Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Final Apple

I never intended to wait so long to write my final blog post documenting my summer in Door County, but the fact that I post today seems appropriate as it is the last day of the entire season at Peninsula Players. All the staff has been working around the clock to 'winterize' all the buildings and start stowing outdoor only furniture and benches, not to mention the mass re-organization that happens in all departments once most actors, interns and staff have gone back to their real lives.

I have been putting off eating this very apple for a week. Strange, I know. This apple is my last Door County Honeycrisp I bought when I visited earlier this fall. They hadn't come into season when I was living on campus and performing, so when the opportunity came to visit the Players AND go to Seaquist Orchard to procure said Honeycrisps, I jumped at the opportunity.  And here it is...

The final apple

In a way, this apple represents my last tie to my time there. Sure, I have keepsakes and art I made and spices from the same orchard mentioned above and even a bottle of hard apple cider and oh, yeah, memories, but this is the last fresh thing that has kept me half in Door County and half in Chicago these past 6 or so weeks. Every time I ate one of those apples, I remembered some random perfect day there or saw posts on Facebook of my colleagues still there. It felt like I was still there. There are some bags that I am embarrassed to admit are NOT unpacked yet.


Since coming back from my summer adventures, I jumped right back into a rehearsal process for my next show, Master Class. We opened last weekend! And, I returned to teaching high schoolers how to sing. I'm at two high schools this year and am proud to say I call that, nannying and singing for Jesus on Sundays, my day job(s). It all relates to what I want to do with my life and allows me to schedule the  necessary performer life duties like auditions, rehearsals and performances with less stress. My google calendar may look like a skittles package exploded, but I remind myself every time it gets stressful, I am CHOOSING this life on purpose.

Where IS the free time?

I learned so much as a theatre professional and as a person from my time in Door County. I learned a new way to approach scene study and how to affect my scene partner. I also had the chance to just have fun and go on adventures. For those of you who know me well and are already aware my google calendar looks like a skittles package barfed all over the place and has for quite some time, you probably also know taking time for me is something I neglect to do on a regular basis. I've joined a new gym with awesome amenities. I've taken the time to actually explore some local eateries and businesses in my neighborhood. I'm back to cooking for myself. I went to an Illini game at Solider Field. I witnessed two dear friends get married. I even participated in the Open House Chicago weekend sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In other words, I'm working toward a more balanced work/play schedule instead of all work work work and I couldn't be happier.

I had a great summer away and it instilled in me the new sense that I am in control of my destiny, hence all the changes in my life when coming back home. I am starting to figure out some specific plans for the next 5 years. I want to travel more with my work and do gigs where I can live somewhere for an extended time and really get to know a city/area. I want to work with local teachers in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs to become a better teacher myself. I want to write another blog! And the list gets longer by the day.

Thank you for reading about my summer shenanigans. I hope you'll join me on my next adventure. Until then...

The best sunset

Friday, August 30, 2013

Who needs sleep?

The days are all running together I can't keep them all straight. So much has happened since the last post! (this is not a bad thing)

The show is going really well. I can't believe there are only three more performances left. Last week, we had a bat in the theatre that really added to the ambiance of our little murder mystery. Normally when the sides are up, a bat can be seen in the beginning of a show, but then is able to fly out. Well, last Wednesday, the sides to the theatre were down and the bat could only get out through the back doors. Apparently it didn't get out until somewhere in Act 2, but he had already stolen the show. That was also one of our crazy thunderstorm nights and the real thunder trumped our canned thunder. It even came at times that could have been considered foreshadowing. One of the best places to be right before a thunderstorm hits is the beach here on campus. I sat and watched the storm roll in across the bay for a bit the other night. It was a spectacular view- each lightning strike outdoing the next. One even zapped our internet which spurred an impromptu game night in our lodge.

In terms of outdoorsy things, I have kayaked to an island, hiked throughout the state parks and swam some laps at the local YMCA. My favorite hike this week has been the Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park. The trail is a two mile loop around the edge of the park that goes to the waters edge below some spectacular bluffs. This trail is labeled as a difficult trail due to the rocks that are everywhere along the path. And hey, this could happen too:

Self explanatory

Luckily, no rock managed to escape its lofty home while I was on the trail. I kept snapping picture after picture, but maybe this next one will give an idea of how small I felt next to these huge bluffs and this wasn't even the tallest view.

