Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, is thrilled to announce its artistic company for its 88th season, performing June 13 through October 15, 2023. Nestled in Door County, along Wisconsin’s scenic shore, the professional theater 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 is an exciting time at the theater when our staff, interns, cast and creative teams begin to gather on our campus,” said Artistic Director Linda Fortunato. “The teams have been meeting for months over video calls sharing sketches and research, discussing artistic choices and making creative decisions. It is thrilling to greet the company, start rehearsals and watch all those choices materialize on stage.”
The “must-see” 2023 season opens with a brand-new play by Sean Grennan. This is the fourth of Grennan’s plays to make its world première at Peninsula Players Theatre. His previous works, “Making God Laugh,” “The Tin Woman” and “Now and Then,” have all been audience favorites.
The season line-up includes a classic comedy, a dance-driven musical, a loving and insightful memoir and a madcap whodunit. The small army of artists consists of 18 actors, 15 designers, 10 interns, six administrators, four directors, four scenic painters, three musicians, three carpenters, three stage managers, three cooks, two costumers, two properties artisans, a sound and lighting supervisor, a draftsman/technical director, a landscape artist and lots of collaboration.
“The 2023 company is versatile and exceptionally talented,” Fortunato said. “The shows slated for this season need performance, design, and style choices that include comedy and drama, singing and dancing, and can take audiences from present day to a 1930s English home, 1930s Broadway, a 1960s home office and finally to the moors of England.” Company members work in professional theaters across the United States, internationally and in film, television, podcasts and audio narration. 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 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship, Nicholas Ruddall Prize and Helen Hayes Award.
Fortunato will direct “A Rock Sails By” and choreograph and direct the happy-tappy, dance-laced musical “Dames at Sea” with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and music by Jim Wise. Returning to the theater are directors Brendon Fox (“Alabama Story,” “Opus”), who is slated to helm Noël Coward’s witty and smart comedy “Blithe Spirit;” Melanie Keller (“Murder for Two”) spearheads Joanna McClelland Glass’s award-winning memoir “Trying;” and making her Peninsula Players Theatre directorial debut is Maggie Kettering, who performed in “Miss Holmes,” “Outside Mullingar” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” taking on “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.” Stage Manager Kaitlin Kitzmiller returns for her fifth season, Kimberly Ann McCann returns for her third, and Casie Morell for her second season. Morell participated in the theater’s internship program in 2015.
“A Rock Sails By” (June 13 – July 2) will feature the debut of actors Janet Ulrich Brooks, Rebecca Hurd, Sadieh Rifai, Travis Turner and Peninsula Players Theatre veteran actor Sean Fortunato. “A Rock Sails By” was a part of the theater’s 2022 The Play’s the Thing, a winter play reading series in which Brooks participated. The creative team includes Sarah E. Ross, scenic design (“Now and Then,” “The Tin Woman,” “The Actuary”); Kyle Pingel-Hickey, costume design (“I and You,” “Almost, Maine,” “Nunsense”); Guy Rhodes, lighting design (“Ripcord,” “Ghost The Musical”); and Joe Court, sound design; (“The Rainmaker,” “Silent Sky,” “Romance in D”). “A Rock Sails By” is produced in conjunction with the statewide World Premiere Wisconsin* festival.
“Blithe Spirit” (July 5 – July 23) centers around novelist Charles Condomine, portrayed by Sean Fortunato (“The Rainmaker,” “Talley’s Folly,” “The Drowsy Chaperone”), who invites a medium to perform a séance at his home with hilarious and troublesome consequences. The cast includes Brooks, Jackson Evans (“Peter and the Starcatcher,” “The Full Monty”), Hurd, Heidi Kettenring (“The Taffetas”), Rifai and, making her Peninsula Players Theatre debut, Maya McQueen. The creative team includes Angela Weber Miller, scenic design (“Ripcord”); Kärin Simonson Kopischke, costume design (“Write Me a Murder,” “Ripcord”); Jason Lynch, lighting design (“I and You”); and Victoria Deiorio, sound design (“Wait Until Dark,” “Opus,” “Born Yesterday”).
