Kettle Moraine Players Wins Twink Lynch Organizational Achievement Award By The American Association Of Community Theatre

The award will be presented to KMP in June, at the AACT national conference in Louisville, KY.

By: Apr. 20, 2023
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Kettle Moraine Players Wins Twink Lynch Organizational Achievement Award By The American Association Of Community Theatre

Kettle Moraine Players (KMP), a community theater company in Slinger, WI, has just been named the winner of the Twink Lynch Organizational Achievement Award by the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT). The award will be presented to KMP in June, at the AACT national conference in Louisville, KY.

The award is given to one outstanding community theater company in the nation each year. Only 25 theater companies have received this prestigious award, and KMP is the first company in Wisconsin to receive this honor. Criteria for the award include successfully completing major steps in new directions, expanding services to their community, or moving to the next level of organizational development. The award is named for Twink Lynch, who devoted her life to community theatre and to serving as a mentor to both individuals and community theatres across the country.

"This is a real honor for us," said Ray VonGunten, chair of KMP's Board of Directors. "Our little theater is a powerhouse of great entertainment, and it's great to see it getting recognition at the national level."

KMP was founded in 2006 by John Brandl and Alan Venturini as an itinerant company, producing shows in many towns in Southeastern Wisconsin, including Campbellsport, Fond du Lac, Kewaskum, Hartford and DePere. In 2017 the company made a permanent home in what was once St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Slinger. KMP purchased the 1886 church, and transformed it into Kettle Moraine Playhouse, a 64-seat performing arts venue, with stadium seating, outstanding acoustics, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and a two-story stage.

Renovation began June 1, 2017, and the theater opened with its first production just four months later. Contractors were used for exterior framing, roof, concrete, electrical, plumbing, drywall, floor covering, HVAC and lighting truss installation. KMP volunteers handled painting and interior framing, and all stage and catwalk construction, saving $50,000.

"We had a lot of experience building sets for a play; how hard could it be to build a playhouse?" laughed co-founder Alan Venturini. "It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. Kettle Moraine Playhouse is an amazing place."

KMP has grown dramatically since then. The company now puts on seven productions in a season, with seven to eleven performances of each show, and an annual attendance of more than 3,000.

The company hones its craft through competitions, and it has been successful. In January, KMP won a state-wide competition with its performance of Three Viewings by Jeffrey Hatcher. The competition was run by the Wisconsin Association of Community Theatre (WACT), a chapter of AACT. Since its founding, KMP has won a total of 17 state awards, two regional and two national awards, and has received an additional five national nominations, making it one the most decorated community theaters in the state.

This year, KMP took home three state awards, including "Outstanding Scenic Design" (John Brandl), "Outstanding Actress" (Jovon Serrano), and "Outstanding Production". The company will advance to the Regional AACT competition in Beaver Dam at the end of April. There, they'll compete against the top shows from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The winner of that competition will advance to the AACT National competition in Louisville in June.

"We knew we were creating something special when we created Kettle Moraine Players," said co-founder John Brandl. "We couldn't produce award winning theatre without an award winning organization."

As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the COVID shut-down was especially challenging. Even though some relief funding was made available to non-profit organizations, KMP did not qualify for those funds, as the funding was made to theaters with at least one W-2 payroll employee, and KMP is all-volunteer. It managed the shut-down with creative virtual programming and fundraising, and according to VonGunten, is among the few community theaters not operating at a financial loss.

VonGunten attributes KMP's success to a dedicated volunteer staff, an artistic director and reading group that selects a great mix of classics, comedies, and original works by local playwrights, wonderfully talented directors and actors, a marketing director who does a stellar job of promoting the shows, and a budget committee that develops long-term strategies to keep the company on track.

Tickets are available now at www.kmplayhouse.com for the AACT Regional competition in Beaver Dam on April 29 and for the final show of the KMP season, "Third Week In August," which will be playing at the Kettle Moraine Playhouse May 5-14.

For more information on Kettle Moraine Players, please contact Ray VonGunten at board@kmplayhouse.com, or visit www.kmplayhouse.com.



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