DOOR COUNTY - It's known not just as a vacation destination but an arts destination as well.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Door County offers bigger special events and series to entice fans of literature, music, theater and movies even during the winter offseason.
In today's times, it's important to note that while some of these programs originally were scheduled for in-person audiences, the continued surge of the COVID-19 virus across Door County and the country has seen many of them switch to virtual programs, even as this compilation was being written. So, we advise those planning to physically attend in-person events listed here to double-check with the organizers to make sure they're still in-person before heading out.
With that said, most of these special offseason events start up in the next few weeks, so here's a look at some ways to keep those cultural fires burning while it's cold outside.
Read a book, see Michael Perry (virtually)
Door County Reads is a chance to not just read a book but really explore it in ways other than reading. And this year, it brings the works of a well-known, popular Wisconsin-based author to the Peninsula — as well as the author himself, albeit online.
Taking place for a 15th consecutive winter and running through Feb. 14, the Door County Library system annually sponsors this initiative that offers two-plus weeks to read a specific book selected by the library, discuss it and gain an even deeper understanding of it through programs that tie into the book, such as lectures, theatrical and musical performances and writing workshops. The idea is to enhance readers' appreciation of the book and the region and culture where it is set. The library provides free copies of the book at all eight library branches.
Originally, this year's programs were planned as a mix of virtual and in-person events, but the library very recently changed almost all events to online only, with livestreams mainly on Facebook and Zoom.
This year, the library chose two books, both by Michael Perry, the writer and volunteer fireman/EMT from New Auburn who's penned several best-selling memoirs of his life in his small Wisconsin community. The books for Door County Reads are "Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time" and "Truck: A Love Story."
Perry also is host of the weekly public radio program "Tent Show Radio" and has recorded several humor albums, and Door County Reads participants can see him virtually, but live, when he delivers the program's keynote talk the afternoon of Feb. 5. His talk was planned as a live appearance at Door Community Auditorium but now is changed to a livestream address he will deliver from Write On, Door County.
Plus, two movies of Perry talking about his roots and life will be shown as part of the program. "Where I Come From" plays at 2 p.m. Thursday and "How Ya Doin'" plays at 4 p.m. Feb. 1.
Door County Reads officially opens with a Virtual Kick-off on Jan. 30, a retrospective on the program's past 14 years with authors whose works have been featured in the program, other Wisconsin-based authors and other participants.
Readers of the books can take part in, or listen in on, online book discussions held at Door County Library branches and bookstores across the county.
Among the noteworthy presentations this year is "English in Wisconsin," a Feb. 3 lecture by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Joe Salmons on variations on the English language heard and written in the state; and "Population: 30,066," an online panel discussion by Door County volunteer firefighters.
Peninsula theater companies will present play readings with a Wisconsin vibe, such as Door Shakespeare's readings of two works by state native Thornton Wilder on Jan. 31 and Rogue Theater's reading of the stage adaptation of "Population: 485" Feb. 11. Play readings also will be given by Third Avenue PlayWorks on Feb. 4 and Peninsula Players on Feb. 7. The readings remained as in-person performances as of Jan. 21, but check the Door County Reads website for possible changes.
Other events include virtual panels on authors, writing and mental well-being; a virtual songwriting workshop with local, nationally recognized blues musician Cathy Grier; a virtual trivia contest; and a livestreamed Feb. 12 concert by the Griffon String Quartet.
For a complete schedule or more information, including links and passcodes for the virtual programs, visit doorcountyreads.org. To obtain a copy of the book, go to any county library branch.
Listen to the theater
Door County theater companies may not be presenting fully staged shows this winter, but four of them are giving play readings to take part in Door County Reads (see above), and two of them are doing so as part of their regular winter play reading series.
With a relatively new name and new artistic director Jacob Janssen, Third Avenue PlayWorks (the former Third Avenue Playhouse) presents its 7th annual Winter Play Reading Festival over two weekends in February in its 124-seat Kane Theatre. A number of plays read during the festival have gone on to become full-scale productions at TAP. Each reading features a different director and cast, with a mix of local favorites and new faces.
Because of public health conditions with the COVID-19 virus in late January, TAP decided the readings will be held as online-only performances, and the previously scheduled Feb. 5 reading of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" has been canceled. Those planning to watch the online readings need to register on TAP's website to get the link to the performances.
The series opens Feb. 4 with "Dairyland," a new play about family relations, the politics of food and coming home by Heidi Armbruster. The play's main character, a New York-based food writer who was raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm, tries to find balance not just in her life but between the opinions of the New Yorkers pressing the organic food movement and her father, a traditional dairy farmer.
"Dairyland" is part of Door County Reads programming.
The reading for Feb. 19 is "Mrs. Harrison," a dark comedy by a Barrymore Award-winning playwright and humorist R. Eric Thomas. It looks at a chance meeting at a school reunion of two women, a successful Black playwright and a struggling white comedian who had a tragic event in her life that may be the basis for the playwright's most successful work.
