Peninsula Players Theatre is thrilled to present an in-person reading and a virtual audio recording of “A Rock Sails By,” a new play by Sean Grennan, as part of its winter play reading series, The Play’s the Thing. A reading of “A Rock Sails By” will be performed in-person at Björklunden at 7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor, on Monday, April 4 at 7:00 p.m. to a limited capacity of 80 patrons. Advance reservations are required for both events.
In-person attendees will be required to be fully vaccinated (including eligible boosters) and must wear a mask at all times in Björklunden and throughout the performance. Proof of vaccination, photo ID and tickets will be checked at the door by staff members. No walk-ins allowed. Phone the theater’s winter Box Office on weekdays at (715) 718-0347 to register for the in-person play reading. For those who would like to enjoy the reading in their home, visit http://www.onthestage.com/peninsula-players-theatre to register for free access to the virtual audio reading of the production. Access is limited to 300 households.
Three of Grennan’s plays made their world première at Peninsula Players Theatre: “Making God Laugh,” “The Tin Woman” and “Now and Then.” As an actor, Door County audiences saw him perform in “And Then There Were None” and “The Mystery of Irma Vep.” He has also performed in film and television, including “Law and Order SVU,” “The Untouchables” and Netflix’s “Mindhunter.” His body of work also includes writing the lyrics and book for several musicals.
Inspired by a real interstellar visitor, Grennan introduces audiences to an astrophysicist trying to bring science and faith into balance while mourning the loss of her husband and reconnecting with her daughter. After being misquoted by a less than reputable online magazine that aliens are approaching Earth, Dr. Lynn Cummings, a two-time Nobel Prize nominee, is sent by her university’s administration to set up camp at a New Mexico observatory to monitor this mysterious space object. With her daughter Olive, a doctoral candidate in English, and the ambitious journalist Jason by her side, Dr. Cummings hopes to witness nothing remarkable and thus save her stellar reputation. But there is no telling what she will discover in the desert and beyond the stars.
In October 2017, the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope caught a glimpse of an object from another solar system whizzing past the sun heading straight towards the Earth. Scientists were baffled by its odd size, appearance and its behavior. About the size of a football field and flat like a pancake, the object was dubbed “Oumuamau,” Hawaiian for scout or messenger from our distant past. Oumaumau’s path was being tracked by many observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, when suddenly, it swung around the Earth, sharply turned its course and began to exit our galaxy.
It was unlike anything astronomy had ever seen. Scientists from across the globe proposed various theories in scientific journals. Was it a dust cloud? A hydrogen iceberg? Or, as one Harvard scientist suggested, a light-powered sail manufactured by aliens? In 2021, Astronomer Ari Loeb published “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life beyond Earth,” a book that includes his alien sail theory of the object. The mysterious object Oumuamua is still on its way out of our solar system. As of November 2021, it was between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune.
Grennan’s “A Rock Sails By” is spun from this historical phenomenon. Linda Fortunato, Artistic Director of Peninsula Players Theatre, will direct a five-member cast that includes many of the theater’s veteran actors, including Cassandra Bissell, Neil Brookshire, Erica Elam and Dan Klarer. Bissell, Brookshire, Elam and Klarer last performed together in “Miss Holmes,” and Elam was a cast member of Grennan’s “The Tin Woman” and “Now and Then.” Making her Peninsula Players Theatre debut is Janet Ulrich Brooks as Dr. Lynn Cummings.
Brooksis a company member of TimeLine Theatre, where she has portrayed Maria Callas in “Master Class,” for which she earned a Joseph Jefferson Award. Her film credits include “Divergent” and “One Small Hitch,” and her television credits include “Fargo” (FX), “Sense8” (Netflix), “Proven Innocent”(FoxTV) and “Boss”(STARZ). Bissell, Brookshireand Klarer make Door County their artistic base, while Brooks and Elam are Chicago-based actors. The stage credits for the cast include many regional theaters from across the country, including Opera Idaho, First Folio, The Goodman Theatre, The Second City, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Great Lakes Theater, Renaissance Theaterworks, Wolly Mammoth Theatre Co, The Kennedy Center to Door County’s own Door Shakespeare, Northern Sky Theater and Third Avenue Playworks.
“A Rock Sails By“ is part of Peninsula Players Theatre’s winter program, The Play’s the Thing. It is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as generous grants from Door County Medical Center, Friends of Door County Libraries, The Shubert Foundation and operating funds of Peninsula Players Theatre.
Peninsula Players Theatre is America’s oldest professional resident summer theater. The Play’s the Thing is part of Peninsula Players Theatre’s winter outreach programming, presenting professional play readings for the public. Learn more about Peninsula Players Theatre and its 2022 season at www.peninsulaplayers.com.