Fish Creek, Wisconsin – Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, announces cast members for its 78th season, running June 11 through October 20. The mix of plays includes a gritty cowboy tale, a world première comedy, a Tony Award-winning musical, the Wisconsin première of a funny whodunit as well as a family comedy.
Peninsula Players is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, and employs professional actors for all of its productions. Company members work in regional theaters from Los Angeles to New York, as well as in film, television and radio.
The season and casts were selected by the Players’ Artistic Director Greg Vinkler who returns to Peninsula Players for his 25th season. He has directed many Peninsula Players shows including last season’s “Chicago,” and “Lombardi” and acted in many others including “Opus,” “Heroes,” “Fools,” “Broadway Bound,” “A Man for All Seasons” and “Art.”
“To start all the fun and open our 78th season we are presenting a western,” Vinkler said, “a gritty cowboy tale set in the Old West by Terry Twyman. It features a young, inexperienced cowpuncher yearning for adventure who rides the trail with seasoned cowboys. It is filled with camaraderie, humor and grit.” “Saloon,” June 11 – June 30, is under the direction of Tom Mula and features returning Players’ company members Joe Foust, Neil Friedman, Sean Fortunato, Callie Johnson, Vinkler and newcomer Harter Clingman.
The cast of “Saloon” are familiar faces to Players audiences having performed in “Chicago,” (Fortunato, Johnson); “A Little Night Music,” (Friedman, Fortunato); and “Is He Dead?” (Foust, Friedman). Mula celebrates his 19th season with the Peninsula Players. Mula performed in many plays including last season’s “Opus” and “Chicago” and has directed “Making God Laugh,” “Amadeus,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Greetings!.”
The Players second offering is the world première of “Once a Ponzi Time” by Joe Foust, July 3 – July 21. This frenzied comic romp features Players’ veterans Paul Slade Smith (“Chicago,” “The Nerd”); Tim Monsion, (“Opus,” “Heroes,” “The Fox on the Fairway”); Neil Friedman, (“Over the Tavern,” “Lombardi”); and two newcomers Molly Glynn and Noah Simon. They will be under the direction of Linda Fortunato, who directed “The Fox on the Fairway” and “The Nerd.”
“Joe has been a popular member of the Players company for quite a while, and has performed in some our sillier shows over the years,” Vinkler said. “They inspired Joe to write this comedy while he was with us in the 2011 season, with the hope that we would produce it first. And we are!”
“Sunday in the Park with George” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine will be presented July 24 to August 11. “This musical is a beautiful piece of work about the driven world of the artist Georges Seurat – and about everyone who strives in their life for creativity and purpose,” Vinkler said. “It is one of my favorite musicals, and I’ll be directing it with the many Door County residents and visitors in mind who are drawn to the rich abundance of artists and craftsmen in this area.”
“Sunday in the Park with George” will feature Sean Fortunato as George; Cassie Slater of “A Little Night Music” and “Cabaret”; Slade Smith, Clingman, Monsion and Friedman. Other returning Players’ veterans include Peggy Roeder, (“Over the Tavern,” “A Little Night Music”); Jim Rank (“A Little Night Music”) Erin Noel Grennan, (“Making God Laugh,” “The Foreigner”); Linda Fortunato, (“Wait Until Dark,” “The Importance of Being Earnest”); Brandon Dalquist (“Murder on the Nile,” “Lombardi”); and McKinley Carter (“Panic” “A Little Night Music.”) Newcomers to the Players stage include Amanda Hartley, Naama Friedman and Rachel Klippel.
Vinkler is always on the lookout for wonderful and purely fun comedies. “When I heard that Ken Ludwig, who wrote the hilarious ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ and ‘Fox on the Fairway,’ had just written a whodunit, I knew it was something I wanted to get a hold of,” Vinkler said. “Actor William Gillette invites the cast of his Sherlock Holmes play to his castle in Connecticut, yes castle, for Christmas. When one of the guests is unexpectedly stabbed, mayhem and hilarity ensue.”
The Wisconsin première of Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot ,” Aug. 14 – Sept. 1, will be directed by Kimberly Senior. After Senior directed the Players production of “Murder on the Nile” last season, her next project was at Lincoln Center Theater in New York directing “Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar, which was recently awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Senior will direct a cast of Players veterans in “The Game’s Afoot” including Carter, Foust, Glynn, Grennan, Klippel, Roeder, Slade Smith and Vinkler.
“I read ‘Miracle on South Division Street’ by Tom Dudzick and laughed out loud and knew immediately it was something I wanted to bring to our audiences,” Vinkler said. “It’s a funny, touching play about a family and what they do when they discover that some of the things they took for granted – about who they are and what their family history is – are not true at all.” Kristine Thatcher (“Over the Tavern,” “Panic” and “The Importance of Being Earnest”) returns to direct Foust, Glynn, Grennan and Roeder. “Miracle on South Division Street” will run Sept. 4 – Oct. 20.
“We truly hope our audiences enjoy the great variety of the Peninsula Players 78th year,” Vinkler said. “The plays are filled with enduring family relationships, romantic froth, intense western drama and humor, zany exploits and sophisticated adults trying to create art and celebrate life. The 78th season has so much for everyone to enjoy!”
Peninsula Players has been entertaining and exciting audiences since 1935, when the theater opened behind the Bonnie Brook Motel in Fish Creek on July 25, with Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever.” The company was founded by a brother and sister team, Caroline and Richard Fisher, who dreamed of an artistic utopia in the northwoods where actors, designers and technicians could focus on their craft while being surrounded by nature in a contemplative setting. Peninsula Players moved to the theater’s present location along the shore of Green Bay in 1937.
Prior to performances, patrons picnic and relax on the grounds while watching the setting sun over the waters of Green Bay from the cedar-lined shore and enjoy the ambience of the beer garden and other gardens.
The Fishers’ dream lives on as professional actors, directors and designers work side-by-side with college interns while living on the Players 16-acre campus as they bring audiences a variety of works including dramas, mysteries, comedies and musicals.
The Peninsula Players perform Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. in the summer. With the opening of the fall show Sept. 4, curtain times are Tuesday through most Sundays at 7 p.m. The closing performance of each show will have a 4 p.m. matinee, June 30, July 21, August 11, Sept. 1, 29 and Oct. 20.
Discount tickets are available for season ticket holders and groups. Individual tickets are also available. Individual ticket prices range from $34 to $43. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets phone the Peninsula Players box office at 920-868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.