Play Selection Not a Random Act

July 7, 2005

Our 2005 season is off and running.  Our first show, “The Uneasy Chair,” is a wonderful and witty comedy set in London in the 1880s.  Following “The Uneasy Chair” will be “Red Herring” (July 13-31); “Tom, Dick and Harry” (August 3 – 21); and “Escanaba in Da Moonlight” (August 24 – September 18).

So how do we come up with the play selections?  What influences our decision making process?  Where do we find these plays?

Our first criteria are to find the most interesting, fun and challenging plays we can.

We search the theatrical landscape, read countless scripts, and see hundreds of shows a year trying to find those gems that we believe will work in Fish Creek.  Our search spans the country and includes seeing shows in Chicago, New York City and elsewhere.  Believe me it’s not an exact science.  It relies much more on instinct, intuition and feeling than any precise and measurable standard.

Sometimes it comes down to picking a show because it’s perfect for a specific actor, like the year we did “Amadeus” because I knew Greg Vinkler would be wonderful in the lead role of Salieri.  Or last season when we chose “Broadway Bound” with Carmen Roman in mind.  Actually, that happens quite a bit.  We look at the group of plays we are considering and try to match those plays with actors in our talent pool.

The other key in the selection process is the fact that we are a resident theatre company.  What that means for the Peninsula Players is that we bring together a wonderful group of actors and utilize their talents in more than one show during the season.  Actors generally perform in one show at night and are in rehearsals for a different show during the day.  So when putting together the season I have to track actors from one show to the next.

That’s not as easy as it sounds.  An actor may be perfect for play one, but not really right for a role in play two.  And that dilemma frequently creates a great opportunity.  One of the wonderful things about a resident company is watching actors stretch themselves beyond their type.  So the actor who is perfect for the lead in play one will have the chance to play a role in play two he or she wouldn’t usually get a crack at.  Actors love those challenges.

I remember a few years ago casting the very handsome leading man David New in the role of Mortimer, a rather down and out character in the musical “The Fantasticks.”  David blackened out a couple of teeth, put on a fake nose, and had a blast playing completely against his matinee idol good looks.

So how did we choose this year’s shows?  We found “The Uneasy Chair” through a connection with Michael Halberstam, Artistic Director of Writer’s Theatre in suburban Chicago.  Michael called Greg Vinkler in to read the part of Captain Wickett.  Greg loved the show, gave me a copy to read and voila, it became our first show of the season.

I had heard about our second show, “Red Herring,” a few years ago when I directed another play by the same author (Michael Hollinger) in Chicago.  Michael came to see the production and after telling him about Peninsula Players, he suggested “Red Herring.”  Last winter I finally got around to reading the script and also had the opportunity to see a production of the play at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Ill.  It was a great read and a fun production and the number of characters and types fit nicely with the casting requirements for “The Uneasy Chair.”

Next week I’ll talk about how we came up with our last two shows.  Until then stop by and see our wonderful production of “The Uneasy Chair.”  You can call the box office at 868-3287 or visit our website at  See you at the theatre!