Look up!

I've also done a ton of dining out these last few days. And well, I've gone through two boxes of 60-count dairy pills in 65-ish days. You do the math. Some of my favorites have been the Gibraltar Grill where I had an opportunity to split two sandwiches with a friend. We tried the Stromboli (Italian sausage, marinara sauce and parmesan cheese) and the pulled pork, both on gluten free bread. We both agreed the pulled pork was the better choice of the two! I also went to Fred and Fuzzy's- a little outdoor bar and grill on a bay tucked away at a little resort in Sister Bay. That's where I had an adult grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar, provolone and swiss cheese along with tomato slices and pesto. YUM! With all of this eating out, I will definitely make it a point to do some Yelp! reviews for fellow gluten free eaters.

I've frequented a few wineries this week too, but the best tastings I did happened to be for cider and cheese. Island Orchard Cider has a tasting room and brews/bottles all of their cider on site. While there wasn't any activity in the brewing room while we were there, we learned about how this particular company only uses Door County apples to make their cider. The tastings were great despite not being able to have any of the Pear cider (they were out) and each of us that went bought a bottle to bring home. We also all decided not to enjoy any of the Door County beverages until we are home missing said Door County. We shall see how long that lasts. Today, a few of us went to Harbor Ridge Winery to taste wine and CHEESE! They had three cheese tastings available- a delicious gouda, a peppered parmesan/asiago and finally a smoked cheddar. Of the three, the gouda was my favorite. There were also about 30 more cheeses in the case and the lovely gal behind the bar let us sample whatever we wanted from there. Three words: Basil. Pesto. Gouda. It's like pizza without the dough. So I bought a little hunk of that and then we went over to the winery attached. As soon as I told the clerk what cheese I had, she brought out a red wine that pairs well with it. I wound up buying a bottle because she was right- it is the perfect marriage!

It is always a special treat when friends or family can come see shows. It is especially awesome when they make a trek to see a performance, like from Chicago to Door County for example. But here's an even better one: my high school drama teacher came to see The Game's Afoot earlier this week! She first cast me when I was six in The King and I at Bolingbrook High School. I played the littlest princess- imagine that- and when I bowed to the king, had to tug on his pant leg for him to see I was there. Brilliant, right? It made me so nervous to perform in front of someone who I have a great deal of respect for and who fostered the love for theatre in me from an early age. Thanks Ms B!

Finally, I hiked in Cave Point a second time. And while I had seen the sites, I was showing a friend around who had never been there before. This time, the lake was pretty calm and we were able to rock climb down to our own private cove for some beach and cider time. It was perfect. We didn't see or hear anyone the entire time we were there. We SWAM in Lake Michigan which is so very cold, but there was also a little section of rock we could sit in some warmer water. It felt like we were sitting on top of the water. What a cool view. Here was our spot:


So I have three days left in this haven. Three more performances. Two more day time days off. One strike with some pizza after and then I am Chicago-bound. My time up here has been so refreshing and while I'm not ready to think about leaving just yet, I know I will be ready to go home come Monday. In order to make sure I do it, I am publicly dedicating tomorrow to cleaning and packing. It will also be raining, so I won't be missing out on too much outdoors-type stuff. Until the last post...

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Closing, an Opening and now a Vacation

I have a mere two weeks left in this glorious place known as Door County. I can't believe how quickly this time has flown and yet has seemed to roll along at a perfect pace in the moment.

The past week has been all about changing over from Sunday in the Park... to The Game's Afoot and spending time with visiting family and friends. The strike process happened as usual. The final curtain of Sunday came down and our crew began disassembling everything. We had been hearing rumors all week that this changeover was going to be the toughest one of the season. It proved to be just that. We went from a rather sparse set with large moving pieces, lots of flying backdrops and canvases and more props per person than I have ever seen to a lush living room designed like the Gillette Castle in Connecticut decorated for Christmas.

