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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Extra! Our region’s troupes get inventive when the play’s the thing

Critic At Large

Out-of-the-ordinary play spaces

Entrance for the Coastal Players production of “The Last Five Years” in an alleyway of the former Menominee Opera House. (Warren Gerds)


Going to the theater can sometimes take you to unexpected places in our region.

Over time, I have seen plays in an old cannery, a tavern, a former railroad station and a clubhouse, among other un-theater spaces.

Come on along to five of my recent stops and find out how inventive that theater people get in their drive to put on a show.

+ In Wittenberg, Crossroads Community Theater recently offered the comedy, “Every Little Crook and Nanny,” in a kind of nook in what was once a store.

The rear of the performance space is an alcove in what today is WOWSPACE, headquarters of a community entity interested in the arts. Among other things, Walls of Wittenberg, Inc., promotes the creation of murals on exterior building walls around town.

WOWSPACE dates all the way to the 1880s.

A display near the front entrance traces the ownership from way back when, pretty much owner by owner, function by function.

The building has been a clothing store, a pharmacy and a grocery, among other uses. It also has been an old standby – vacant.

Review of the production:

+ In Menominee, Michigan, a troupe called Coastal Players performed its first show in the backstage area of the very hollowed out and derelict former Menominee Opera House.

The building dates to 1902, but Coastal Players’ production of “The Last Five Years” was the first theatrical venture there since 1950.

After entry by the back door alleyway, there are a whole lot of bricks, much space and abundant nostalgia.

A vintage sign backstage says no tobacco spitting is allowed.

Review of the production:

+ In Door County, Rogue Theater has a knack of making do with whatever space it can grab. That reference to the railroad station above was a Rogue Theater location for a while.

This summer, the community troupe set up in the auditorium of Baileys Harbor Town Hall. The space is for multiple uses, but theater is secondary at best, save for the existence of a stage.

Stage lighting does not exist. Nor a stage sound system.

But onward Rogue Theater went, including with the fascinating “A Girl of the Limberlost.”

Review of the production:

+ In De Pere, the loft-like space for Cardboard Theatre has seen many a chef and shopkeeper in its spot in the Historic Main Avenue District.

The performance space in The Green Room is wedged into a corner, and it is just right for the troupe that specializes in original plays and cardboard set pieces and props.

Cardboard Theatre’s next production, “Crime!” arrives Nov. 15. The review of its first production:

+ In Sturgeon Bay, Isadoora Theatre Company operates in a cozy space called Inside/Out that is beneath the Margaret Lockwood Gallery.

The place has been around since the 1880s. Among its uses, it has housed the reporters and printing press of the Door County Advocate newspaper in the late 1800s, a commercial laundry, Peterson Builders, Inc. and the old standby – vacant.

Isadoora Theatre Company’s next production, “Three Days of Rain,” arrives Friday, Nov. 8. The review of its most recent production:

These five spaces are recent arrivals of places that years ago you wouldn’t expect to have seen performances.

They are examples of where there’s a will, there’s a way when – as William Shakespeare said – “The play’s the thing.”

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