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Summer Stages: Summer Stages in Wisconsin Provide Theater Under the Stars

Wisconsin theater moves to the magnificent outdoors this summer with diverse venues presenting great classical and original productions throughout the state. In Spring Green, Wisconsin, American Players Theatre (APT) has been performing legendary playwrights under the stars for more than 30 years. At the Up the Hill Theatre, Shakespeare's comedy that spars witty conversations between the sexes Much Ado About Nothing features acclaimed actors Colleen Madden and David Daniel in the beloved roles of Beatrice and Benedict. In the company's new indoor Touchstone Theatre, Brenda DeVita directs her first production as APT's new Artistic Director. Sarah Day plays Joan Didion in the adaptation from Didion's award winning memoir in her play The Year of Magical Thinking. APT extended their season in 2014 with five Up the Hill Play and now four productions instead of three in the Touchstone that runs through November.

Amid the recreational beauty of Wisconsin state park's and Lake Michigan's shoreline, Door County presents a bounty of productions throughout the summer. Peninsula State Park's American Folklore Theatre (APT), currently undergoing a name change to Northern Sky Theater, produces their World Premiere Strings Attached beginning mid June. Written by two time Richard Rodgers Award Winner Dave Hudson in collaboration with Englishman Colin Welford, the "tune of tangled twins" reframes Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors for the far reaches of Northern Wisconsin co directed by Artistic Director Jeffrey Herbst and Pam Kriger.

AFT spun off another theater group Door Shakespeare in 1995, with outdoor theater performed in the gardens at Björklunden, a retreat center and extension of Lawrence University. Artistic Director Amy J. Ludwigsen brings a former Milwaukee Rep intern Leda Hoffmann to the peninsula for her directorial debut with the company in their traditional version of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. The popular Door Shakespeare runs two plays each season, and also features King Lear beginning in July.

One of America's oldest summer professional theater troupes, a tradition in Door County for almost 80 years, Peninsula Players Theatre stages a five play season. The Midwest premiere of Butler directed by Kristine Thatcher features a civil war drama capturing a witty confrontation between a Union officer and Southern slave and represents only one highlight from this company located directly on the shores of Green Bay.

Also performing in Door County's prolific cultural community, Robert Boles and James Valcq produce Stage Door Theatre Company's five play season at Sturgeon Bay's Third Avenue Playhouse. One selection that opens on July 30, Trick Boxing transports the comedy team Sossy Mechanics (Brain Sostek and Megan McClellan) to the 80 plus seat theater, a clever performance mingling boxing, dance and music that has received rave reviews world wide. However, their summer season begins with Lanford Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning play, Talley's Follly on July 2.

In Milwaukee, Optimist Theatre recreates Free Shakespeare in the Park with their summer production The Winters Tale. Artistic Director Ron Scot Fry and Managing Director Susan Scot Fry found a home for their annual production at Alice Bertschy Kadish Park to honor the long time tradition originating in New York's Central Park so theater can be accessed by anyone and everyone during the balmy weather where picnicking and wine drinking are welcome.

Fortunately, Wisconsin provides unique opportunities for women in every aspect of theater, whether in the roles of Artistic Directors, directors, performers or stage technicians, far ahead of the country's status quo and recognized by the above mentioned professional theater companies. This summer, Milwaukee's Renaissance Theaterworks (RTW) finished their 21st season with the tenth anniversary of the production Skin Tight (seen in photo above) which was a small beginning to Milwaukee's renaissance for women in theater.

This summer RTW moves forward with their innovative program for Midwestern women playwrights: Brink! A New Works Movement. Two staged readings at the city's Broadway Theatre Center on August 18 and 19 feature a pair of completely original plays through formal stage readings by Gwendolyn Rice and Janet Burroway selected from more than 35 entries. Already donations over $9,000 dollars have been raised to inspire plays from talented women throughout the Midwest. For more information on the Brink! program, visit the

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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan