Kay: Play It Again


Lumberjacks in Love (2008 production): Chase Stoeger, Doug Mancheski, Jeff Herbst, Jane McAnanney, Fred “Doc” Heide. Photographer: Len Villano

I’ve been on vacation to my home state of Wisconsin, and I spent almost a week in Door County, the area at the farthest end of the peninsula. It’s been a destination spot of locals for decades, thrilling the population with every form of cherries, cheese curds, ice cream, and beer, which everyone can wear off swimming and boating in the area’s waterways, as well as hiking through the county’s many parks and forests.

There is also a very fun musical theater group that performs in Peninsula State Park every summer.

Northern Sky Theater has written and produced at least one original play every year since 1988, and by now they have more than 50 plays in their repertoire. And what works they are! Among my favorites: Guys on Ice; Packer Fans from Outer Space; Cheeseheads, the Musical; and Muskie Love, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, only with less sexism and more fishing and lots of songs. Some might say that’s a big improvement, you betcha!

Lumberjacks in Love (2015 production): Molly Rhode and Doug Mancheski. Photographer: Len Villano

This year I was privileged to see the world premiere of Dairy Heirs, the dramatic and funny story of who inherits the dairy farm (and does the cow take her act on the road? I’m not telling!). I particularly enjoyed the hilarious Lumberjacks in Love, the breathless tales of northern woodcutters who haven’t seen a woman in six years. And readers, let me tell you—when a famous romance writer arrives in the camp, impersonating a mail order bride so as to gain first-hand knowledge to write her newest stalwart fictional hero—things do not go according to plan. She is a wonder to the men but a role model for the young girl, who reads the romance novels as a sex education how-to. When the text revealed that the heroine heaved her bosom, the young girl interpreted “bosom” to mean “hat,” which put a lot of stress on the lady’s headgear.

They mix in a little Hamlet, too, as characters try to figure out if their comrade died of one bee sting, or two. “Two bees, or not two bees,” Moon says. So it’s like that.

Northern Sky pays for by this creative output by asking each visitor to contribute an extra dollar in the bucket as they exit the theater. Of course, it’s a lot cheaper to live in Wisconsin than it is in New York City, for example, and it’s cold enough from November to March that no one wants to go out anyway. Still, it’s a remarkable achievement.

I’m carrying on about this theater and its work basically because I’ve been traveling for a month without my computer, and without anything from my trilogy to noodle on, I’ve been thinking about other creative endeavors. This theater company, formed by Wisconsin natives, which celebrates local culture and history by poking gentle fun at farm and city folk alike, is a reminder to me that good work can be found in unlikely places, that it doesn’t have to be dramatic to be profound, and that nothing is more refreshing than a good laugh.

Thanks, Northern Sky.

5 thoughts on “Kay: Play It Again

  1. LOL, this is so great and inspiring. I LIVE on a dairy farm, and have never once thought about using my experiences there as fictional fodder. And the lumberjack story? Oh, that sounds great! A romance writer looking for research material is an intrepid soul with lots of questions! I wish I had a good excuse to travel up that way and see the plays. I wish I had a little more time and could organize a mini-theater (-:.

    • Maybe the next time you get to the States in the summer time, you could make a quick trip to Door County! It is pretty amazing what drama and excitement, not to mention laughs, Northern Sky can get from everyday occurrences.

  2. That sounds hilarious and wonderful. I’ve been trying to talk Old Dog into a road trip. Maybe this is the thing that will entice him to do that.

    Hope you return home refreshed and ready to finish up your trilogy!

    • Door County is a good place to go if you like a laid-back vacation, and the tickets to Northern Sky won’t break the bank, either (currently $21 for adults). I’m heading home tomorrow, and I’ll wrassle that trilogy into readable form or give it to the cows for a snack.

  3. Pingback: Jilly: The Appeal of Foreign Stories – Eight Ladies Writing

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