2020: An APT Highlight Reel

Posted January 5, 2021

Year End Blog Website

Revisit all the stories we shared in 2020. 

While 2020 wasn’t the season we’d hoped for, there were still plenty of stories to be told, and much joy to be shared. So join us for a walk down recent-memory lane. The first stop is in the Touchstone - it's almost inconceivable now, but the 2020 pre-season festivities actually began in person with Winter Words. Ah, memories.

February 10 - March 12, 2020 | Winter Words

Last year, the sixth season of APT's winter play-reading series represented the last time we were together in person - or at least together inside, without masks. While the final reading was cancelled (sorry Agamemnon fans), the ones that occurred were exquisite, and hold a special place in our hearts while we're away. Consisting of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, adapted by Helen Edmundson; Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-Winning Anna in the Tropics; and John Van Druten's London Wall, The Capital Times called the Winter Words season "hot tickets for those who love the classical repertory theater," with all four selling out within hours. We're hopeful that Winter Words will carry on in some form in 2021, and we'll let you know just as soon as we can.

June 12 – August 9 | Out of the Woods Play Reading Series, Part I

After APT announced that we would have to cancel the season on May 15, the artistic staff quickly pivoted to begin exploring online play readings via Zoom. The result was ‘Out of the Woods,’ a series that was streamed live to a small audience, and then posted to PBS Wisconsin’s website for a wide viewing audience. We are eternally grateful for the partnership with PBS Wisconsin, and the ever-evolving efforts of artistic staff, directors, designers, stage managers, actors and administrators who created these remarkable stories, and allowed us to share them with an audience we missed so much. The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout wrote, “They made me long to return after the pandemic releases its hold on American theater and spend a week or two watching American Players Theatre work its magic in person.”

June 12
Chekhov One Acts (The Bear; On the Harmfulness of Tobacco; The Proposal)
Adapted by John Wyatt | Directed by Aaron Posner
“The scenes are crisp, clean, and big enough to be comic without losing the humanity and fragility of the people underneath…the short comedies are still a surprising success.” – Gwendolyn Rice, The Isthmus

June 19
As You Like It
By William Shakespeare | Directed by John Langs
“…the next best thing to being up the Hill.” - Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

June 26
Arms and the Man
By George Bernard Shaw | Directed by William Brown
"It’s a quintessential piece of Shavian topsy-turvydom, and Mr. Brown’s cast, whose members all give memorable performances, brings it off with a fizzy éclat that you wouldn’t expect from a mere Zoom reading." – Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

July 3
Julius Caesar
By William Shakespeare| Directed by Stephen Brown-Fried
“…immensely watchable, not least because APT has fielded its top actors, starting with Jim DeVita as Brutus. I’ve long thought Mr. DeVita to rank among America’s leading classical actors, and his incisive Brutus is full of the tightly coiled energy you’d expect from so distinguished an artist.” – Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

July 10
Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been…
By Carlyle Brown | Directed by David Daniel
“Where 'Are You Now' lifts and spins into the air is Hughes’ poetry, in lines that ring and resonate.” – Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

July 17
An Improbable Fiction
By James DeVita | Directed by Tim Ocel
“An Improbable Fiction” has the appeal of fan fiction and alternate history, similar to last season’s “The Book of Will." - Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

September 25 – October 18 | If These Trees Could Talk

‘If These Trees Could Talk’ brought APT’s phenomenal audience home again, at long last. This self-guided tour of the APT grounds was accompanied by poetry and stories written by a variety of authors, and helmed by Melisa Pereyra, Isabella Star LaBlanc, James DeVita, André Pluess and Aaron Posner. With some poetry and stories drawn from classics, and others from writers and artists who were new to APT, we paid tribute to the history of this theater, and to the legacy of the land it was built upon.

“Sitting in a 1,200 seat theater with just a few other humans, the stage stripped bare, I am overcome with a combination of sadness and gratitude — for all the gifts APT has given us over the decades, and for this particular chance to share this wondrous place in a new way…Thank you, APT. Thank you, trees. I heard you.” – Catherine Capellaro, The Isthmus

November 20 – December 31 | Out of the Woods Play Reading Series, Part II

APT happily partnered with PBS Wisconsin once more to share a new series of “Out of the Woods” play readings in November and December. For the last several years, APT has been exploring the idea of just what makes a classic. In that vein, this series focused on plays by playwrights who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color, in collaboration with BIPOC directors and artists.

November 6
The Sins of Sor Juana
By Karen Zacarías | Directed by Jake Penner
"An imaginative, vivid tale set in a convent and a Viceroy’s court, “Sor Juana” is a fresh depiction of a 1600s Mexican feminist poet." - Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

November 13
Nat Turner in Jerusalem

By Nathan Alan Davis | Directed by Gavin Lawrence
"Banks drew a deeply spiritual, intelligent, measured and complex picture of Turner, who wields most of the power in the conversations the night before his hanging." - Gwendolyn Rice, The Isthmus

November 20
Smart People
By Lydia R. Diamond | Directed by Melisa Pereyra
“It is well acted, crisply paced and sufficiently convincing in its own right to reinforce my initially favorable impression of “Smart People,” and if you’ve never seen the play, I recommend it to you.” - Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

December 3 – December 29 | APT Holiday Shows

As the holidays approached, we began pondering just how to bring a bit of joy into the holiday season. We knew it would need to be something special to help close out this strange year. The result was a sparkling set of shows to raise spirits, and make some serious merry.

APT’s Holidames: Tangled in Tinsel
Developed by Tracy Michelle Arnold, Sarah Day, Keira Fromm & Colleen Madden.
Directed by Keira Fromm.
“This show could easily become a holiday staple, and APT lovers won’t want to miss it. - Anne Siegel, Total Theater

This Wonderful Life
By Steve Murray | Directed by William Brown
“Differentiating between multiple characters in split-seconds is a challenge for any actor. So when Nate Burger fully embodies each one of the 55 people that make up the Wonderful Life cast…it’s a triumph.” – Gwendolyn Rice, OnMilwaukee.com.

Ongoing: Words from the Woods/Six Feet Apart/The Empty Box

Finally, throughout this year there was an influx of creativity to APT’s YouTube channel that will be available well into the future. It started with 'Words from the Woods,' poems read by APT’s Core Company that brought comfort during a tumultuous time. The stories continued with hilarious tales of 'The Empty Box,' where insanely talented actors share some of their most unusual moments on stage. And 'Six Feet Apart,' where Brenda DeVita got to the heart of the matter with each and every one of those actors. And you can watch them all for free, again and again. We hope you do, and that we see you in person very soon.

“These vignettes are delightful for lifting spirits while distracting and reflecting the true ups and downs of the theater world.” - Regina Belt, The Northwest Herald