New NEA grants, waterpark, volunteer trips

If you have resolved to stay home less in 2004, I am happy to point you toward new and great adventures. Two are less than a tank of gas away. Two could take you to another side of the world.

First, a bit of Shakespeare. The National Endowment for the Arts is paving the way for six respected and non-profit theater groups – “live theater of the highest caliber” – to perform The Bard’s plays in 100 small and medium-sized cities nationwide. This includes two New York theater companies that will be in six Wisconsin cities this winter.

The project is called the largest tour of Shakespeare in U.S. history. An NEA goal is to “make professional theater a vital part of the cultural landscape of smaller communities.” For you, it is a good opportunity to see great theater and a good excuse spend a night or two away from home.

Aquila Theatre Company will perform “Othello” Jan. 31 at the Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield (www.wilson-center.com, 262-781-9520), Feb. 2 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Center for the Arts (www.uwplatt.edu, 608-342-1298) and Feb. 6 at UW-Green Bay’s Weidner Center (www.weidnercenter.com, 800-328-8587).

The Acting Company will present “Richard III” March 6 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton (www.foxcitiespac.com, 920-730-3760), March 7 at the Al Ringling Theater in Baraboo (www.alringling.com, 608-356-8864) and March 8 at the Zorn Arena at UW-Eau Claire (www.uwec.edu/dc/ap – click “artists series,” 715-836-3727).

Ticket prices vary by location, but are no more than $40 for adults (in Platteville, it’s just $19). Most venues provide significant discounts for children and senior citizens (it’s just $10, in Baraboo, for kids).

In some cases, the theater companies will perform a second play on another night. In Green Bay, for example, Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” is offered Feb. 7. In Appleton, “Murder By Poe,” which weaves four Edgar Allen Poe tales, is March 5.

These NEA tours, which also involve the non-profit group Arts Midwest, will include workshops about the productions and educational programs in schools. For more, go to www.nea.gov.

Want to REALLY get out of town to see good theater? The Arts Seminars Abroad program at UW-Madison will head to London April 14-21. University affiliation is not necessary to participate.

The seminar group will stay within a walk of West End theaters and shops. Six performances will be seen: the Royal Ballet’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the English National Opera’s “Tosca,” the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus’ “St. Matthew Passion,” the National Theatre’s “Anything Goes” and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

The cost, without airfare, is $1,679. It includes lodging, daily breakfast, three dinners, performance tickets, lectures and backstage tours. Participants also can extend their stay to April 25, which includes a Paris visit, for an additional fee.

Professor Harv Thompson leads the tour; for more, contact him at (608) 262-1694 or hthompson@dcs.wisc.edu. Registration deadline is March 2.

OK, let’s make a big splash back home by heading to a new waterpark. Tundra Lodge, Green Bay, calls itself “the largest indoor waterpark north of Wisconsin Dells.” It opened Aug. 28, is three stories high and totals 30,000 square feet (which includes outdoor water diversions).

There is an Alaskan theme: Caribou Restaurant, the Alaskan Pipeline water slide, Polar Bear Pub. There are seven types of rooms/suites; as of Monday, all but eight of the 161 units were booked for this weekend.

The minimum stay is two nights when the Packers are at home, or when other special events flood the city with tourists. Online room rates seem to be $119 to $299, depending on the day and type of accommodation.

An aquarium has 300 African orchids. There also is a (stuffed) exotic animal collection. A giant bucket periodically tips 500 gallons of water onto the pool deck – good thing that the waterpark is a constant 82 degrees.

For more, go to www.tundralodge.com or call (877) 886-3725.

Want to do good works while getting all wet? Two weeks in Kauai, Hawaii, will help preserve its rain forest, when you arrange the visit through Global Volunteers. The non-profit organization, based in St. Paul, Minn., organizes dozens of work vacations throughout the world.

One fee, typically $1,400 to $3,000 for two or three weeks someplace wonderful and often remote, covers food, lodging and project expenses. Airfare is extra. The cost of these expeditions is tax-deductible.

One-week trips in the United States typically are about $750, not counting transportation. Volunteers help migrant workers, build houses in rural areas, pursue projects on American Indian reservations.

For more about the worldwide options – from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to an orphanage in the Ukraine, go to www.globalvolunteers.org or call (800) 487-1074.