Closing the series Feb. 20 is "The Last Match" by Anna Ziegler, which delves into the worlds and motivations of an aging tennis superstar and rising young superstar when they have to play against each other in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
All readings start at 7 p.m. To register to watch the readings or for more information, call 920-743-1760 or visit thirdavenueplayworks.org.
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Also starting up its annual offseason play reading series is Peninsula Players Theatre, presenting "The Play's the Thing" for a 12th straight winter.
As with the TAP series, some of the readings have become fully staged productions during Players' regular season.
The series opener in February, part of Door County Reads programming, will be streamed virtually only, and Players is planning for a combination of in-person audiences at Björklunden in Baileys Harbor (limit 80) and livestreaming for its March and April readings. All readings are on Mondays at 7 p.m. and are free, but reservations are required for the in-person performances, and live audience members must provide proof of full vaccination and wear face masks.
Starting this year's series Feb. 7 is "Kodachrome,” described as a tender comedy by Adam Szymkowicz in which a photographer in a small New England town provides glimpses into her neighbors' lives, one romance at a time.
The reading for March 7 has yet to be announced.
Closing this year's series April 4 is “A Rock Sails By” by Sean Grennan, who's not only acted on the Players' summer stage but also had three plays he wrote make their world premieres there ("Making God Laugh" in 2011, "The Tin Man" in 2014 and 2018's "Now and Then"). In this work, a troubled astrophysicist is shaken when a strange object from outside our galaxy heads toward Earth, calling into question her belief about what’s “out there.”
For reservations for in-person readings or more information, call Players' winter box office at 715-718-0347 or visit peninsulaplayers.com.
Check out a chamber concert
Peninsula Music Festival is best known for its annual series of nine classical music concerts in three weeks by a professional symphony orchestra every August, taking place for a 70th time this summer.
But for offseason community outreach, PMF also offers February Fest, a chamber music concert on three successive Sunday afternoons in the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor. Most feature members of the PMF Orchestra or popular past guest soloists from the August symphonies.
As of this writing, the concerts will be for in-person audiences, limited to 80, but patrons will need to show proof of full vaccination regardless of age or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours or less before the scheduled performance time. All patrons will be required to wear a mask while inside the venue and throughout the performance. If the health protocols change, those with reservations will be notified by email the week of the concert.
The series opens Feb. 6 with PMF violinist Thomas Kluge and Principal Keyboard Chrsti Zuniga for a program featuring two works by Mozart and one by Cesar Franck.
Next in the Feb. 13 concert is PMF Principal Trumpet Terry Everson, his son and fellow trumpeter Peter Everson and pianist Colin Welford in a varied program that includes Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets and a Terry Everson composition, "Hyfrydol Aspects."
Closing the series Feb. 20 is pianist Jonathan Bass, a Washington Island native and winner of PMF’s George Verheyden Memorial College Scholarship in 2019. His concert features works by Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Debussy and two by American composer Florence Price.
All concerts start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $10 students, $75 for all three concerts. For reservations or more information, call 920-854-4060 or visit musicfestival.com.
And for even more chamber music, the Griffon String Quartet, the resident ensemble of Door County's popular Midsummer's Music, plays a free, live, online concert at 2 p.m. Feb. 12 as part of Door County Reads programming.
Binge-watch (a lot of really short) movies
It's the 13th straight year for the Door County Short Film Fest, and the second straight year the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the festival to be a virtual affair.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing, according to executive director Chris Opper. In its first 11 years, audiences of as many as 150 gathered at Sister Bay Village Hall to view 30 or so movies of one to 20 minutes in length over a Friday night and a full Saturday.
But for this year's festival, those with online passes can watch the 30 films any time between Feb. 18 and 26 at their own time and pace. The streaming platform used by the festival, Eventive.com, also will allow the festival to host online Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.
"Initially, we were fairly apprehensive about going virtual," Opper said in a news release. "But our fears were entirely unfounded. Last year our audience easily found us, primarily through social media, and we had the best attendance year in our history."
As in the past, the festival features showings of about 30 short flicks selected by a jury from more than 150 hours worth of submissions by professional and amateur film makers from across Wisconsin and the Midwest, across the country and around the world.
The directors are competing for the 2022 Golden Mug Award, a clay coffee mug created by local artist Larry "Thor" Thoreson of Gills Rock Pottery and presented to the film judged best by the selection jury. The virtual audience also votes for their favorite movies, with the top vote-getter earning the People's Choice Mug Award.
Individual full-access passes to this year's festival are $20 each and are available online at dcsff.eventive.org. After the purchase of a pass, buyers are provided with an online link and entry code to the site that will stream the festival's films from midnight Feb. 18 to midnight Feb. 26. Once an "attendee" selects and starts viewing a film, they have 48 hours to finish viewing that film.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit facebook.com/DoorCountyShortFilmFestival.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Door County winter special events offer chance to enjoy the arts