FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – Frederick Heide is having a birthday.

There’s a party of sorts.

It’s a show: “Doc’s 70th Birthday Bash.

Mostly, the event starting at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 24, in Door Community Auditorium has to do with a portion – a large one – of what it is to be Frederick Heide.

Another portion – also significant – has to do with the “Doc” nickname. Frederick Heide holds a Ph.D. – a doctorate in clinical psychology from Pennsylvania State University. He has taught and written in the field.

A whole other Frederick Heide is “Doc” Heide, performer, musician, writer and a key artistic soul of the professional Northern Sky Theater of Door County.

That’s the side that will be visible in “Doc’s 70th Birthday Bash.”

“Doc” Heide will tell tales, sing songs and pitch his “Tangled in Wonder, a new book of his of more than 50 of his songs. The book includes lyrics, chords and personal reflections.

Participating – and this makes the performance a once-in-a-lifetime thingie – are performing/creative artists with whom “Doc” Heide has been associated.

They are people who have sung his songs, collaborated with writing shows with him or performed with him over the decades.

Among others are Lee Becker, Amy Chaffee, Deb Fett, Laurie Flanigan-Hegge, Lachrisa Grandberry, Jeff Herbst, Jimmy Kaplan, Dan Klarer, Steve Koehler, Craig Konowalski, Eric Lewis, Karen Mal, Tim McNurlen, Paul Sowinski, James Valcq and Matt Zembrowski.

Tens of thousands of people have seen what these artists have shared with “Doc” Heide in some form or other.

Fred “Doc” Heide is co-founder Northern Sky Theater along with the late Fred Alley, another creative wellspring. Legend has it that confusion in the company in which “Fred” was used in conversation/discussion led Fred Heide to be called “Doc.” Fred Alley was “Fred.” Fred Heide was “Doc,” thus giving a nod to his doctorate.

“Doc” Heide is a product of Green Bay East High School and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (1974).

The UWGB commencement address of Frederick Heide, Ph.D., is legend, too. He presented it mere days after an emergency appendectomy. He had been on death’s door.

“Doc” Heide’s creative style is cosmic, comic and clever.

In “Packer Fans from Outer Space,” just one of his ideas-brought-to-the-stage, he has the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears competing in two universes.

And so, the event of July 24 will be something else in the world of Frederick Heide.


A biography

Frederick J. Heide, Ph.D., recently retired as an associate professor with the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in San Francisco.

As an educator, he has published and presented widely on psychology-related issues including behavior and cognitive therapy, the “war metaphor” in psychotherapy and the therapeutic benefits of drama, humor and music.

He has served as associate editor of the database journal “PsycCritiques” maintained by the American Psychological Association.

His work on relaxation-induced anxiety garnered the Outstanding Research Contribution Award from the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy.

In Wisconsin, he is better known as Fred “Doc” Heide, the creative force behind nearly two dozen musical theater productions that include the regionally popular spoofs “Belgians in Heaven,” “Packer Fans from Outer-Space” and “Guys & Does.”

Heide is co-founder, founding board president, artistic adviser, playwright and performer with Northern Sky Theater, the former American Folklore Theatre.

For years, he spent half the year teaching in California and half at the resident theater troupe at Peninsula State Park in Door County. Northern Sky Theater is one of only a few professional theaters in America that exclusively develops and performs original musicals.

As a sophomore at UW-Green Bay, Fred Heide joined a new university-sponsored folk song and local history troupe called the Heritage Ensemble. 

He never studied theater. “They wanted to do folk songs, and I was the only guy in the group who owned a guitar,” he once joked.

Fred Heide wrote his first show for the troupe, “The People’s Song to Sing,” as a senior honors project before graduating summa cum laude.

While earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology (1981) from Pennsylvania State University, Heide reserved his summers for performing.

The Heritage Ensemble’s fan base grew throughout the 1980s, accompanied by improvements to the outdoor theater and stage facilities at Peninsula State Park and a name change to American Folklore Theatre in 1990.

Heide and fellow mainstays including Fred Alley, Jeffrey Herbst, Lee Becker, Paul Libman and James Kaplan originated a string of new American Folklore Theatre productions.

The region’s lumbering, fishing, farming and native history remained recurring themes, but some of the shows found humor in zealous Packers fans, the subculture of ice fishing or local pride in the region’s Belgian heritage. Others explored themes of romance and relationships.

The company’s success launched an “indoor season,” with American Folklore Theatre performances staged in playhouses in Door County, at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and at venues in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, New York, California and elsewhere.

“Doc” Heide has co-created several shows with Paul Sills, founding director of Chicago’s famous Second City Theatre.

“Doc” Heide has also performed in American Folklore Theatre/Northern Sky Theater “Home for the Holidays” shows in December in Door County.

