Logan Thomas, Third Avenue Playhouse
I would never claim to be an expert. Not even in fields I’m passionate about. Even when I claim to be a “Seinfeld Historian” I know in my heart that I have not yet earned that designation (although that hasn’t stopped me from ordering the business cards).
I don’t really think of myself as a font of knowledge for any particular thing, but I do see quite a bit of theater. This, of course, is partly due to the fact that I happen to be the production manager at Third Avenue Playhouse, but it also comes down to the fact that I have been lucky enough to be raised in (and now live in) Door County.
As you hopefully know, Door County has a seemingly impossible bounty of theater happening throughout the year, from professional to children’s theater and everything in between. If you weren’t aware of this fact, then please continue reading. This article is for you.
In our modest little community we have been blessed with the opportunity to enjoy four professional theater companies, each with its own flavor and style of production. It’s hard to believe that towns with a population of “Unincorporated” can be host to a professional theater company.
While driving through Door County with some of the actors TAP employed this summer, I would point out the signs welcoming them to Ephraim and Fish Creek, and they would be amazed at how small the populations were. These actors had come from the likes of Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Chicago. City slickers can find incredulous a population of less than 1,000 (to say nothing of my bragging about my high school graduating class of 40).
I suppose what I’m illustrating is that by all rights, this community shouldn’t work. We shouldn’t be able to see almost 20 unique professional theater productions a summer, not to mention a wealth of live music in the county throughout the year. As a community we have this opportunity, so we should capitalize on it.
I don’t believe it is completely uncommon to fall into a rut of comfort. There is a reason that my iPod, although having tens of thousands of songs on it, only gets used to play the best album (“Hall and Oates: Rock ‘n’ Soul Part 1”). It’s not unreasonable to find something you like and stick with it (like the sultry tones of Daryl Hall screaming out the high notes of “Rich Girl”), but I would argue that that’s irresponsible. I truly believe that the power of theater is in the storytelling process, and to get all of your stories from one source, especially when we live in a community with a wealth of sources, is to cut yourself off from potential joy.
It should be our aim to experience as many different perspectives and ideas as possible. So, if you are accustomed to only seeing Northern Sky’s entertaining and humorous musical comedies, maybe experience some Door Shakespeare, also outdoors in the summer. If you have only seen the plush productions offered at Peninsula Players, you should try a provocative, intimate show at Third Avenue Playhouse for a unique experience. How wonderful that there’s room in the county for this diversity.
Theater’s power is linked to the ability of live performances to connect with a viewer. Live performances are participatory. They aren’t something that allows you to just turn your brain off at the door. The audience can affect the performers. An audience that does not open itself to the performance can really derail it, while an audience that buys into the performance can push it to new heights.
This makes it all the more important to see a variety of productions. Participating in something new can be fun or therapeutic, or even frustrate you, in a good way.
Since May, Third Avenue Playhouse has produced four shows: the world premiere of James Valcq’s “Velvet Gentleman,” “Red” by John Logan, Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” and “Every Brilliant Thing” by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahue. I have written before of the different challenges that I experienced in all of these shows. Every one of our productions has been vastly different not only in content of the stories, but also in how these stories are told to the audience. Each play used a unique method of speaking to an audience.
Our co-Artistic Directors, James Valcq and Robert Boles, are constantly striving to do something new with every single show they select to produce here, and I believe that that is what theater should do.
So, please, go see a beautifully produced mystery thriller at Peninsula Players, and experience a roaring Midwest-themed comedy at Northern Sky Theater. Be enthralled by a Shakespearean tragedy during summers at Door Shakespeare. Be affected by a historical piece, a musical, or a one-man show at Third Avenue Playhouse. May I suggest “Every Brilliant Thing” featuring the wonderful Dan Klarer?
Logan Thomas is the production manager at Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay.