In 1978, a small group gathered on the Lockwood farm near Spring Green, Wisconsin. One person walked to the base of a steep hill and began to read; his voice reached those above with uncanny clarity. After looking at 43 sites, this was the one. The founders, Charles Bright, Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso, had found the spot that was to become American Players Theatre. The mission was to perform the classics, especially the works of Shakespeare, outside, under the sun, moon and stars. On July 18, 1980, American Players Theatre staged its first production: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Word spread quickly about this very special venue and the quality of American Players Theatre’s work. By its second season, the stage was home to a mix of five Shakespearian comedies, histories and tragedies. In 1985, the young theater broadened its scope to include other writers, including Chekhov. That same year APT was nominated for a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater. Since then, the company has performed a steady mix of the greatest works ever written for the stage, including works by such luminaries as Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw, Wilde, Schiller, Sophocles and Wilder.
In 1990, the company began touring Wisconsin following its summer season. David Frank was named Artistic Director in 1991, and under his leadership, American Players Theatre announced the assemblage of a core company of actors who shared the theater’s mission.
The amphitheater was fully renovated in 2000, including the installation of more than 1,100 roomy seats. In 2001, the 22,000 square foot Bravo Center was built for the creation and storage of costumes, scenery and properties.
Today, American Players Theatre has earned a national reputation for presenting theater of the highest quality. Now under the artistic leadership of David Frank and Associate Artistic Director Brenda DeVita, the productions attract an enthusiastic and growing audience of over 100,000 people from throughout the country.