In an era where virtual reality and movie special effects can fly audiences through distant galaxies and send them careening down the bloodstream inside the human body, it’s hard to imagine that a small balcony, two sets of stairs and the sheltering arms of a maple tree, could captivate anyone young or old beyond a few minutes.
Door Shakespeare proves they can.
And they’ve been doing just that for 20 years in Wisconsin’s Door County, since 1995, when it was created under the umbrella of Northern Sky Theater in collaboration with Blue Circle Theatre.
I’m not sure whether it’s the stillness of the forest around the stage, the gradually darkening night sky above it, or perhaps the actors on it breathing life into 400 year-old lines, but whatever it is, Door Shakespeare Theatre has a magic all its own.
We drove down a twisting paved country road to reach the Garden of Björklunden, where Door Shakespeare is performed on Lake Michigan in Baileys Harbor. The parking lot was small, but then, the venue is an intimate one, so there was room for everyone. People spoke in little more than whispers as we made our way down the garden path and chose our seats–white plastic chairs lined five deep on wooden tiered steps.
Right on time, Prospero, the exiled duke of Milan, took his place on the stage, and The Tempest, believed to be Shakespeare’s last play, began. It was the second of the season, having been preceded by Romeo and Juliet, giving local theater goers two great evenings of entertainment.
I wasn’t familiar with The Tempest, but the actors drew me into the play so quickly I could almost see the swollen seas. Prospero, the exiled Duke played by Mark Corkins, took command of the stage, while Miranda (Grayson Heyl), portrayed his innocent daughter. But the character, Caliban (Jonathan Wainwright), son of the witch, Sycorax, and the devil, drew me deepest into Shakespeare’s world and the superiority of live theater. From licking boots to begging his captor, Prospero’s, forgiveness, Caliban’s performance was amazing.
If you’d like to learn more about Door Shakespeare and its annual outdoor summer performances (running from the end of June to mid-August), see this YouTube video from DoorCounty today:
But Door Shakespeare isn’t the only outdoor theater venue in Door County. When you’re looking for things to do in Wisconsin, literary or just-for-fun, the Northern Sky Theater performances are also great.
Northern Sky Theater
Peninsula State Park, a year-round park offering everything from camping to hiking to a sand beach for relaxing, is home to Northern Sky Theater.
Northern Sky Theater has a long history of bringing Wisconsin original shows that capture the Midwestern lore to life for audiences. Performing locally grown scripts, such as Lumberjacks in Love, the hit show first performed in 1996, (it runs again in September and October of 2015), to No Bones About It (a musical comedy inspired by Romeo and Juliet), the troupe entertains 35,000 visitors each season.
The outdoor venue in the park is larger than Door Shakespeare’s, so it can accommodate nearly 900 people for each evening show. It also has a longer season, starting earlier (mid-June) and ending later (mid-October).
Strings Attached, the performance I watched, was a musical romp through mistaken identity mixed with the comedic style that made Abbott and Costello some of the most popular comedians of the 20th century. I have to say it was an hour-and-a-half of relaxing fun for everyone from eight to eighty.
But here’s Northern Sky to introduce itself in this YouTube video:
Visit Door Shakespeare and Northern Sky Theater in Door County, Wisconsin
Door Shakespeare website: http://www.doorshakespeare.com/
Northern Sky Theater: http://northernskytheater.com/
I’d like to thank Door County Visitor Bureau for hosting my visit to their area during the Cherry Immersion Press Tour.
For more information about visiting Door County call 1-800-52-RELAX (73529) or see: http://www.doorcounty.com/