The page on the calendar has turned, and the fall season is upon us. Over the Labor Day weekend our tech crew and actors said goodbye to “The Game’s Afoot” and completed the final touches for tonight’s opening night performance of Tom Dudzick’s comedy “Miracle on South Division Street.”
I spent time with director Kristine Thatcher to ask her a few questions.
Q. Is this your first project with Peninsula Players?
A. Heck, no. I think my first trip up here to Theater Heaven was way back in 1990 when I played Jo in “A Few Good Men.” I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited back a number of times over the years to act and direct. Greg even commissioned me to write a play about “the unique character and history of Door County.” That was my favorite assignment. This area is so rich in culture and history, I could have written 50 plays. But the one I came up with was called “Apparitions.” It combines a bit of history and a bit of myth from real historical figures like Roy Thorp and John Cornell, to Robert LaSalle and a Native American called Kee-wah-nay. As a playwright, it’s still my favorite.
Q. Is this the first Tom Dudzick script you have directed?
A. As a matter of fact, I came up here a few years back to direct another of Tom’s plays, one of his best, “Over the Tavern.” It did very well, and if people remember that one, I think they’ll enjoy this one “Miracle on South Division Street” just as much. The one thing both productions have in common, aside from the author, is Peggy Roeder. She was brilliant as Sister Clarissa in “Over the Tavern,” and she is going to be brilliant as Clara, the mother, in “Miracle.” In fact, I wrote to Tom and told him that although I know he doesn’t know Peggy, it seems like he has channeled her. Her voice is perfect for his plays. It’s like they were written just for her. The rest of the cast, Erin Noel Grennan, Joe Foust and Molly Glynn, are stellar, as well. It’s a privilege to watch them all work together in rehearsal each day.
Q. What do you like about Tom’s plays?
A. They are plays about family dynamics for the most part. And it’s obvious that he adored his own family. He writes so lovingly and humorously about each character. You care for every single one. He makes you laugh one minute and cry the next. And he does it without using any cheap tricks. He’s really a brilliant playwright. Don’t they call him the “Catholic Neil Simon?” I think that’s what I’ve heard, and they don’t call him that for nothing.
Q. Can any family relate to his plays?
A. Although his family was Polish Catholic and they were from Buffalo, New York, I think any family can relate. As we have been putting the production together in rehearsal every day, we have each shared funny stories about our own families, and we all come from different backgrounds, different places. Tom has a gift for capturing the universal, all of our common denominators.
Q. How is the family of “Over the Tavern” similar to “Miracle on South Division Street?”
A. They each share a loving bond, for one thing. They work together to overcome personal struggles. And they’re both funnier than hell.
Q. As a mother can you relate to Clara’s concerns for her children?
A. Once you become a mother, your children are your greatest concern. You want the best for them always. You want them to be happy, to succeed, to learn independence. Still, you want them, selfishly, to stay close, to be nearby.
Q. How is this cast to work with?
A. How is this cast to work with? Man oh man, they’re just impossible! Impossibly wonderful, that is! I couldn’t ask for four better people more suited to these roles. The day goes by so quickly because, not only are they funny as the characters, they are funny as themselves. They’re full of ideas, and improvisation, and we all like pie! Every once in a while they turn to me and ask, “What do you think?” I love that. I also love it when they disagree because I can stand up and say, “Settle down, peeps, this is how we’re going to do it.” I’m hoping they have not yet noticed they really could do all this without me.
Q. When in Door County what do like to do on your day off?
A. Brian (Kelsey) teases me, but I’m a fish boil nut. I’m a regular at Pelletier’s. I feel like I am a concierge to the other folks at “boil over” time. “Oh, you’re gonna wanna stand over there.” “Get your cameras ready.” “Be sure to ask him what happens when it rains.” “Yes, you can do this at home!” I also love the galleries, the antique malls and the shops. And I love to swim at the Fish Creek Public Beach and bike in the state park.
Q. Where do you go next?
A. I go home to Michigan after this to finish researching and writing a play commissioned by Terry McCabe, artistic director of City Lit Theater in Chicago, about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I’m calling it “The Bloodhound Law.” As autumn sets in, I will be back in the 19th century traveling the Underground Railroad just ahead of the unjust laws and the bloodhounds and trying to discover if the Civil War isn’t still going on in some subtle or not-so-subtle cultural way. Wish me luck.
The fall season at the Players brings pre-show bonfires and new curtain times. Patrons may want to come early to enjoy the atmosphere in the beer garden. The Luna Bar and concession stand open 90-minutes before the show. “Miracle on South Division Street” is performed Tuesday – Sunday at 7 p.m.; expect for Sundays, Sept. 29 and Oct. 20 at 4 p.m.
For more information on our season or to book tickets visit www.peninsulaplayers.com where you may also see preview videos of our plays. I look forward to seeing you by the bay where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine.
Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager, celebrating her 19th season by the bay.