“Dames at Sea” (July 26 – August 13) is Broadway’s dance-driven delight featuring a fresh-faced Ruby, portrayed by newcomer McQueen, who arrives in 1930s New York City with only a pair of tap shoes and a dream of performing on Broadway. Portraying the dancers, singers and sailors Ruby meets along the way in this tap-happy gem are Evans, Kettenring and, making their Door County debuts are Ben Dow, Kelly Felthous and Joey Stone. David Corlew, who performed in last autumn’s “Murder for Two,” returns as musical director; Jack Magaw, scenic design (“Romance in D,” “I and You,” “Talley’s Folly”); Kopischke, costume design; Rhodes, lighting design; and Joe Palermo, sound design (“Murder for Two”).
“Trying” (August 16 – September 3) is an award-winning memoir of two polar opposites trying to understand each other. It is based on the playwright’s emotionally charged time as Judge Francis Biddle’s personal secretary. Biddle served as Franklin Roosevelt’s Attorney General and the chief American judge at the Nuremberg Trials. Returning actor Lee E. Ernst (“A Fox on the Fairway,” “Opus” and “A Few Good Men”) is cast as the brilliant and refined Biddle, and Emiley Kiser makes her Peninsula Players Theatre debut as Biddle’s new secretary, the young and tenacious Sarah, fresh from the Canadian prairie. Director Keller’s creative team includes Magaw, scenic design; Evelyn Danner, costume design (“The Rainmaker”); Stephen Roy White, lighting design (“Murder for Two,” “Silent Sky”); and Christopher Kriz, sound design (“Ripcord,” “Miss Holmes,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”).
“Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” (September 6 – October 15) brings audiences non-stop thrills and laughs when Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson must crack the mystery of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” before a family curse dooms its newest heir. Making their debuts are Allen Gilmore as Sherlock Holmes and Steve Pickering as Dr. Watson. Also making their debuts are Kevin Tre’Von Patterson and Eric Damon Smith, who, alongside returning actor Christie Coran (“A Murder is Announced,” “Ghost The Musical”), will be portraying more than 38 characters in this murderously funny adventure. Director Kettering’s creative team includes Eleanor Kahn, scenic design; Kopischke, costume design; Cat Wilson, lighting design; and Kriz, sound design.
Peninsula Players Theatre is a professional, not-for-profit theater that employs 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.
Peninsula Players Theatre performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. in the summer except for Sundays, July 2, July 23, August 13, and September 3 at 2:00 p.m. The audience pavilion’s side panels, doors and vents will remain open throughout the summer season. Patrons should dress for the weather and be prepared for shifting temperatures and breezes off the bay.
With the opening of its autumn season, on September 6, curtain times change to Tuesday through Sundays at 7:00 p.m., except for October 1, and October 15 at 2:00 p.m. Starting in the cooler months of autumn, the theater’s in-floor radiant heat will be turned on, and the sides, doors and vents will be closed during performances. Patrons are reminded to dress for the weather as the doors will open and close to let patrons inside the seating area during pre-show and intermission.
Ticket prices for the 2023 season range from $42 to $51, and students 18 and under receive a 50% discount. Group leaders may make reservations for 15 or more by phoning the Box Office at (920) 868-3287. Season, individual and student ticket information, Gift Certificates, ticket prices, curtain times and more are available at www.peninsulaplayers.com.
Peninsula Players Theatre is America’s oldest professional resident summer theater. It is unique for its diverse productions, continuing loyalty to a resident company, and beautiful setting of 16 wooded acres along the cedar-lined shores of Green Bay. In the past 88 years, the theater has become a Door County landmark and cornerstone arts institution, attracting audience members from throughout Wisconsin and nationwide.
*World Premiere Wisconsin (WPW) is a statewide festival celebrating new plays and musicals from March 1 – June 30, 2023. For more information and a list of participating theaters, visit worldpremierewisconsin.com.