Putting together the Playhouse team

TAP’s Marketing and Development Director, Amy Ensign, introduces the Company for TAP’s first show of the Summer/Fall season (RED, running 6/29 – 7/22) in this week’s TAP column for the Key to the Door

First of June may be the official start of summer in meteorological circles, but a TAP summer begins when the company arrives.

The first day of rehearsal for the first show of the summer/fall season (“Red” by John Logan) was last Tuesday. After months and months of preparation, the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together. And it looks great.

As TAP’s office manager, Margaret Magle, was putting the finishing touches on an actor’s home-away-from-home, Drew Brhel arrived. We are delighted to welcome Drew back for his fourth season with Third Avenue Playhouse. This year he’ll play the artist Mark Rothko in “Red,” running June 29 to July 22, and Voltaire in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” running July 27 to Sept. 2.

TAP audiences might recognize him as the love of my life (Matt Friedman) when I had the joy of performing with him in “Talley’s Folly.” He has also played Bellomy in TAP’s production of “The Fantasticks,” and Frank in “Educating Rita.” Last summer, he was our artist-in-residence, playing Robert Hooke in “Isaac’s Eye,” Uncle Theophilus in “Madame Sherry,” and Weller Martin in “The Gin Game.”

Drew drove up from Milwaukee, where he has performed with the Milwaukee Rep, Skylight Music Theatre, Next Act, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and many others. You might find him sitting outside the theater with a cigar after rehearsal. If you do, stop by to say hi. He is a great guy to get to know.

TAP’s production manager Logan Thomas was in charge of getting Matt Frye’s room ready. This will be Matt’s first season with Third Avenue Playhouse. You’ll see him as Mark Rothko’s assistant (Ken) in “Red,” and as several different characters including the Dutch merchant Vanderdendur in the comic operetta “Candide.” He just completed the Emerging Professional Resident program at Milwaukee Rep where he was in “Man of La Mancha” and “A Christmas Carol.”

Matt lives in Chicago now with credits including “Dogfight” at BoHo Theater and “The Full Monty” at Kokandy Productions. He received his bachelor of fine arts in musical theater from The Chicago College of Performing Arts. When not in rehearsal, Matt studies his lines, but he makes room now and then in his busy schedule to watch a baseball game.

One of TAP’s summer interns, Michaela Kraft, didn’t have to travel far to join the TAP family. Returning home to Door County for the summer, Michaela just completed her freshman year at UW-Stevens Point. She is majoring in acting with a minor in arts management. Michaela appeared at TAP in “The House of Blue Leaves” and “Yuletide Tales” with the professional company, and in StageKids productions of “columbinus,” “Our Town” and “The Laramie Project.” She also directed and produced “Almost, Maine” (performed at TAP by the Southern Door Theatre Club), which she founded. When not in the theater, you’ll see Michaela exploring Door County’s beautiful state parks, leading tours for the Historical Society, and gardening.

Rounding out the intern team is Dana Cordry. Dana is a junior at Lawrence University majoring in theatre arts with an emphasis in performance but a strong interest in costuming. College stage credits include “Nineteen” (Cecily), “Pericles” (Helicanus), and “Medea” (Nurse). She also designed costumes for “What’s Next?” and “Next to Normal” at Lawrence. In her off time, she enjoys exploring with friends, reading plays, and catching up on TV shows with her mom. I don’t think I’ve seen Dana without a smile on her face even when wrestling with TAP’s somewhat touchy copy machine.

The day of arrivals wasn’t complete until Kelsey Wang strolled down Third Avenue. Kelsey has been part of a Third Avenue Playhouse summer for three years. It has been lovely watching her grow from intern to company member to this year’s artist-in-residence.

Kelsey previously designed “The Gin Game,” “Isaac’s Eye,” Irving Berlin’s “I Love A Piano,” “Sylvia” and “Madame Sherry,” in which she also sang the role of Bertha.

Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, she first discovered her love for theater and music by attending traditional Beijing opera performances. Kelsey received her degrees in vocal performance and theater arts from Lawrence University, where she designed costumes for “The Test,” “First Night,” and the Opera Scenes program for three years.

Currently based in Chicago, she has worked on premiere shows including “An Almanac for Farmers and Lovers in Mexico” (The Jades), “Turtle” (Redtwist Theatre), and a movement-based piece with Collaboraction. As a vocalist, Kelsey is particularly interested in promoting female composers and new music, having premiered several works in collaboration with composers from her alma mater. Her favorite performance credits include Lucy Lockit (“The Beggar’s Opera”), Cis (Albert Herring), as well as her parts in the ensemble-created pieces “Expressions of Acceptance” and “Show Your Face(s): A Masque.”

Door County just got a little more friendly and a lot more fashionable after Kelsey’s arrival.

The cast of “Red” (June 29 – July 22) has paved the way into Door County for the casts of “Candide” (July 27 – Sept. 2) and “Every Brilliant Thing” (Sept. 7 – Oct. 15) soon to follow and I am getting a clear picture of what the summer is going to look like.

When TAP’s co-artistic directors Robert Boles and James Valcq pulled the company together, they had a pretty good idea we would all get along. They had worked with almost everyone before and for those they didn’t know, well … you learn a remarkable amount about someone through an audition. As each person arrived I saw the corner pieces, then the edges, and middle of a carefully crafted puzzle coming together. This is going to be a great summer! Please join us.

An actor, director, and theater educator, Amy Ensign is the marketing and development director for Third Avenue Playhouse in downtown Sturgeon Bay. “Red” opens June 29.