Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, begins its autumn season with the Midwest première of “George Washington’s Teeth,” a new comedy by Mark St. Germaine. When threatened with eviction, the ladies of the New Bunion Historical Society, a little-visited history museum, must find creative ways to lure visitors to their sleepy town. Filled with false teeth, false history and real laughter, “George Washington’s Teeth” performs Tuesdays through Sundays, September 4 to October 20 at 7 p.m., except Sundays, September 8, 28 and October 20 at 3 p.m.
“It’s about this organization that’s falling apart, scheming to get these teeth to put on exhibit,” playwright St. Germaine said in an interview with the Naples Florida Weekly. The comedy is more about the relationships between the women of the society more than anything, he said.
“George Washington’s Teeth” was inspired by actor Debra Jo Rupp, known for her role as Kitty Foreman on “That 70’s Show.” While working together on St. Germain’s one-person show, “Dr. Ruth, All the Way,” she shared that there aren’t enough roles for older women in the theater, how once you’re no longer the ingenue, you become a character actor — a concept St. Germain found “ridiculous.”
So, he decided to write something with parts only for women. And, having never written a farce, he thought he’d try one. “George Washington’s Teeth” is the result with only one role that is age-specific, that of a college-age young woman.
“The all-male city council is trying to move the historical society into the basement of the senior center,” Artistic Director Greg Vinkler said. “The feisty ladies are determined to retain their home in the historic firehouse. They find out someone in town has a pair of dentures crafted for Washington by the local blacksmith. The sticky part, however, is that the woman who owns the teeth may have been denied acceptance into the historical society years ago. The show ends with the annual re-enactment of the Battle of New Bunion, a skirmish of the American Revolution which never actually happened – but the tourists love it!”
Vinkler, who is directing “George Washington’s Teeth,” discovered this new comedy last spring. “But I had to wait to bring it to Door County audiences until it premiered in Florida,” he said. “I am thrilled to follow-up the production of ‘Silent Sky,’ which told the story of unsung female astronomers at Harvard Observatory, with another well-crafted, female-centered story.
“’George Washington’s Teeth” is a very entertaining, heartfelt and a somewhat historic comedy,” Vinkler said. “These teeth set the little town in a tail-spin for all-out war, but in the end, the ladies learn that their differences don’t divide them, they make them stronger.”
St. Germain is an award-winning playwright, author, film and television writer. His writing credits include the soap opera “As the World Turns” and popular comedy “The Cosby Show.”
As a playwright, he has a penchant for historical personalities and events doctored with lively dialogue. His play “Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah,” focuses on an evening with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway while “Dr. Ruth, All the Way” explores the history of the early life of the famous doctor and how she fled the Nazis in the Kindertransport. “Camping with Henry and Tom” explores a trip between Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Warren G. Harding. “Freud’s Last Session,” featuring a spirited debate between the legendary psychoanalyst, Dr. Sigmund Freud and a young professor, C.S Lewis, earned St. Germaine the Best Play Award from the Off-Broadway Alliance. He is also the recipient of the “New Voices In American Theatre” award from the William Inge Theatre Festival.
As Artistic Director, Vinkler spends time in the off-season selecting the shows for the season and holding auditions to cast all of the roles. “The cast of ‘George Washington’s Teeth’ includes veteran stage performers who are very versatile in comedy, drama and musical theater,” Vinkler said. “Rehearsals have been a thrill and there are several moments where I am giddy with laughter. This comedy is very amusing and will be a highlight for autumn theatergoers.”
The cast for “George Washington’s Teeth” features “Silent Sky” and “A Murder is Announced” castmates Carmen Roman as Hester, the Society’s determined president and descendant of the town’s founder, and Penny Slusher as Edie, a narcoleptic florist who knows everyone in town. Both have extensive regional and international stage credits. Roman’s film/television credits include “Law and Order: SVU” and “Boss” while Slusher has performed at Sydney Theatre in Australia and the Galway International Arts Festival.
Joining the cast are Peninsula Players veterans Katherine Keberlein (“The Full Monty,” “The Hollow,” “Alabama Story,” “Dial M for Murder,” “A Real Lulu”) as Ann, a wealthy socialite; and Emma Rosenthal (“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “The Actuary”) as Jess, a recruit to the Society. Actor Ora Jones makes her Peninsula Players debut as Louisa, a descendant of a town settler and owner of the embattled teeth.
Keberlein has performed with more than 30 Chicago area theaters and her television credits include “Proven Innocent,” “Chicago Med,” “Shameless” and “Sirens.” Jones’ stage credits include several productions at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre where she is an ensemble member, Goodman Theatre as well as the Broadway and the national tour of “Matilda the Musical.” Rosenthal’s credits include “Brigadoon” at Goodman Theatre, “Master Class” with Music Theatre of Connecticut and “Peter Pan” with Cardinal Stage Company.
“George Washington’s Teeth” is sponsored by Door County Medical Center and Tim & Jackie Danis.
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.
The creative team fashioning the fictional New Bunion firehouse and historical society of “George Washington’s Teeth” was designed by award-winning regional designers including scenic designer J Branson; costume designer Kyle R. Pingle; sound designer Christopher Kriz; lighting designer Charles Cooper and properties designer Emily Hartig.
“George Washington’s Teeth” performs Tuesdays through Sundays at 7 p.m.; except for Sundays, September 8, 29 and October 20 at 3 p.m. Individual ticket prices range from $40 to $46. Group rates are available for 15 and more. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the Peninsula Players Box Office from noon to curtain time at (920) 868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.