After a day spent exploring lighthouses, hiking lakeshore trails, touring cherry orchards, tasting cheese, and sipping wine, the opportunity to enjoy live theatre with an outdoor edge is what makes Door County, Wisconsin, so special.
From the rustic, completely outdoor amphitheatre setting in the woods of American Folklore Theatre, to the more refined, roofed theatre with big barn door style walls that open wide to allow the breeze to wander through the home of Peninsula Players,Door County dishes up refreshing theatre with stellar casts.
Theatre in the Woods
At home in the heart of Peninsula State Park since 1990, American Folklore Theatre is charming entertainment. Over the past 20+ years, the troupe has delivered 48 different shows celebrating Wisconsin’s culture and heritage, with subjects ranging from sailing to fishing to cherry farming.
With themes of love, loss, and redemption, the family-friendly plays touch with humor and heart — and a little foot-stomping live music. Surrounded by tall trees and starry skies, it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself immersed in the quirky fun of “Muskie Love.”
The old park amphitheatre is brought to life by drama and song as rival fishing guides Ben and Bea are lured into a romantic trap — despite the meddling of the feckless Fish & Game Warden, DNR Doug. If you’re a Packers fan, there’s plenty of football love tossed in for good measure!
Theatre in a Garden
Tucked away along the shores of Green Bay, Peninsula Players is a respite from the everyday world. Lights strung between trees set a relaxed, romantic mood as visitors enjoy a pre-show cocktail or swing on a loveseat by the water’s edge.
After two years performing in what is now Fish Creek Town Park, the first performance of Peninsula Players at the newly purchased 22-acre Wildwood Boys Camp came about in 1937. Shows began under the stars, followed by a canvas top in 1944, and a permanent roof in 1957. Today, Peninsula Players is America’s oldest professional resident summer theatre.
When show time was called, we headed in to our seats. Unlike any other theatre I’ve ever attended, the walls opened wide to allow the grace of the garden to provide a foil for the gritty, western drama called “Saloon” that we were about to experience. The lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, and we were drawn into the world of a young cowpuncher as he grew from greenhorn to veteran in the space of couple of hours. In a word, captivating.
Whether you choose theatre in the woods or theatre in a garden, Door County’s theatre is full of atmosphere.
Best Pre-Show Eats
Locals know it’s all about the lakeside atmosphere at Fred & Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill before heading over to Peninsula State Park for the 8 p.m. American Folklore Theatre show. Try the Door County Cherry Juice Margarita with your meal — it’s one-of-a-kind.
In Egg Harbor, Galileo’s Italian Steakhouse dishes up delightful, fresh pasta and prime meat prior to the short drive north to Fish Creek for the 8 p.m. Peninsula Players performance. Try the Shrimp Scampi; you won’t regret it.
Photo Credits: author, Len Villano, Len Villano, and author.