By Mary Boyle
Every Summer, I write an article about Shakespeare in the Park that always includes American Players Theatre; but, APT is so much more than Shakespeare in the Park. With its 1,089 seat outdoor theater known as The Hill situated in the beautiful driftless region of Spring Green, Wisconsin, APT is the second largest outdoor theater in the country, after The Muny of St. Louis. This is where Wisconsin's finest actors come to play in the woods, and where you will see some of the best live theatre in the state. Whether you are a theatre fanatic or just looking for a nearby weekend getaway, a visit to Spring Green and APT is just the ticket.
Devoted to the classics, APT always has at least one or two works by the Bard. This season, they take on the rarely staged LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST and Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, HAMLET. Being a bit of a rabid Shakespeare fan, myself, I made sure to see these two productions. With the Regency period being all the rage, and being a Jane Austen fan, I also had to see SENSE & SENSIBILITY. Finally, just for pure fun, I chose THE RIVALS. The only disappointment from my weekend was that the rain caused me to miss the second half of S&S, and though LLL was interrupted by the weather, it was worth the hour wait to see the rest. From casting to costumes to set design, APT is at the top of their game.
I was particularly excited to see Love's Labour's Lost, as I have never had the opportunity; in fact, it's been two decades since APT has done it. Directed by Brenda DeVita, the production is brilliantly set in the 1950's at the "University" of Navarre, where a group of steadfast male students solemly vow to apply themselves to their studies so loyally that they swear off even the presence of any females for the next three years. This, of course, is just before an evenly matched group of determined ladies show up on the University's doorstep, resulting in the expected hijinks. This one is perfection, but I would be remiss if I didn't note Josh Krause as Dull, the Constable, who steals the show, as he so often does. While watching this wonderfully funny and witty production, you will wonder why this particular tale isn't staged more often, but you will find your answer at the end. See it, anyway, and hurry – Love's Labour's Lost only runs through October 2nd .
Then, just when you think you couldn't possibly see a better version of Hamlet than the filmed National Theatre production starring Benedict Cumberbatch, APT shows up. The ghost king is formidable and terrifying, Horatio is cast as a woman, and Nate Burger plays the role of Hamlet so brilliantly, it is a joy to behold. Directed by James DeVita, this is another very strong cast, but I particularly loved Chiké Johnson's take on Polonius. The stark, gritty set design and lighting by Takeshi Kata and Jason Fassl truly makes the production. Sure, you may have seen Hamlet a few times, but you've never seen one like this. You have until October 8th, and I can't think of a better ghost story to kick off your October with.
Who doesn't love Jane Austen?! When Mr. Dashwood passes, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are quite destitute after being thrown out of their own home in Sussex by their Uncle John and his horrible wife, Fanny. As they adjust to their new, and much poorer, life in Devonshire, their new neighbor, Mrs. Jennings, makes it her mission to get the young ladies married off. Directed by Marti Lyons, Sense & Sensibility is sweet, funny and, dare I say, terribly romantic. Marcus Truschinski as Colonel Brandon could not be any more awkward and heartbreaking. Fans of Austen, the Regency era, or hopeless romantics, this one's for you; you have until October 9th.
Now, what can I say about The Rivals? This one reminds me of last season's Rough Crossing, with Josh Krause in a very similar role with hysterical results; at any rate, The Rivals is three hours of clever, laugh-out-loud fun. Directed by Aaron Posner and written in 1775 by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the great Irish satirist, poet, playwright and owner of Drury Lane, the rivals are all of the men who are trying to win the hand of one Miss Lydia Languish, who can't possibly wed Captain Jack Abolute, the man her Aunt Malaprop wishes her to wed, but insists on marrying Ensign Beverly, a man of no means, wealth or name and with whom she's infatuated with. The funny thing is, they're the same man. The highlight of this show is James Ridge, who is in his comedic element as Sir Lucious O'Trigger (seriously, watch for the little Irish jigs he throws in – it's priceless!). This one only runs through September 17th, so you really need to get on it.
Also at The Hill this season is Lorraine Hansberry's classic, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, which runs through October 7th. American Players Theatre is also home to an intimate indoor theater called The Touchstone, where you can see THE BROTHERS SIZE by Tarell Alvin McCraney, THE RIVER BRIDE by Marisela Treviño Orta, THE MOORS by Jen Siverman, and STONES IN HIS POCKETS by Marie Jones, which ends the season on November 20th.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to: americanplayers.org/ or call the Box Office at 608-588-2361.
Know Before You Go
What to do in Spring Green
Spring Green is the home of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, as well as the iconic Wisconsin attraction, House on the Rock. Spring Green, itself, is an adorable little main street community with some lovely shops and restaurants; I highly recommend making a stop at Arcadia Books and the Last Leaf Public House. There are also two State Parks nearby: Tower Hill and Governor Dodge.
