SALOON to Open Peninsula Players 78th Season, Begin. 6/11

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Peninsula Players Theatre, America's oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County's theatrical icon, opens its 78th season June 11 with the Wisconsin première of "Saloon" by Terry Twyman, a gritty, often raucous, cowboy tale set in the Old West with a real never-say-die spirit.

"Saloon" is a slice of Americana, 1871 when cowboys lived by the Golden Rule of fair play, hospitality, loyalty and honor. "'Saloon' reminds us that the things that shape our lives are often the things over which we have the least control," playwright Twyman said.

Twyman set out to write a play about cowboys. His father gave him a book which was about the evolution of the cowboy during the latter half of the 19th century. "There are few westerns written for the stage," Twyman said. "The plot of 'Saloon' rose from the pages as I read it."

A greenhorn cowpuncher from Kentucky yearns for adventure in the unsettled American West. Caney Fork saddles up with seasoned cattlemen Ottawa Watson, Red Sterling and Nathan Foley to round-up and drive cattle from Mexico all the way to Kansas in hopes of selling them for a profit.

Both Ottawa and Red are striking out on their own after working many seasons for Charlie Goodnight. Goodnight was a real Texas cattle baron in the 1870s who owned more than 100,000 head of cattle and more than 2,000 square miles of Texas land.

Life on the trail for the men is full of campfire stories, joshing, each other and adventure. They eventually arrive at the tiny railhead of Crosstie, Kansas in hopes of selling the herd. The harrowing journey at the end of the cattle season makes selling the herd more complicated than the cattlemen counted on.

While seeking a buyer, the cowboys look for respite and refreshments in the local settlement's make-shift saloon run by young Katy. While enjoying Katy's hospitality they negotiate with a Northern cattle buyer, Charles T. Fuller. Life-threatening circumstances arise that test the men's steely resolution.

"Saloon" is under the direction of Players veteran Tom Mula who celebrates his 19th season with the Peninsula Players. Mula has performed in many plays, including last season's "Opus," "Chicago," and has directed "Making God Laugh," "Amadeus," "The Lion in Winter," "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Greetings!"

"Saloon" features returning Players' company members Joe Foust ("Making God Laugh," "Around the World in 80 Days"), Neil Friedman ("Lombardi," "Greetings!") , Sean Fortunato ("Chicago," "Doubt," "Making God Laugh"), Callie Johnson ("Chicago," "Murder on the Nile",) Artistic Director Greg Vinkler ("Opus," "Heroes") and newcomer Harter Clingman.

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 cast includes Vinkler (Ottawa Watson) as the experienced range hand and mentor to the younger men; Fortunato (Red Sterling) as an ambitious cowhand trying to be a drover, the one who heads the drive; Foust (Nathan Foley) as an embittered Civil War veteran; and Clingman (Caney Fork) as the fresh-to-the trail cowhand, who is more book-learned than trail-educated.

Friedman and Johnson portray the two remaining residents at the settlement; Katy is the remaining worker at the saloon, and Fuller is a broker for the Great American Cattle Company in Chicago.

"Saloon" has award-winning designers whose work has graced the stages of regional theaters as well as past shows at The Players. Designers include scenic designer Jack Magaw ("Opus," "Heroes," "A Few Good Men"); costume designer Pamela J. Rehberg ("Murder on the Nile," "Making God Laugh"); lighting designer Stephen Roy White ("Opus," "Murder on the Nile"); sound designer Cecil Averett ("Making God Laugh," "Murder on the Nile"); and properties designer Sarah E. Ross ("Lombardi," "Chicago").

The Peninsula Players perform Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. with a 4 p.m. matinee June 30. Discount tickets are available for season ticket holders and groups. Individual tickets are also available. Individual ticket prices to "Saloon" range from $33 to $40. 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.

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