times switch to Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. on September 8, 29 and October 20.
Discount tickets are available for season ticket holders and groups. Individual ticket prices range from $40 to $49. 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.