Sunday in the Park... full company shot

The Game's Afoot model

The real deal

Starting at 6:30pm Sunday and still working up until the moments before our 'opening at 8:00pm Wednesday, our crew furiously worked and barely slept to make the transformation. In the times that the actors have off, like meals and, you know, sleep times, our crew was on set nailing things into place, screwing floorboard pieces down, dressing the set with decor and period gadgets, painting walls, adding brick layers, rehearsing scene transitions... you name it, they did it. And our set is a terrific playground for us.

The Game's Afoot takes place in Connecticut in 1936. Back then, stage actors were of a higher status than we are today and lead a bit more glamorous lives than most of our working-five-part-time-jobs-at-once-to-make-ends-meet lives are today. My character in the play is a rising starlet ingenue actress, recently married. For funsies, I took this photo at our tech photo shoot. Every girl has to have a fainting couch, right? Fun fact- that dress is made of silk and was custom made for me. :-)

Aggie Wheeler fainting in the living room

Now I can't give too much away because that would ruin all the fun, but I can tell you that doing comedy is a serious business. It is more difficult for actors to put on comedy than it is drama. We always have to be on our toes, ready for anything- like random new laughter in places we've never heard it before. You have to take your part so seriously so you don't laugh during the real comedic bits that the entire audience is losing themselves over. This play has been a load of fun to put together and I feel like I am being brought up to the level these players have been at for most of their lives. This show has 8 people in it, one of which is our artistic director, along with the resumes of people I would have only dreamt of seeing in shows let alone being in one with. HAH! It's amazing.

Look at this beautiful cast!

Now my summer vacation begins. I perform six shows a week in the evenings Tuesday through Sunday, but otherwise, my time is alllllll mine. So far, I've gone to Cave Point and Whitefish Dunes State Park to tan and hike on this, my day off. I saw some really cool caves and got a little adventurous and did some rock climbing too! The weather was perfect for a beach day on the Michigan side of the peninsula- it is generally a little cooler over there, so 85 felt a bit more manageable.

I scaled part of this wall to get onto the separate
 larger rock in the back left

This one, not so much
On that note, I will leave you with this, the greatest ice cream up here and the faces that say it all. We were drunk off ice cream afterwards. Until next time!

Death by ice cream at Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor,
with Zach Gibson and Eb Reyes

Monday, August 5, 2013

Once a Player, Always a Player

... a Peninsula Player that is. I've just come from a gala to support Peninsula Players and to thank the donors that make each season a possibility. I'm full of so much love for this community. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it is true. I'll try with words to express what this community is and what it means to me, but until you are here experiencing it for yourself, I'm afraid words just don't do it justice.

Throughout the week, a few of our actors and our music director have been busily putting together and rehearsing a performance for the gala not to mention the administrative staff who put together every detail of this event from invitations to menu selection to thank you's at the end. The grounds have been a buzz of excitement in preparation for this event. Since Sunday in the Park with George is the current show playing, the performers had an idea to represent some of Sondheim's greatest works detailing four Sondheim-isms: Content Dictates Form, Less is More, God is in the Details and finally, All in the Service of Clarity. The singers used the words of Little Red in 'I Know Things Now' from Into the Woods to meld together the web of songs chosen. I love most all things Sondheim, but I was especially taken with the final song of the evening pulling all the 'isms' together and that spoke to me as a young artist carving out my path.

'Feel the flow,
Hear what's happening:
We're what's happening.
Don't you know?
We're the movers and we're the shapers.
We're the names in tomorrow's papers.
Up to us now to show 'em...

'It's our time, breathe it in:
Worlds to change and worlds to win.
Our turn coming through,
Me and you, pal,
Me and you!'