More detail

Connections of “Doc” Heide, Jeff Herbst, Fred Alley and James Valcq abound in this remarkable 2020 feature story:

GREEN BAYWis. (WFRV) – When doing one story for WFRV Local 5, I sometimes bump into another story.

The second story is usually a reward and sometimes a surprise.

The story you are reading came to be when I put one and one and one and one together to add up to an especially remarkable four.

It happened in a realization after an interview with man of theater James Valcq. He told a tale of meeting three friends for a tour of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Ellis Island is located in New York Harbor near the Statute of Liberty.

The time was the early 1990s, and James Valcq was meeting Fred Alley, Jeffrey Herbst and Frederick “Doc” Heide – each involved in theater, all from Wisconsin.

The realization: What they have done since then!

Were they a pebble, each would cause a ripple in the large pond of theater art in Door County that would interlock with the three others’ ripple and then splash well outside the pond.

One by one by one by one:

Fred Alley: Along with helping create Door Shakespeare, a founder of Northern Sky Theater in Door County. He’s from Mount Horeb.

Door Shakespeare is in its 25th season of presenting classically oriented plays, especially of William Shakespeare, at Bjorklunden on the shore of Lake Michigan near Baileys Harbor.

Northern Sky Theater is headquartered in Fish Creek. Its origins trace near 50 years ago to the Heritage Ensemble that progressed into American Folklore Theatre, which Fred Alley was part of starting. Northern Sky Theater performs in two theaters, one outdoor, one indoor, as it presents solely original musicals with Wisconsin stories.

Along with possessing a golden tenor voice, Fred Alley had a nimble way with creating characters on stage and on paper.

Among the shows he co-wrote are “Guys on Ice,” “Lumberjacks in Love” and “The Bachelors.”

“Guys on Ice” has been running somewhere since it premiered in 1998.

Fred Alley and James Valcq wrote “The Passage” and “The Spitfire Grill.”

James Valcq: Co-artistic director of Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay, composer, director, performer and more. He’s from Milwaukee.

A year-around venue, Third Avenue Playhouse became a theater of note under the hand of James Valcq and co-artistic director Robert Boles with their experience (Broadway, academia and more) with professional casts.

It was “The Passage” that Fred Alley and James Valcq were researching on Ellis Island. The poignant musical premiered in 1994 as an American Folklore Theatre presentation. Among cast members were Fred Alley and “Doc” Heide.

The two also wrote “The Spitfire Grill,” which has had more than 700 productions internationally. The musical premiered Off-Broadway Sept. 7, 2001 (four days before 9/11). Fred Alley was deceased. He died May 1, 2001, at age 38 of a heart attack.

James Valcq also co-authored the musicals “Victory Farm” (2012) for American Folklore Theatre and “Boxcar” (2018) for Northern Sky Theater.

Among his creations at Third Avenue Playhouse are “Velvet Gentleman” and “La La Lucille,” in which he also acted, sang and played piano.

Frederick “Doc” Heide: Along with co-founding American Folklore Theatre/Northern Sky Theater is artistic advisor, playwright and performer. He’s from Green Bay.

Among the shows he co-wrote for the troupe are “Belgians in Heaven,” “Packer Fans from Outer Space,” “Guys & Does,” “Sunsets & Smores” and “The Mountains Call My Name.”

The original cast for “Belgians in Heaven” (1994) included “Doc” Heide, Fred Alley and Jeffrey Herbst.

He started with the Heritage Ensemble in 1973.

Frederick “Doc” Heide’s other job is stunning – a psychology professor. A licensed clinical psychologist, he teaches at the California School of Professional Psychology-San Francisco.

He once told me people in Wisconsin have no idea what he does most of the year in California, and people in California have no idea what he does in summer in Wisconsin.

Jeffrey Herbst: Artistic director of Northern Sky Theater (starting in 1993 as American Folklore Theatre), director, performer. He’s from Mount Horeb.

He calls the shots for, and often performs in, shows that are seen by tens of thousands of people each year.

As artistic director, Jeffrey Herbst nurtured the creation of more than 60 original productions. Included are “Guys on Ice,” “Lumberjacks in Love,” “Packer Fans from Outer Space,” “Victory Farm,” “Guy & Does,” “Dad’s Season Tickets,” “Boxcar,” “Windjammers,” “Dairy Heirs,” “We Like It Where?” “No Bones About It” and “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”

And “The Passage.”

On stage, Jeffrey Herbst sings, acts and dances – plus he directs and creates dances for some shows. He has been part of “And If Elected” for every presidential year (except this one) for decades.

He was a member of the Heritage Ensemble in 1985 at Governor Dodge State Park (a second troupe).


Going back to Ellis Island:

The place means so much to so many. In this case, the meaning is unique in theater creativity.

These friends who were at the same place at the same time with their imaginations cranking are a wellspring of originality here in Wisconsin.

They are one and one and one and one – a fantastic four.