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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Great Americans’ inspires in Sturgeon Bay… beep, beep

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Rogue Theater’s ‘Drive-in Theater’

Singing a song in “Great Americans” are Rogue Theater performers, from left, Stuart Champeau, Dan Sallinen, David Clowers, Susan Kohout, Chris Milton and Lola DeVillers. (Warren Gerds)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – “Great Americans” is the best in-person theatrical production I have seen in 112 days.

Never mind that the Rogue Theater presentation is the only such production I’ve seen in that time because of restrictions of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Yes, the “show” is a curiosity because it takes place in a church parking lot with the audience in vehicles, and the microphoned performers are heard by tuning the car radio to 107.7 FM.

But even so, it is happening on Fourth of July Weekend, and what it is all about is inspiration – words and songs meant to stir the soul.

That “beep, beep” in the headline is me being cute. Saturday, vehicle horns served as applause for performances all the way through the one-hour performance by six actors and a pianist.

While not slick (the stage is a trailer bed), the show still is filled with moments for the heart and head.

Each actor has at least one monologue, and each digs into the powerful material with flair.

Added vigor comes from three sections of quotes from three dozen or so American figures from way back when to today.

The program underlines the significance of Independence Day, and it is treated with dignity with the presentation of the American flag, and then its retirement.

“Great Americans” will be repeated at 6 p.m. today, Sunday, July 5, in the amphitheater-like parking lot of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 1756 Michigan St.

***

Program

Actors: Stuart Champeau, David Clowers, Lola DeVillers, Susan Kohout, Chris Milton, Dan Sallinen. Pianist: Mya Ploor.

+ Presentation of Colors – Color Guard

+ Pledge of Allegiance – All

+ Song: “The Star-Spangled Banner” – All

+ Monologue: Molly Pitcher – Lola Devillers. Key is Molly’s participation in the Battle of Monmouth of 1778, supplying water to American soldiers calling, “Molly, Pitcher!”

+ Monologue: “My Captain, My Captain” – David Clowers. Walt Whitman’s commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s death.

+ Monologue: Elizabeth Cady Stanton – Susan Kohout. Women’s suffrage: “We now demand our right to vote.”

+ Monologue: “Gettysburg Address” – Dan Sallinen. Abraham Lincoln: “… nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

+ Song: “Battle Hymn of the Republic” – All

+ Quotes #1: Including, among others, from Nathanial Hawthorn, Thomas Jefferson, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, Douglas MacArthur and Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddle masses yearning to breathe free”).

+ Song: “America the Beautiful” – All

+ Monologue: Susan B. Anthony – Chris Milton. Women’s right to vote: “Are women persons?”

+ Quotes #2: Including, among others, from Benjamin Franklin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marilyn Monroe, John Paul Jones, Johnny Depp and Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty, or give me death”).

+ Song: “This Land is My Land” – All

+ Monologue: Harriet Tubman – Chris Milton. Reflections on many daring missions on the Underground Railroad.

+ Monologue: John F. Kennedy – Stuart Champeau. Inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

+ Monologue: Amelia Earhart – Lola DeVillers. Advancing flying knowledge.

+ Quotes #3: Including, among others, from Alexander Hamilton, Buddy Hackett, Mark Twain, Steve Jobs and Dr. Seuss.

+ Song: “Proud to be an American” – All

+ Retirement of Colors

***

The idea for what Rogue Theater calls “Drive-In Theater” comes from troupe mainstays Stuart Champeau and Lola DeVillers (who are married) attending drive-in services at the church. Nineteen of Rogue Theater’s performances were deep sixed by restrictions, and so the couple and others came up with a series. Coming programs:

++ July 11-12: “Post-Its” by Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley. The relationship between two people via post-it notes.

++ July 18-19: “Golden Age of Comedy.” TV skits from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

++ Aug. 1-2: “Alabama Bound” by Charlotte Higgins. Southern women in various stages of trouble.

++ Aug. 8-9: “High School Performers.” Local student performances.

++ Aug. 15-16: “Susan and Elizabeth: A Friendship of Consequence.” Written and performed by Susan Kohout and Chris Milton.

++ Aug. 22-23: “Just Plane Funny.” Collection of comedy skits.

++ Aug. 29-30: “Golden Age of Comedy.” TV skits from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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