Field Trip: American Players Theatre, Spring Green, Wisconsin

Monday, July 27, 2015

When I first heard there was a beautiful outdoor theater about an hour west of Madison I kind of scratched my head in disbelief because, an hour west of Madison? Is there actually anything there? I mean, go 20 minutes outside Madison and you're basically surrounded by farmland. But, I was happily proven wrong. Stephen and I went out to American Players Theatre on Saturday to see Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and it was quite a memorable experience.

Let me start by saying I love plays/musicals/ballets/shows of any kind. (Fact: the number one thing I miss about my job is seeing Broadway shows on work trips—so, that's right, I don't really miss my job.) So, I went into this show really wanting to like it. I was not disappointed.

Let's start at the beginning. We drove a little less than an hour west of Madison (very easy drive—essentially take 14 the whole way) to the theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

We packed a picnic lunch including sandwiches from Fromagination and green beans and Door County cherries from the amazing Farmers' Market and ate it on a picnic table. APT has many designated picnic areas, including grills and a concession stand. You're also welcome to BYO adult beverages. We certainly felt a little out-performed by some of the fellow picnic-goers (table cloths! Hot dishes! Glassware!) but we still had fun eating outside.

(As you can surely tell by this very necessary shot of me, a sandwich, and a water bottle.)

Then, we hung out outside (I did a little reading) before the show started at 3 p.m. I will say this: it was hot! So if you're planning a trip there, be sure to check the weather before you go. We each brought a water bottle (they sold bottled waters for $3.50 each, yikes!) and lots of sunscreen. We reapplied, as the theater is completely outdoors. (This reapplication also made me feel like an extra responsible adult.) They provided bug spray, which was nice, I imagine the bugs become more of a problem for the later shows (when the sun, surely, is less of a problem).

From the picnic area, it's about a quarter-mile walk to "Up-The-Hill" theater. There's good signage and it's an easy, pretty walk through the trees. Though the walk is (you guessed it) uphill. (There's also a shuttle provided for those for whom this walk is challenging.)

At the top of the hill, there are restrooms, concessions and a gift shop, and, of course, the theater! The theater has 1,140 cushioned seats and it's all entirely outdoors. This means many people were fanning themselves with the program throughout the performance. Since A Streetcar Named Desire takes place in New Orleans, I just pretended the heat was an extension of the performance.

Have you seen A Streetcar Named Desire, either a version or the play or the famous movie with Marlon Brando? I had not, so went into the show relatively blind to the story line. (The only line I knew was "STELLA!") I enjoyed the play in the way I enjoy a classic book—it gave me a lot to think about afterward. There was beautiful symbolism, lovely language, and lots of tension between characters. I will say, though, most of the characters are full of vices, and therefore not particularly easy to like. It is certainly not an uplifting play, but a very thought-provoking one. (I had previously read Williams' The Glass Menagerie so was braced for tragedy.) Here's a shot of the stage from before the show:

If you're from Madison, or the surrounding areas, you should definitely check out the American Players Theatre for a day trip! They're performing The Merry Wives of WindsorPride and PrejudicePrivate LivesOthello, and, of course, A Streetcar Named Desire this season in their Up-The-Hill Theatre. (Links to summaries.)

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the play, by Blanche DuBois. Have a "magical" Monday, friends ;)

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