Laugh, gasp and maybe even shed a tear at one of these Wisconsin theaters under the stars. The state has several top-notch venues that mix in a little Mother Nature and an, ahem, breath of fresh air with your cultural experience.
American Players Theater
Spring Green’s internationally known Shakespearean company, the American Players Theatre, is one of the most popular outdoor classical theaters in the country and Travel Green Wisconsin certified. The theater received accolades from the Wall Street Journal in theater critic Terry Teachout’s “best of the best” review for 2011 winning Best Company of the Year and the Best Play of 2011 for “The Cure at Troy.” The amphitheater, referred to as “Up the Hill,” seats 1,147 attendees under the stars. The troupe produces five plays –- playing alternately throughout the summer -- covering everything from Shakespeare to Greek and British comedies and fitting tastes from classical to more, shall we say, egalitarian.
Before each show, families and friends arrive early to share a meal as they anticipate the performance to come. Grills are fired up, picnic baskets are opened and wine corks are popped. For those who prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, everything from picnic dinners to barbecues can be ordered and picked upon arrival. When the trumpets sound it’s time to head up the hill for the magic.
Nestled in a cedar forest overlooking the waters of Green Bay, Peninsula Players in Door County's Fish Creek is America's oldest professional resident summer theater. Beginning simply with "two planks and a passion," the theater opened its first show, Noel Coward’s "Hay Fever", on July 25, 1935, and has been captivating audiences since. They now perform 5 shows each season, offering everything from Greek tragedy to British farce. Theater goers stroll along the shore and enjoy a cocktail or picnic while they watch one of Door County’s spectacular sunsets. Then it’s time to head to the pavilion to enjoy an evening of memorable theater.
Northern Sky Theater
Visitors will split a gut laughing their way through the season’s hysterical original productions at the Northern Sky Theater in Door County The theater is a critically acclaimed professional theatre presenting family-friendly original musicals under a canopy of stars. This is a great family night out, as all summer shows are appropriate for all ages. The musicals are often Wisconsin originals, including Cheeseheads: The Musical, The Adventures of John Muir, father of our national parks, in The Mountains Call My Name and ice fishermen Lloyd and Marvin in Guys On Ice.
At Door Shakespeare, visitors will discover an exceptionally memorable evening of theatre featuring, of course, Shakespeare! Entertaining and fun for the family and enthusiast, the shows feature gorgeous costumes and live music in a one-of-a-kind outdoor setting - the beautiful Bjorklunden Garden in Door County's Baileys Harbor.
Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua
In Northern Wisconsin, Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua presents a summer season of concerts, plays, and lectures in its intimate 900-seat, state-of-the-art tent/theater. Original historical musical theater based on local history and culture, such as Riding the Wind and American Stories, are scheduled along with national and regional touring musicians. The big blue tent welcomes folks who make the drive up the hill between Bayfield and Washburn County. Families and couples get together at the picnic tables for barbeque and burgers, locally grown produce and Wisconsin brews before heading into the tent. On balmy summer nights the tent sidewalls can be lifted and people can choose to sit outside on the surrounding hillside and gaze at the clear night sky as they listen to show.
Alley Stage is a nationally recognized theater company dedicated to the production of original and popular plays, readings and music events. Alley Stage produces a summer season on an intimate outdoor stage nestled in historic Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point. Explore the campus via a walking tour and enjoy a picnic lunch on the beautiful grounds before the show.
Milwaukee’s Peck Pavilion provides the perfect venue for a wide variety of art performances. Part of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and with a gorgeous location on the Milwaukee River, the open-air Peck Pavilion is the city's first space-frame structure and provides comfortable sheltered theater seating for 400 people. Many of the events are free, making it a great date or family night out option. Perfect for a date night, enjoy a classy dinner at a restaurant nearby (the pavilion is downtown, after all. Dining options are virtually endless) before settling in for the show!