Theater

Review: 'Peninsula Players Presents' to explore actors' worlds

For Shaw Media

Peninsula Players, aka “the theater in the garden,” is Door County’s premier professional theater and America’s oldest residential summer theater.

Founded in 1935 by sister-brother team Caroline and Richard Fisher (Caroline acted, Richard directed), it moved to its present location on 16, cedar-forested acres along the shores of Green Bay in 1937 in Wisconsin. But unlike any other season in its 85-year history, this year there will be no live onstage productions.

On what would have been Peninsula Players’ opening night, however, Artistic Director Greg Vinkler unveiled a new production for this “brief intermission”: “Peninsula Players Presents,” a grand series of interviews with Peninsula Players alumni. And the topics promise to be intriguing, ranging from the alumni’s experiences and their ongoing projects during this pandemic to those welcome juicy backstage tales that everyone wants to hear, especially me.

The conversations are recorded and, for the next 18 weeks, will appear every Tuesday. You can view them immediately upon broadcast or save them for later perusal. All you have to do is go to Peninsula Players’ website (www.peninsulaplayers.com) or that reliable broadcaster YouTube.

Vinkler’s first guest was Oak Park playwright Sean Grennan; he’s had three world premieres at Peninsula Players: “The Tin Woman,” “Now and Then” and my personal favorite, “Making God Laugh.” Grennan is known to Peninsula Players audiences for his acting work in “And Then There Were None” and “Irma Veep,” but he’s perhaps better known to Illinois audiences for his acting and writing work at the Marriott Lincolnshire. Grennan is the best kind of playwright; he’s witty, intelligent, personable, sensitive and fascinated by actors.

To his credit, Vinkler asks the right questions, he lets his guest talk and, best of all, the man listens. This is his 32nd year as Peninsula Players’ artistic director and I can understand why film and stage actors, designers and directors from New York to Los Angeles flock to Peninsula Players. This also is a destination landmark for audiences from all over the United Stated.

Future guests for “Peninsula Players Presents” include Christine Mild, Tom Mula, Erica Elam, Ashley Lanyon, Harter Clingman, Karen Janes Woditsch and Francesca Zambello to mention a few names from the theatrical world. Not bad for a theater that started with “two planks and a passion.”

With the recent distressing news of the closings of Chicago’s Mercury Theater and the iO Theater, I was relieved to hear Vinkler adamantly state, “We don’t plan on going away.” I’m glad – Peninsula Players still has magic to do.

• Regina M. Belt-Daniels has 50 years of theater under her belt, with character roles ranging from a 7-year-old Mother Goose to Mama Rose in her favorite musical, “Gypsy.” She hopes to soon return to acting, directing, teaching and traveling with her husband, and continues to thankfully write theater reviews of online streaming productions.

IF YOU VIEW

WHAT: “Peninsula Players Presents”

WHEN: Weekly episodes on Tuesdays

COST: Free

INFO: www.penisulaplayers.com; YouTube

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