-Our Time, Merrily We Roll Along

Now this type of event can be the type that actors hate to attend. You have to schmooze and impress and say the right things and be 'on' the entire night. I have to say, after going to the Peninsula Players gala, I didn't feel any of those things. All the donors I met were so interested in the arts and had such fascinating back stories about how they were introduced to the Players community and why they continue to support year after year. I think it has so much to do with what it means to be a Peninsula Player. The donors and board members see how it works. We- and when I say we, I mean every single person on our campus: interns, staff, actors, families visiting from out of town or living on campus as well- eat together, live together, work together both on stage and off, play together. Over the season, we develop such a team/family rapport and this happens no matter what time you arrive here. I arrived mid-way through the season and within the first couple of days, I felt welcomed and at home. This is the place where actors and staff bring their families here to stay for a week or two or the entire summer. It is a collaborative environment where everyone's voice is important even if the contribution or suggestion is not the ultimate choice in the group. This is the place that supports current and former players during times of need and loss. This is the place where people like our Artistic Director, Greg Vinkler, choose to stay for TWENTY FIVE years.

I'm proud to be a Player and will always be. 

2013 Peninsula Players Company

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday in the Park is officially open

What a whirlwind week it has been here in Door County, Wisconsin. From the top...

Last Sunday marked the closing of the second show of the season, Once a Ponzi Time. The acting company assists with what we in the theatre business call 'strike'. This is the process that involves completely taking down one set including the lights, the sound equipment, the props, cleaning the dressing rooms, etc. There's a lot to do. In the Peninsula Players world, another show is also put together immediately after strike ends. The show ended around 6 in the evening and we began tearing it down at 6:15. Most of the stage was cleared by 9pm and it was time for a pizza break. At that point in the evening, the actors are released from strike duty and the crew stays up until 4 something in the morning to get the next set up. Then, instead of having a complete day off, the actors get the morning and afternoon to themselves, then return to the theatre at 7pm for a spacing rehearsal, aka day 1 of tech. Now, in most houses in Chicago, tech is a 3-7 day process plus about a week or so of previews. Here, we have about a day and a half to tech the show before an audience comes and that first time an audience comes is considered our opening. Wednesday was our opening, but it really felt like we opened on Saturday.

Throughout the tech process, many things change including costumes and light cues and some staging to accommodate the overall picture. Sometimes designers and directors just don't know how something will look until it is physically before them. One of my costumes changed three times before finally settling on the one I am wearing in the show. Another thing that changes pretty often for me is hair. In this show, all actors portray a character in 1890's France and one in 1980's America. For wig designers, it is just easier to have all actors wear wigs for such a radical change in order for their designs to be exactly what they want. At the beginning of tech, I had a blonde wig for the 1890's look and then used my own hair in French braids for the 80's look. After one chunk of time on stage, the designer came back to me and said, how would you feel about using your own hair for the entire show. Now, think about this: the 1890's characters are replicas of the people found in Georges Seurat's painting and the point is to be as close to the painting image as possible. This is my character: Celeste.

Seated Celeste

Isn't she lovely gazing down at her pretty flowers with her parasol sitting next to her? My costume looks exactly like the painting. And now, so does my hair.

Post-show bang shot

When actors learn how to improvise, the first thing they are taught is 'Yes, and...'. You always say yes to what comes to you on stage and add the word 'and' to keep the momentum moving forward. I feel like actors do this in their real life as well. When the designer approached me about cutting my hair, I said 'yes, and... if I hate it, the hair will grow back by the time I get back to Chicago in September'. This scenario also demonstrates how actors, myself included, will go to any lengths for a role. Think about how many actors add or lose weight for a role, learn boxing to actually do their fight sequences, learn a special skill like playing the violin or dye their hair according to the requirements for the role. Now, I would not have been fired if I hadn't cut my bangs. It was completely my decision, but it also represented an opportunity for a change. And really, in the grand scheme of things, it is hair and nothing more. It will grow back. Complete disclosure, I love the bangs!

We 'opened' Wednesday which means double duty started for me on Thursday. I perform Sunday in the Park with George 6 days a week at night and rehearse Ken Ludwig's The Game's Afoot during the day. This next show takes place during the 1930's in America. I play a young starlet actress and am learning a mid-Atlantic accent for the role. We have about two and a half weeks to rehearse this show and then it goes up with the same strike/tech formula I just went through.

