Peninsula Players Theatre is excited to announce the cast for its second play reading of The Play’s the Thing, a winter play reading series presented to Door County audiences. A reading of “Changing Channels,” a new play by John Reeger, is scheduled for Monday, March 6, at 7:00 p.m. at Björklunden (7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor.) The cast, under the direction of Artistic Director Linda Fortunato, features actors Frankie Breit, Erica Elam, Andrés Enriquez, Karl Hamilton and Noah Simon. “Changing Channels” contains mature language. 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.
“Changing Channels” is set backstage at the DuMont Television Network in New York City in 1952 and is based on actual events. Television pioneers and stars such as Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleason bring laughter into America’s homes each week, but nobody is laughing behind the cameras when a number of artists are blacklisted for their political beliefs. As Cold War hysteria sweeps the nation, actress Maggie Carlin finds herself accused of being a “comrade to the comrades.” Is it true? Stay tuned.
Reeger is a Chicago award-winning playwright and actor, who grew up in Monroe, Wisconsin, and after graduating from Northwestern University, was a member of the original touring Heritage Ensemble (now Northern Sky Theater) founded by Dave Peterson of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. In 1975, Reeger and his wife Paula Scrofano, who met in college, were among those who performed in Door County’s Peninsula State Park. As an actor, Reeger has more than 150 professional credits at such prestigious Chicago theaters as Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Court Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Northlight Theater, Steppenwolf and Theatre at the Center. In 2011, he received a Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Award for Actor in a Supporting Role – Play for his portrayal of Captain Shotover in “Heartbreak House” at Writers Theatre. In 2016, Reeger and Scrofano received a Career Achievement Jeff Award for their “contribution to Chicago theatre over the past five decades.”
As a playwright, Reeger and his long-time collaborator, the late composer/lyricist Julie Shannon, works include “The Christmas Schooner,” “Stones,” and “Let the Eagle Fly: The Story of Cesar Chavez.” Their final collaboration, “The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes,” earned the 2016 Jeff Award for “New Work.” Shannon died in 2012 and Michael Mahler helped to complete the musical by contributing additional music and lyrics. The duo received an After Dark Award for Outstanding New Work in 1996 when “The Christmas Schooner” premiered at the Bailiwick Repertory; it has received more than 140 productions in theatres throughout the country, in Bristol, England and was produced annually in Chicago for 20 years.
“Changing Channels,” which explores the space between fame and personal freedom, acceptable dissent and political betrayal, made its world premiere at the Fulton Theatre last year. Based on actual events during Hollywood’s Red Scare, “Changing Channels” takes audiences behind the cameras of “For Pete’s Sake,” a fictional 1950s hit comedy show, and into the personal life of one of its stars, Maggie Carlin.
The cast of “Changing Channels” includes Peninsula Players Theatre veteran actors, including Erica Elam, Karl Hamilton and Noah Simon. Elam (“Almost, Maine,” “Now and Then,” “The Actuary,” “The Hollow” and the play readings of “A Rock Sails By,” “Kodachrome” and “The Dust of Death”) will portray Maggie. Maggie’s co-star and television husband, Eddie Gilroy, is Hamilton (“Living on Love,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “Miss Holmes,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”). Eddie’s manager, Bullets Bloomquist, will be played by Simon (“A Trick of the Light,” “Once a Ponzi Time” and the readings of“The Safe House” and “The Gentleman Thief.”) Elam, Hamilton and Simon have numerous regional theater credits.
Making their debuts to Door County audiences are Frankie Breit as Kenny, a studio assistant and Andrés Enriquez as Maggie’s husband, Peter. Breit participated in Peninsula Players Theatre’s internship program in 2022, is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and recently portrayed Buddy in “Elf the Musical” with Birder Studio of Performing Arts in De Pere. Enriquez is a California native who relocated to Chicago in 2012. Since then, he has worked with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, First Folio Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Porchlight Music Theater, Theatre at the Center and appeared in NBC’s “Chicago PD.” In 2019, he was nominated for a Jeff Award for Performer in a Principal Role in a Musical for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at Porchlight Music Theatre.
The Play’s the Thing concludes Monday, April 3, with Jeff Talbott’s “i,” a mysterious love story about the threads that tie us together. A gentle and unsettling new play set a couple days after tomorrow. The cast of “i” will be announced at a later date.
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.