Summer on stage
In vacation towns, theaters offer a midsummer's-night diversion.
© Beth Gauper
In downtown Bemidji, the professional Paul Bunyan Playhouse uses the old Chief Theater.
In 1951, an entrepreneur had big plans for Bemidji.
He brought a troupe of New York actors to the northern Minnesota town, set up a theater at a resort on the shore of Lake Bemidji and started a glorious season of summer stock.
Four weeks later, he was broke, and the actors were stranded.
But Bemidji's citizens had become hooked on theater. They raised enough money to pay the actors' room and board while they performed the rest of the season's plays, and enough to pay for their tickets home. Then the town raised enough to pay for a season the next year, and the year after that.
Now, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse is Minnesota's oldest professional summer-stock company, still run by devoted volunteers.
Most recently, I saw "The Music Man'' there one golden summer evening, with Twin Cities actor/director Zach Curtis as the bombastic con man and a talented corps of local actors playing the townspeople of River City.
At summer theaters across the north woods, ambitious young actors and directors are gearing up for another summer of Shakespeare, Shaw and the high-energy musicals that vacationers love.
They're light-hearted plays for light-hearted days. In Alexandria, Minn., a day at the beach usually precedes an evening at Theatre L'Homme Dieu, on the shores of Lake Le Homme Dieu since 1961.
Spring Green, Wis., is home not only to the American Players Theater but to kitschy House on the Rock.
In Wisconsin's Door County, American Folklore Theatre performs under the stars in beautiful Peninsula State Park.
The Peninsula Players are nearby, in Fish Creek; the troupe put on its first plays in 1935 in the back yard of a Fish Creek motel and now is the nation's oldest professional resident summer theater.
Of the theaters below, only the American Folklore Theatre and American Players Theater perform in the open air; American Players Theater also has an indoor theater.
Here's the schedule for 2013:
American Folklore Theatre in Fish Creek, Wis. From June 12 to Aug. 24, it's staging "Windjammer,'' "Muskie Love'' and "Loose Lips Sink Ships.''
In fall, it will present "Victory Farm'' at the Door County Auditorium.
For more, see Arts in Door County.
American Players Theater, Spring Green, Wis. It's presenting "The Two Gentlemen of Verona,'' "Too Many Husbands,'' "Hamlet,'' Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'' and "All My Sons'' in the Up-the-Hill Theatre.
In the Touchstone Theatre, it's staging "Dickens in America,'' "Molly Sweeney'' and "Antony and Cleopatra.''
The plays are performed in repertory from early June through the third weekend of October. 608-588-2361.
© Pete Olsen
In Spring Green, American Players Theatre's main stage is outdoors.
For more, see Drawn to Spring Green.
Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield,
Wis. It schedules original musical revues, including "Play Ball!'' "American Stories,'' "The Mountains Call My Name''
and "Riding the Wind,'' and concerts by nationally known performers most nights from June through Labor Day.
In 2013, concerts include Trampled by Turtles, the Bodeans, Gaelic Storm, Merle Haggard and revues of ABBA and the Blues Brothers. 888-244-8368.
For more, see Beloved
Commonweal Theatre, Lanesboro, Minn. It's presenting Ibsen's "A Doll's House'' April 11 through June 14; "Blithe Spirit'' from May 10 through Sept. 7; "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure'' from June 21 through Oct. 28; "The Memory of Water'' from Sept. 13 through Nov. 10; and "The Last Night of Ballyhoo'' from Nov. 15 through Dec. 22.
Tickets are $30. If you'd like to save a little, see a preview and pay $20. 800-657-7025.
For more about Lanesboro, see The
belle of bluff country.
Playhouse, Grand Marais, Minn. The theater in this North Shore town puts on
several plays each summer.
In 2013, it's presenting "Fit to Kill'' June 27-30 and July 4-7 and "Church Basement Ladies and "Moon Over Buffalo'' in
repertory July 18-Aug. 11. Another play will be performed Aug. 22-25 and 29 and Sept. 1.
For more, see Artistic Grand
Great River Shakespeare Festival, Winona, Minn. It's staging "Twelfth Night,'' "King Henry V'' and "Macbeth'' from June 26 to Aug. 4 at the Performing Arts Center of Winona State University.
Many other events are held in conjunction with the festival, such as free concerts, coffeehouse discussions with cast members, Front Porch Conversations with experts, events at Theatre du Mississippi and walking tours hosted by the Winona County Historical Society.
For details and tickets, call 507-474-7900.
For more, see Afloat in Winona.
Long Lake Theater, Hubbard, Minn. This small theater is in the lakes country near Park Rapids. 218-732-0099.
For more, see Summer in Park Rapids.
Mantorville Theatre Company, Mantorville, Minn. In the stone 1918 Opera House of this tiny village near Rochester, this
company puts on old-fashioned melodramas with audience participation.
They're not sophisticated, but they're fun, and tickets are only $9. 507-635-5420.
Minnesota Centennial Showboat, St. Paul. This floating theater, docked across from downtown at Harriet Island, will present
"Sweet Revenge (or No Mother to Guide Her),'' a melodrama with musical olios, from June 13 through Aug. 24.
Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji, Minn. It's putting on "Guys on Ice'' June 5-9 and 12-15; "Dancing at Lughnasa'' June 19-23 and 26-29; "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'' July 3-7 and 10-13; "Boeing Boeing'' July 17-21 and 24-27; and "She Loves Me'' July 31-Aug. 4 and Aug. 7-10.
© Boyd Fellows
In Door County, the Peninsula Players perform on the shores of Green Bay.
For more, see Bemidji's
Peninsula Players, between Fish Creek and Egg Harbor, Wis. The company performs in a covered pavilion on the shores of Green Bay in Door County.
It's presenting "Saloon'' July 11-30, "Once a Ponzi Time'' July 3-21; "Sunday in the Park With George" July 24-Aug. 11; Ken
Ludwig's "The Game's Afoot'' Aug. 14-Sept. 1 and "Miracle on South Division Street'' Sept. 4-Oct. 20.
Tours are given at 2 p.m. many Sundays. Some performances are followed by talk-backs. Check for other special events. 920-868-3287.
For more, see Arts in Door County.
St. Croix Festival Theatre, St. Croix Falls, Wis. It stages concerts as well as a theater series.
In 2013, it's staging in repertory "Crazy for You,'' June 20-Aug. 18; "The Foreigner,'' July 6-Aug. 25; and "This Untoward
Generation!'' Aug. 10-Sept. 8.
Call 715-483-3387. For more about St. Croix Falls, see Trail mix.
Theatre l'Homme Dieu in Alexandria, Minn. It's presenting "When a Man Loves a Diva,'' June 25-30; "Lombardi,'' July 9-14; "Legacy, A Tribute to the King of Pop,'' July 16-21; "Sisters,'' July 23-28; "Sunset Boulevard,'' Aug. 6-11; and "Almost, Maine,'' Aug. 13-18. Call 320-846-3150.
For more, see Alexandria's enigma.
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