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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: ‘How Shakespeare Won the West’ reading set in Egg Harbor

Critic At Large

Door Shakespeare

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EGG HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV)

The Door Shakespeare Reading Series continues next week with “How Shakespeare Won the West” being performed at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in Woodwalk Gallery, 6746 County Road G, Egg Harbor.

Admission to the series is free, though donations are accepted.

According to a press release: “The second offering in the series is Richard Nelson’s 2010 somewhat historically accurate, but highly fictionalized comedy, which premiered at the Huntington Theatre Company, in Boston, Massachusetts,” said company producing artistic director Michael Stebbins, who also serves as the reading’s director.

“As with our first reading last month, part of the challenge, and the fun, comes in securing the right actors for these very colorful characters that Nelson offers us.”

The play is the story of a ragtag troupe of actors on their way West during the Gold Rush. The players seek fortune and fame along with performing Shakespeare for enthusiastic ’49ers. With stiff competition, romantic entanglements and an American Indian chief who sees himself in “King Lear,” their ambitious adventure is complicated by the teeming challenges and glories of the new American frontier.

Some of the historical figures in the play include the well-known P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill and Abraham Lincoln and the not-well-known McKean “Buck” Buchanan, a real-life actor who wowed audiences with his Macbeth by sauntering onstage wearing a flowing cape with Western riding boots, yellow gauntlets and a slouch hat. Popular child actors Little Ellen and Kate Bateman presented major Shakespearean scenes clothed in crowns, ermine, and tiny, fitted armor to play Richard III and Richmond. They were 9 and 11 years of age, respectively.

Richard Nelson has had success on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theatrer and abroad. He won a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for “James Joyce’s The Dead” and Olivier Award (Britain’s equivalent of a Tony Award) for Best Play for “Goodnight Children Everywhere.”

Nelson has also adapted classics for the stage, including August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” and “The Father” and Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” “The Three Sisters,” “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Wood Demon.” On film, he has written the screenplays for “Ethan Frome,” starring Liam Neeson, and “Hyde Park on Hudson,” starring Bill Murray as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The cast of “How Shakespeare Won the West” features actors familiar to Door Shakespeare audiences and a few new faces.

No stranger to Door County audiences, Neil Brookshire plays Hank Daley, a star of the New York City stage with a drinking problem. Brookshire has worked with Door Shakespeare, Peninsula Players Theatre, Great Lakes Theater, Boise Contemporary Theater, Idaho Dance Theatre, Opera Idaho, Seattle Novyi Theatre, People’s Light, Cadence Theatre Company, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Renaissance Theaterworks, Peninsula Players, Tennessee Shakespeare Company and 10 seasons with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Playing Edward Oldfield, an American actor pretending to be from England, is Scott McKenna Campbell. He returns to Door Shakespeare after composing, music-directing, and performing in the company’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 summer seasons. He has performed the Ohio Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare in Delaware Park and the Maryland Shakespeare Company. He has written full lyrics and score for multiple new plays with Ohio Shakespeare, including the recent world premiere of “Maid Marion: An Adventure with Music.”

Amy Ensign, Door Shakespeare’s managing director, joins the cast as Alice Calhoun. This past summer marked Ensign’s seventh season as a member of Door Shakespeare’s acting company. She has also appeared at Third Avenue Playhouse, Northern Sky Theater, Theatre M and Peninsula Players Theatre. Ensign will direct Door Shakespeare’s first youth production, “Something’s Rotten in the State of Denmark,” Dec. 13-15 at Bjorklunden.

Anne Herring returns to Door Shakespeare as leading actress Kate Denim, after appearing in the 2011 production of “Pride and Prejudice.” Herring also appeared at Third Avenue Playhouse and Isadoora Theater Company.

Rayne Kleinofen is returning to Door Shakespeare in the roles of Susan Calhoun and Shakespearean actor (and 9-year-old), Ellen Bateman. In last month’s reading of “Red Velvet,” she played multiple characters. Kleinofen was recently seen in Renaissance Theaterworks’ Br!nk festival’s “Two Truths and a Lie” and its staged reading of “Stitched with a Sickle and a Hammer.”

Making his first appearance with Door Shakespeare, as George Edgar Rice, P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill and Abe is Steve Koehler. Koehler is probably best known for playing Lloyd in “Guys on Ice,” a role he has performed more than 1,000 times, from Northern Sky Theater to The Milwaukee Rep to Wisconsin Public Television. Additional Wisconsin credits include Peninsula Players Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Madison and Skylight Music Theatre.

Also in his Door Shakespeare debut, Alan Kopischke joins the cast as George Demerest, an actor with aversion to child performers. Kopischke has acted locally at Peninsula Players Theatre and Third Avenue Playhouse, and nationally with Steppenwolf, The Milwaukee Rep, Theatre Z, and regional theaters across the country, including the American Conservatory Theater.

Jarrod Langwinski appears as multiple characters. He appeared in Door Shakespeare’s productions of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Henry V.” Langwinski also worked with The Shakespeare Project of Chicago, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and The Constructivists.

Mark Moede takes on the role of Thomas Jefferson Calhoun, owner of the Bard Tavern in New York City. Familiar to the Door Shakespeare stage, Modede performed in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Twelfth Night” and 2015’s “The Tempest.” Other credits include Northern Sky Theater, Third Avenue Playhouse, Theatre M and The Peninsula Players Theater.

Katherine Norman (Ruth Oldfield, another American actor who swears she’s from England, and has the bad dialect to prove it) has performed with Door Shakespeare, Optimist Theatre, Theatre Lila and the Missoula Children’s Theatre. She has taught extensively at Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Children’s Theatre of Madison, the Oakhill Prison Humanities Project, and Whoopensocker.

JJ Smith makes his Door Shakespeare debut as Buck Buchanan, a guitar-strumming aspiring actor from Ohio. Smith is an actor/musician based in Chicago, where he recently played Richard III in Otherworld Theatre’s “Super Richard World III: It’s Just Richard III with Nintendo Characters.” He is also an ensemble member with the Sketch Comedy Group Mass St. Productions.

Michael Stebbins, director, was last seen in Door Shakespeare’s production of “Henry V.” In November and December, he will be appearing as the aging, arthritic but avid duelist Count Otto von Dietrichstein in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of “Jeeves at Sea.” For the Door Shakespeare Reading Series, he will be reading seasonal essays from David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” in mid-December.

Ryan Zierk returns to Door Shakespeare after appearing in 2018’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Comedy of Errors.” Zierk has worked with Milwaukee’s Summit Players and First Stage Children’s Theatre.

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