Peninsula Players Theatre is excited to announce the cast for the first play reading of The Play’s the Thing, a winter play reading series presented to Door County audiences. A reading of “Painted Desert,” a new play by Christopher G. Smith, is scheduled for Monday, February 6, at 7:00 p.m. at Björklunden (7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor.) The cast, all under the direction of Artistic Director Linda Fortunato, features veteran Peninsula Players Theatre actors Amy Ensign, Mark Moede, Lee Palmer and newcomer Kenneth Hamilton. There is no admission fee, and seating is on a first come, first served basis. Donations are welcome. Masking is encouraged but not required. There will be no virtual option in 2023.
Robby, a young runaway hitchhiking west, believes himself to be the toughest guy he knows. Then he crosses paths with Devlin, a possibly dangerous man who takes Robby under his wing. Searching for a place off the beaten path to rest for the night, they stumble upon a dilapidated shack in the American Painted Desert. Suddenly, the local Sheriff arrives looking for its inhabitant, a reclusive hermit known as Preacher, who converses mainly in Bible quotes. Devlin evades the experienced Sheriff’s questions and offers for Robby to come with her. As the men prepare to move on, Preacher wanders out of the darkness. Devlin’s persistence and Preacher’s kindness compete for Robby’s fate. “Painted Desert” is produced with support from and in coordination with Door County Reads and its exploration of “Raft of Stars” by Andrew J. Graff.
Smith, a member of the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis and an educator with Rochester Public Schools, has had his work produced at the Rochester Repertory Theater. His plays have been first runner-up for the Northern Michigan University Department of Theatre and Dance’s Panowski Playwriting Award and the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) New Play Contest. His play “The Violin Maker” was a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and The American Blues Theater’s Blue Ink Playwriting Award. “Painted Desert” was a finalist at the 2017 Palm Beach Dramaworkshop, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and Wordsmyth Theatre Company’s reading series in Houston, Texas.
Door County residents and actors Amy Ensign (“Almost Maine”) and Mark Moede (“The Full Monty,” “The Hollow,” “And Then There Were None”) are cast as the concerned Sheriff and the charming Devlin. Ensign is the artistic director of Door Shakespeare, an actor, director and theater educator. She has performed in The Play’s The Thing readings of “Population 485,” “Tales of Men and Ghosts,” “Haunted: The Great Lakes Ghost Project,” “Who Am I This Time (& Other Conundrums of Love),” and “A Trip to Bountiful.” Moede and his wife, Mary White, founded Door County’s Theatre M in 1991, and he has more than three decades of performance and directing credits in various states, countries and languages. He performed in readings of “Apparitions,” “Population 485” and “Miss Holmes.” Both Ensign and Moede have stage credits with Door Shakespeare, Northern Sky Theater, Third Avenue Playhouse and performances at Woodwalk Gallery.
Lee Palmer (“Ghost the Musical,” “A Murder is Announced”) is cast as the enigmatic Preacher and, making his Peninsula Players Theatre debut, Kenneth Hamilton as Robby. Palmer is a Joseph Jefferson Award nominee and recipient of an African American Arts Alliance (AAAA) Black Excellence Award for his portrayal of Becker, the family patriarch, in August Wilson’s “Jitney” at Congo Square Theatre. Palmer’s additional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Fulton Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre and on television, “Empire” (FOX) and “Chicago Fire” (NBC).
Hamilton is currently performing in “Much Ado About Nothing” at Milwaukee Repertory Theater and will understudy Steppenwolf Theatre’s upcoming production of “Describe the Night.” Hamilton was an apprentice acting company member of American Players Theatre, a resident ensemble member at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and has performed with the American Shakespeare Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Court Theatre and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
The Play’s the Thing continues Monday, March 6, with “Changing Channels” by John Reeger and “i” by Jeff Talbott on Monday, April 3. The casts for these play readings are yet to be announced. A complete listing of Door County Reads events is available at www.doorcountylibrary.org/doorcountyreads.html.
The Play’s the Thing 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 Theatre. The Play’s the Thing is part of the theater’s winter outreach programming, presenting professional play readings for the public. Learn more about Peninsula Players Theatre and its 2023 season at www.peninsulaplayers.com.