Reflecting on the First Summer in the New Theater

By Todd Schmidt

September 13, 2006

The fall season is upon us and another glorious Door County summer has faded away.  This summer went by particularly fast here at the Peninsula Players.  The seasons seem to move by at an exponentially increasing speed now, part of my getting older, I presume.

Summer 2006 will be remembered for many milestones here at the grand old lady of summer theaters; the opening of our new state-of-the-art theater being our most conspicuous accomplishment.  We began moving into the new theater in the first part of June and somehow managed to open our glorious production of “Master Class” 20 days later.  Everything wasn’t quite complete (Do you remember the Tyvek wrap on the outside or the big blue tarps covering the openings?) but we had enough in place to put on a great show.

Those last few weeks of around-the-clock construction demonstrated how amazing things can happen when a group of people band together and dedicate themselves to a cause – even when that cause looks impossible.  As Don Quixote sings, “Dream the impossible dream.”  I remember standing on the freshly poured concrete floor in the audience seating area June 14 (six days before opening) and contemplating the best way to deal with the fact that we didn’t have any of the new seats installed (they weren’t even in the state) and the roof wasn’t finished.

My first thought was to call everyone in the audience and ask them to bring a blanket and an umbrella, but two hours of sitting on concrete (even with a blanket) didn’t sound like fun. And we’d probably need more ushers just to help everyone stand up at the end of the show.  My final plan was to pull out a few hundred of the old canvas directors chairs we still had in storage and set them up.  People wouldn’t be pleased, but maybe if I positioned it right we could pull it off.  You know a pitch about being one of the first audiences in the new theater and the stories they could regale their children with about the time they had to sit on the old crappy directors chairs in a brand new theatre.

Luckily the seats arrived the next day and four days later 621 new and comfortable seats were installed and the roof was finished.  Just in time for the opening.  Everyone loves the new padded seats and the excellent sight lines in the new theater.  In fact the new theater has been a resounding success.  While everything in it is new, it magically maintains the Players ambiance and carries on traditions we established over the last 71 years.

The heavy use of natural products (wood and stone) is the first element people notice when they enter the theater.  And then there are the moveable side panels that open on a warm evening to views of the gardens and cedar forest – just like when we’d roll up the canvas sides in the old theater.  The use of color also imitates the old space – red barn colored siding on the outside, natural cedar tones on the inside and a similar green color on the new seats.  A lot of thought went into preserving our old traditions.  As one of our board members said, “We have a jewel at the Players and all we want to do is polish it and give it a new radiance.”

This fall we will also begin to use our radiant in-floor heating system.  Under all the concrete in the audience area are hollow tubes through which warm fluid flows.  This system will take the chill off those cool fall nights making the theater much more comfortable than in previous seasons.

If you haven’t seen our new theater, stop by and take a look.  We are here until October 15, presenting Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit, “The Mousetrap” every Tuesday through Sunday evening.  You can order tickets by calling our box office at 920-868-3287 or visiting our website:  See you at the theatre!

Todd Schmidt is executive producer of Peninsula Players Theatre.