For the history buffs, you can see two State Historical Sites just a bit further south down 151: in historic Mineral Point you can see Pendarvis, and you will find the First Capitol in Belmont. There's also historic Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, where you can check out the trollway and visit the nearby Cave of the Mounds.
By Mary Boyle
For the past 17 years, Aaron Rossmiller and Kat Chronis have been running at least one version of Lakeside Music & Naturals – a venture that has combined both of their interests in one business: one part music store (offering instruments for sale, lessons, repairs & appraisals) and one part natural childrens store/boutique (offering everything from wooden toy instruments to fair trade jewelry and clothing, to personal care products made with natural ingredients). Music, though, is what has tied it all together, from the concerts they attend on a regular basis to the Music Together classes for young children that Kat has been offering for the past several years.
After the couple opened their first store in Sheboygan in 2005, they spent several years trying to find the right location in Ozaukee County, beginning at the Cedar Creek Settlement and then trying two different locations in Grafton, but they couldn't find the right fit. Interestingly, it was another mutual love that brought them to Port Washington: coffee. A manager at the Smith Bros. Coffee House, who regularly hosted live music and was a customer of theirs, told them about a space opening up across the street. Regular visits to Smith Bros. saw them through the growth of their store, Kat's music classes for children, the birth of their second child, hours of Kat's grad school work, adopting a new puppy, and the opening of a third store in Manitowoc. Then, Smith Bros. closed in September of 2021.
"Downtown traffic dropped after Smith Bros. left," Kat said. "You did not have the people walking through like you once did."
With their convenient coffee supply gone and reduced traffic to their store, the couple decided to start yet another venture: a coffee shop of their own inside Lakeside Music & Naturals. The name, Banjo's Brews Coffee, comes from the rescue pup they adopted, whom they aptly named Banjo Kazoo. They sourced their fair trade organic coffee from local Milwaukee roasters, Colectivo (the same coffee roaster Smith Bros. used) and Aaron, himself, has not only built the counters and set up the kitchen, but he's also the one making their bakery.
Music remains the theme, even for the coffee shop. The menu offers "Classicals" (such as a cappucino, latte or Americano) or "Melodies" (such as fruit smoothies or frozen lemonade); drink specials are named with musical inspiration, such as this week's "blackbird," a frozen blackberry lemonade slushie that is delightful and refreshing. Regular live music is something the couple really hopes to add to the Banjo's Brews schedule, along with soups and sandwiches, come fall. The focus of the menu will be plant-based and cater to vegetarians, vegans, and those with other dietary restrictions.
Although the opening took a bit longer than they'd expected, it came just in the nick of time: Kat is due with the couple's third child on September 11th and is about to start her final year of grad school, which will make her a family nurse practitioner when she's done. If anybody needs coffee, it's these people. For now, they're working out the kinks, continuing to work on the space, and planning for their Grand Opening, which will take place on Saturday, August 27th from noon to 4 p.m., where they'll be offering delicious bakery for both people and their dogs, as well as live music from 2-4 p.m. from the students of Annette Meyer Studio in Grafton. Ten percent of the bakery and drink proceeds from the day will go to the Ozaukee Campus of the Wisconsin Humane Society.
For more information about Lakeside Music & Naturals and all they have to offer, go to www.lakesidemusicstore.com/. To keep up with what's happening at Banjo's Brews, go to www.facebook.com/banjosbrewscoffee.
Fredonia’s Jacqui Fulcomer is leading the charge to preserve Waubeka’s buildings with the creation of a Historic District
Jacqui Fulcomer is known for growing things. Her and her partner, Dan Bertram, own Willoway Farm in Fredonia, which began as a traditional produce CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation and evolved to include Jacqui’s Waggle Dance Flowers, a flower CSA that offers a variety of weekly bouquets throughout the growing season, as well as a number of opportunities on their farm, including weddings, photo and painting sessions, workshops, and even camping. More recently, though, Jacqui has been working on growing something entirely new: a passion for preserving the Village of Waubeka. And, just like everything else Jacqui grows, she really wants to share it with everyone.
Given Jacqui’s interest in Waubeka, one would think she grew up here, but she is in fact from New Jersey. She met Dan in Whitefish, Montana while they were both employed at the same restaurant, and the two quickly discovered a common love of nature and the outdoors. After several years of working on various farms and learning about sustainable agriculture, the couple found the farm of their dreams while visiting Dan’s family, who happen to reside in Fredonia, and the two have been growing their farm and their family since 2006.
Like many of the communities in Ozaukee, Fredonia houses a couple of unincorporated villages, and it didn’t take long for Jacqui to discover and fall in love with Waubeka: a quaint and often overlooked area of Ozaukee with a number of charming historic cream city brick, frame, and field stone structures, intersected by the Milwaukee River. Waubeka’s known claim to fame is being the birthplace of Flag Day. Each year on the second Sunday of June, thousands of people visit the historic Stony Hill School, where a young teacher named Bernard J. Cigrand started the first Flag Day celebration, and attend the Flag Day parade down Waubeka’s main street. However, as Jacqui learned, the Stony Hill School and the story of Flag Day are not the whole of Waubeka’s history or appeal.
