September brings a different pace to Peninsula Players. Our shop crew switches focus from building scenery to helping with maintenance and grounds projects. The entire company takes Monday off from work, and the actors are no longer in double-duty.
Double-duty is when an actor is in rehearsal for one show during the day and performing in another show at night.
The biggest change is that the curtain time moves to 7 p.m. So everything that needs to be done in preparation for the show shifts as well. The pre-sets are moved up. Pre-sets are all of the things the stage crew needs to prep for the performance. Everything from sweeping, mopping, and ironing costumes to checking the lighting and sound equipment and making any repairs needed to the set.
Patrons are enjoying the change as well. The earlier curtain time gives them more time to enjoy Mother Nature and the sunsets over the bay. Ambiance is enhanced by the preshow bonfire and the locally pressed hot cider we’ve added to our fare.
At the height of the season the costume shop, scene shop and rehearsal hall are buzzing with activity in preparation of the next show. With the opening of Tom Dudzick’s “Miracle on South Division Street” the daytime pace may have slowed a bit, but patrons are flocking to visit with the Nowak family.
Theatergoers familiar with Tom Dudzick will recognize him as the creator of “Greetings!” and “Over the Tavern,” both plays focused on families. In “Over the Tavern” Dudzick used his father, who raised his family over a tavern in Buffalo, New York, as inspiration for his warmhearted family comedy.
In an interview with Doug Shanaberger, Dudzick gave a little background to the inspiration of “Miracle on South Division Street.”
“It’s about the uncovering of mysteries and secrets in a family,” Dudzick said. “It’s also about an actual landmark in the neighborhood where I grew up—a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary—which is still there after all these years, preserved, even though the neighborhood itself has been decimated.
“I did have a religious upbringing, the same as many of my characters had, at home and in Catholic school. Very traditional. I even thought about becoming a priest until I met Cindy Sowinski in the sixth grade, and of course, that plan went right out the window. (Laughs) But that was my background, and it was inevitable that religion would play a major role in my work. Not in every play, though. I wrote ‘Don’t Talk to the Actors,’ a backstage comedy, because my wife said to me, ‘Can’t you write something that’s just funny?’ I had a good time writing it.”
The average family in his tales often faces a challenge. A challenge they tackle head-on with humor.
It is fun to listen to the audience reaction to the surprises thrown at the Nowak family. I’ve heard slow chuckles and belly laughs to gasps of surprise and thunderous roars of laughter.
The Nowaks have been maintaining a shrine to the Blessed Mother since 1943 when Grandpa had a miraculous vision in his barbershop. Clara and her three children have embraced Grandpa’s vision dispite taunts of neighborhood children and the disparaging comments of nuns at school. Clara has held the faith of the vision through the decades and now runs a soup kitchen in the former barbershop. A deathbed confession unravels the legend with uproarious results.
Critic-at-large for WFRV-TV Warren Gerds gave the production four and one-half out of five stars. He also praised the interplay among the cast for giving the feel of “home.”
“Miracle on South Division Street” is a fast paced 80-minute romp with no intermission. Enjoy a visit with a loving family filled with pearls of wisdom dispensed by Mom, parental anxiety about one sibling skipping Mass, and adult siblings bickering which causes Mom to shout, “I’ll separate you two!” Join the Players early and relax around the bonfire in the beer garden before settling in for a stay with the Nowaks.
If you have access to the internet, visit the Players YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/PenPlayers for a sneak peak video of the show that has patrons laughing all the way home. For more information visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or call the Box Office at 920-868-3287. I hope to see you by the bay where the sun sets, the laughs bounce off the shoreline and the bonfire burns brightly.
Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager, celebrating her 19th season by the bay.