And now, it is time to enjoy the rest of my Day Off! Until next time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Highlights from week 2

What a week it has been up here in Door County. As one of our interns put it, 'I need a day off to recover from my day off'. Over the weekend, we celebrated Christmas in July complete with Secret Santas and shenanigans. The theme of the evening-Color and Light- matched the show I am currently rehearsing, Sunday in the Park with George. The show is about Georges Suerat, a French Post-Impressionist painter, and the creation of his most famous work A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte. Rather than blend colors to make different shades, he painted with dots of color.

Being the creative types that actors are, our decoration committee came up with the idea to put colored dots in the form of paper, theatre light gels, balloons, buttons, skittles, etc all around our lodge. It was beautiful! I didn't get a picture of the whole room, but the decorations on the table were also hanging in strands throughout the entire lodge in addition to what is pictured below.

Luminaries lighting the path to the lodge; Table decor; Christmas tree

The evening consisted of light snacks provided by the inner-chef members of the Pen Player company, an intern skit written by one of our resident actor/playwrights spoofing on A Christmas Carol, the opening of Christmas gifts and revealing of Secret Santas, the singing of the Peninsula Players anthem and finally dancing!

The wine rack my Secret Santa made for me by hand,
complete with the Pen Players double tree logo and
wood from the set of the first show this season

The next day, after sleeping in a tad, my roommate, one of the interns and I went down to the closest and cheapest laundromat around, about 40 minutes away. It was a day full of errands, maximizing shopping time while laundry was drying and finally Boxing Day with the company. We grilled out, swam at Nicolet Bay beach which is a part of Peninsula State Park and ended the evening with a very serious company volleyball game. I played in the last round and hit the ball approximately twice when I served. Go team!

One of the things we had to do Monday was pick up our projects from a local art studio called Hands On. You can paint ceramics, make glass tiles and artwork, make jewelry and do metal works, including learning the basics of welding. There's also a farm attached to this little property and we actually got to meet Henry the Rooster up close. He wanted to paint his own ceramics.

A few of us from the company went there last Friday on Adult Night. It means what it says. We brought some wine to sip and browsed the projects until we came up with what we all wanted to do: paint ceramics! I made a guac, salsa and cheese dip tray and a vase. 

The bursts of color on the vase, in the guac portion of the dip bowl as well as the outside of the entire dip bowl happened because I used a special kind of paint with glass crystals in it. When the ceramic is fired in the kiln, the glass explodes with color leaving what you see in the pictures. I can't wait to use both the vase and dip bowl AND to go back next Friday for Adult Night to do glass works. 

Oh and I'm rehearsing a play. :-) The show is coming along nicely. The entire thing is staged, so our rehearsals from here out will be focused on shaping and fine tuning and memorizing and fixing the brain farts. We start tech rehearsals next Monday, which means we add lights, costumes, sound and get to be on stage. While tech is the time we all dread going through, it is one of the most magical parts of the process.

On closing this post, I'll leave you with a recent and YUMMY discovery. I cheat with dairy as a lot of you know, but this actually tastes like the real deal without my stomach being angry with me. Until next time!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

So this is Christmas


Here at Peninsula Players, we celebrate Christmas in July complete with Secret Santas and necessary gift-giving shenanigans. In order to get my first gift from my Secret Santa, I had to give everyone a high five at lunch time. A few people had my gifts throughout the cast and staff, so when I got to them, they held up the present instead of a high five. Tonight, in order to get my gift, I have to give a speech at Bar Night. Some of the best shenanigans included a public performance by Cher, several renditions of Christmas Carols, interpretive dancing, scavenger hunts, a murder mystery game as well as some word scrambles. All shenanigans are optional of course, but if you want your gift and don't mind being a little silly, we just say go for it! Sunday we will do a Christmas feast and the opening of presents after the show. There have even been committees established to take care of the decorations and food. The theme this year is AWESOME! I will post pictures when I can; it is all super secret until the party of course. Monday, the day off for the entire company, we will be doing a traditional post-Christmas Boxing Day full of beach time and BBQ-ing in Peninsula State Park.

So upon closing this little update, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.


One of the many beautiful sunsets on our beach property.