Culture Club — Peninsula Arts & Humanities Alliance

Each season, the Door Community Auditorium hosts a line-up of incredibly talented performers. Some of the “names” are biggies, while others, though not household famous, are up and coming performers. What they all shared, however, was talent. And as a staff, we look forward to meeting each and every one of them.

Unfortunately, the shows we host are most often one-night stands. The performers arrive the day before their scheduled show and are consumed with the essential preparations for the big night, which always includes the all-important sound check, often extremely time-consuming. In what little free time they have, the performers generally seek out a quiet place to relax.

So needless to say, an opportunity to chitchat and have a friendly “how’s it going” rarely occurs…much to my chagrin. After all, who doesn’t live vicariously through the actors we see on the big screen? Or read about in People Magazine? Or watch on late-night television?

As a pre-teen I remember buying Photoplay Magazine with my babysitting money. Frankie Avalon’s picture was taped to my mirror for years, until I found out he and Annette Funicello were an item!

We all wonder who the person behind the name really is, to ask the questions we all are longing to ask. In my role at DCA I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the performers and it is always a treat; I have rarely been disappointed by the real person behind the persona.

Picking Fabian and Chris Montez up from the Green Bay airport several years ago was an over-the moon experience. There he was…Fabian…one of my teen idols, in the flesh…in my car. It was a heart-stopping moments! And he couldn’t have been nicer.

Beautiful and talented, Natalie McMaster is a joy. When performing the first year I was on the job, she was absolutely charming. At one point I was sent on a search for Natalie as her band was on stage and her presence was requested. I finally found her on one of the playground swings just enjoying the late afternoon sun.

Everyone knows James Taylor, the famous and talented singer. But what about Livingston Taylor? Turns out he wrote most of his older brother’s music. Livingston, however, never aspired for the fame his brother achieved. A college professor at the time, Livingston has penned more than 100 songs, many of which hit the charts. Unassuming, all he requested was a deli sandwich. No attitude there…

But of all the famous people to appear at DCA, one of my favorites is author Michael Perry. Armed with a PAA/WAB grant, and support from Friends of Gibraltar and Friends of Door County Libraries, Gibraltar Schools and DCA collaborated on a program this past spring featuring Michael.

Picking him up at his lodging the day of the presentations, I found him sitting with a newspaper, drinking coffee, and gazing out on the water. Just an ordinary guy who happens to be an eloquent writer with an extraordinary voice.

Michael has a great smile, a gentle voice, and is actually very shy. Wearing a wooly hat, jeans and a T-shirt, his arms full of notes and books, we drove back across the peninsula to DCA and his student presentation. The kids were raucous as they took their seats, probably thinking “here we go again, some old dude,” but within minutes of Michael taking his place at the podium, student silence descended.

They loved him and he totally connected with them.“Be relevant and real,” he said to me later, “and they connect.” And the same applied to the student writers’ workshop he led for aspiring writers.

Like the majority of performers I have met, Michael off-stage is very different from Mike on-stage. When I asked him what he had done during his afternoon break the day of, he told me he went for a run in Baileys Harbor, caught up on emails, and chatted with his wife.

One of the questions I am most often asked by DCA patrons, and my friends hoping for a scoop, is do the performers like Door County. Universally the answer is “yes.” But unfortunately, they do not have the time to enjoy the peninsula’s beauty. Tony Butala of The Lettermen is the rare exception, as he maintains a home here. Michael also regularly visits, and writes in the solitude of the Island.

What the performers do tell us is how much they love our audiences and the people they meet. But it isn’t difficult to be nice and accommodating, nor should it be…Door County is as good as it gets.

We have every reason, and then some, to be appreciative of the talent that graces our stages. From wood-plank floor to an expanse of green grass, a barn setting or a traditional performing arts center, we offer our audiences a wonderful menu of performances to choose from. But try us all…that’s part of the fun!

Oh, another tidbit teaser. The sole support of his family, Fabian was not able to take time off to attend college, one of his great regrets. But he loves to read in his spare time. When Fabian was taking a break from rehearsing for his DCA 2007 American Bandstand show, the book he was reading was The Red Tent. I was delighted as it is one of my top ten books.