Waubeka was a very industrial town in the mid to late 1800’s, according to an article in the Port Pilot from 1976. The community had a doctor, dentist, general store, two tailor shops, a drug store, two cigar shops, a saw mill, a casket shop, a slaughterhouse and meat market, saloons, a large mill used for feed and the manufacturing of flour, and a button factory which, prior, was a furniture shop run by a Mr. Kendall (a box flume from the mill supplied water power for running the machinery). There were three blacksmith shops, a millinery shop, a pump factory, a cooper shop that made wooden barrels and cisterns, and a photograph gallery operated by a Miss Paulus. Perhaps most notably, there was the Klessig Cheese Factory and the Cooley Cheese Box Factory, which employed a large number of young men and boys in the community. Then, in the 1870’s, the railroad was routed through the east side of Fredonia, causing Waubeka’s decline.
While Cedarburg and Port Washington are considered the historic areas of Ozaukee County, their buildings often needed to undergo extensive renovation to unearth their original look after decades of modernization. Waubeka, meanwhile, has essentially been frozen in time, with many of its structures unchanged from its industrial heyday. Unfortunately, not all of the structures have weathered time well; without a collaborative effort to preserve them, Waubeka could easily lose its quaint and authentic character.
In 2018, the Klessig Cheese Factory was for sale and Jacqui and Dan, along with Dan’s brother, Greg, and a few of their friends, formed the Klessig Riverside Group and purchased the property with the hope of restoring the historical integrity of the building and kickstarting the preservation of Waubeka. The more research Jacqui did on the property, the more enamored she became of Waubeka’s history, and the more determined she became to save it.
“I have grown quite fond of the Waubeka history and admire its founders,” said Jacqui. “Dan and I, and our friends, find the properties in Waubeka charming and want to see it flourish for generations to come.”
When the neighboring Bidinger Blacksmith House became available, another group called the Bidingers Haus, LLC, also consisting of Jacqui, Dan, Greg, and some friends, was formed. The trouble is, both structures are near the Milwaukee River and considered to be in a flood plain; therefore, there is a cap on the amount of money that can be invested into the structures – basically, enough to stabilize them, but not enough to restore them. However, should the area be named a State Historic District and the buildings listed in the district, the cap is removed. Furthermore, buildings in a State Historic District are eligible for state and federal income tax credits for rehabilitation, as well as for federal grants and the use of the state’s Historic Building Code, which may help to facilitate the rehabilitation.
Jacqui and Dan raised some funds by selling Christmas trees the past two winters on their properties in Waubeka and were able to hire Preserve, LLC, a historic preservation consulting firm, to help begin the process, which consists of identifying which structures are recommended to be included in the district and putting together a step-by-step plan, which begins with getting the community on board. To that end, Jacqui has arranged a public meeting at Boots Q ‘n Boogie (the former Waubeka Fire Hall) on Wednesday, August 17th from 5-7 p.m. to size up interest. Preserve, LLC will be present at the meeting, as well as Jason Tish, the Preservation Education Coordinator from the Wisconsin Historical Registration Office, to present the proposed district and to answer any questions from members of the community.
Some members of the community have already reached out to help. Local artist, Katie Musloff, donated a drawing based on a photo from June 7, 1895, of the Singer Society’s 25th anniversary parade, a primarily German glee club that built the Singers Hall in Waubeka in 1871, held song festivals, and even established a German theatre program in the community. Some of the notable members were Julius Klessig, the Founder of Klessig Cheese Factory, as well as several other Klessig family members, M.T. Neuens, and Nicholas Cigrand, the father of Bernard Cigrand – names that are familiar to anyone who resides in the community.
Should there be enough interest, the next step will be to create a non-profit Waubeka Historic District Support Association, which will make it easier to raise the funds needed to obtain the listing on the State Register. Creating a non-profit, Jacqui estimates, will cost around $900, while getting the historic district can cost over $20,000. To help defray the cost of the meeting, Jacqui will be selling flowers at the event. For anyone who would like to support the project, but cannot attend the meeting, Jacqui invites them to purchase flowers ahead of the event for pick up at the Klessig Cheese Factory porch (N5412 Cigrand Dr.); any flowers that are not picked up will be delivered to Forest Haven Assisted Living in Fredonia for their residents to enjoy.
For more information about the Waubeka Historic District or to purchase flowers, contact Jacqui at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the State Register of Historic Places, visit https://www.WisconsinHistory.org/Records/Article/CS4330. To learn more about Waubeka’s historic buildings, walk the Chief Waubeka Historical Trail created by the National Flag Day Foundation.