Summer shows go on, in novel ways


All the world’s a stage but COVID-19 compromises the traditional platforms and performers that we count on for entertainment this summer.

For some troupes, that’s not the same as being stagnant and stifled. Consider the creative ways under pursuit by four production companies to vie for our attention as they fight to survive.

American Players Theatre, Spring Green: The professional repertory theater with a soft spot for Shakespeare won’t entice us up a woodsy hill to its 1,089-seat outdoor amphitheater this year.

APT actors instead will introduce the “Out of the Woods” play reading series that will stream live, using Zoom virtual meeting software, and recorded by PBS Wisconsin. Play readings will be free to see but only available for a limited time.

In the lineup at 7 p.m. on the dates noted: Chekhov One Acts (“The Bear,” “On the Harmfulness of Tobacco” and “The Proposal”), June 5; “As You Like It,” June 12; “Arms and the Man,” June 19; “Julius Caesar,” June 26; “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been,” July 3; and “An Improbable Fiction,” July 10.

“An Improbable Fiction” is a new play by APT actor James DeVita, using Shakespeare for context. “It’s plague time, and Shakespeare’s characters are out of sorts (and out of work),” a press release explains. “Several of our favorites reunite … to celebrate life and ruminate on the state of the world.” For details about this world premiere and other offerings:

Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield: Under-the-tent shows, which began in 1986 at Mt. Ashwabay Ski Hill, have lured regional musicians and nationally known acts (including Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, John Prine).

The blue and white canvas tent, big enough to hold an audience of 900, didn’t go up this year but new is the online Tiny Tent Show that appears weekly on Facebook and YouTube at 7 p.m. Friday.

These shows are hosted by author-musician Michael Perry and feature the Big Top’s house band, the Blue Canvas Orchestra, whose members perform from their homes.

Northern Sky Theater, Fish Creek: The theater group known for its original and often-zany musicals celebrates its 30-year anniversary virtually on May 23 with an online musical montage that doubles as a fundraiser.

The 7 p.m. event splices together video clips of performances from the past decade. Donate $50 or more, per household, for access to the hourlong entertainment.

The virtual show is the highlight of a free-access, daylong event that begins at 9 a.m. with stories from performers and others.

Online now is an Artist Auction, and bidding ends at 8:15 p.m. May 23. Among the dozens of offerings: a virtual vinyl playing party, concerts, singing telegrams, puppet shows, cast reunions, storytelling, puzzles, games and crafts.

Peninsula Players Theatre, Fish Creek: No resident summer theater in the nation is older than this one. A two-plank stage opened with a Noel Coward play in 1935 and grew into an open-air venue on 16 acres with a picturesque Green Bay waterfront setting.

Summer productions are canceled, but “Rounding Third,” a comedy by Richard Dresser about little league coaches, remains on the docket for Sept. 9 to Oct. 18. Between now and then are “Peninsula Players Pastimes,” new e-newsletters “to share uplifting distractions with our patrons,” says spokeswoman Audra Baakari Boyle.

The most recent contains several recipes.

“Since its inception, Peninsula Players Theatre has provided meals for its company members in the lodge,” explains Boyle, whose hats include theater historian. Not a subscriber? Look for the recipes online via Facebook or

Contributions from Deb Lampert, head cook for Peninsula Players since 2017, include this one. Cooked and diced Polish sausage is an optional addition.

Polish Dill Pickle Soup

1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil

3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced

2 large dill pickles, diced
1 1⁄2 cups pickle juice

2 cups vegetable broth

1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

Melt butter or heat oil over medium heat in soup pot. Add potatoes, carrots and onions. Cook until onion is translucent. Add pickles, pickle juice, vegetable broth, salt and pepper. Heat.

Mix sour cream and flour. Add 1/3 cup of hot veggie broth to sour cream mix and whisk until blended. Then whisk the mixture into the soup pot. Simmer until somewhat thickened, 10 minutes or so. Stir in dill and serve.