An embarrassment of riches

TAP’s Co-artistic Director, James Valcq chats about the start of this year’s Door County Summer theater season in TAP’s Key to the Door article. “Don’t force yourself to choose. Visit us all!”

The start of the summer theater season hereabouts means many exciting things to the folks at Door County’s four professional theaters (Peninsula Players, Northern Sky Theater, Door Shakespeare, and Third Avenue Playhouse).

Often it means cranking open the doors of storage spaces that have hibernated all winter long and bringing out lighting equipment, scenery pieces, costumes, and even seating units to prepare them for use over the summer months.

It’s a bit different for us at Third Avenue Playhouse. As Door County’s only year-round professional theater, TAP’s equipment has been in continuous use during “the offseason.”

Nevertheless, we all share certain things across the board, perhaps most significantly the thrill of assembling a fresh company of actors and interns for the season, usually made up of a mix of brand-new faces along with familiar friends who either live in the area or choose to make the Door their theatrical “home away from home.”

Often we share talent as well. Some of our favorite TAP actors, designers, and directors who’ve double, triple, and even quadruple dipped into Door County’s refreshingly deep professional theater pool include Doug Mancheski, Karin Kopischke, Mark Moede, Amy Ensign, Dan Klarer, Chad Luberger, Claire Morkin, Alan Kopischke, Kay Allmand, Drew Brhel, Katherine Duffy, Jonathan Wainwright, Robert Boles, Isaiah Spetz, and yours truly.

Sometimes — albeit rarely — we even seem to share repertoire. Last year, Pen Players offered their own version of our 2013 hit “The 39 Steps,” and this summer their audiences up north will get to see what all the fuss was about when the charming “Almost, Maine” became our first bonafide, sold-out, couldn’t-add-another-folding-chair-without-breaking-the-fire-code hit back in 2012.

As for our 2017 summer season at TAP, putting it together has been the usual balancing act of matching marvelous actors with intriguing material. We’ve always considered TAP to be an “actor’s theater”; in our intimate 84-seat Studio Theatre space, the emphasis is not on a spectacular physical production, but rather on the defining element that makes live theater so thrilling: the relationship between the actor and the audience.

Thus we constantly find ourselves in a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” situation — we’d never choose many of the plays we do without knowing in advance who at least some of the actors will be.

Our first play features Drew Brhel inhabiting the role of the legendary 20th century painter Mark Rothko in John Logan’s brilliant play “Red.” We chose this two-character show specifically for Drew, without knowing who the other half of the cast would be. We found that other half at a large round of auditions in Milwaukee, where a soon-to-be-available Milwaukee Rep intern named Matt Frye impressed us not only with his fine acting but with his lilting tenor as well, which meant that we could also cast him in our second summer production: Leonard Bernstein’s comic — and I do mean comic — operetta “Candide.”

I will have much more to say about “Candide” in future articles. Expect also at least a word or two about Dan Klarer, who’ll round out our season in a remarkable piece of theater called “Every Brilliant Thing.”

For now, with summer just around the corner, all of us who bring you theater in the Door are simultaneously up and running. Having four acclaimed theaters in a community like ours seems like an embarrassment of riches … because it is an embarrassment of riches. My advice: Don’t force yourself to choose. Visit us all. See you this summer.

James Valcq is the co-artistic director of the Third Avenue Playhouse. “Red,” the first production of the summer season, opens on June 29.