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Going Cuckoo at Rogue Theater

After years of performances as a traveling theater troupe, Rogue Theater now has a permanent place to call home.

Sturgeon Bay’s DC Arts Center, imagined by Rogue co-founders, Stuart Champeau and Lola DeVillers, opened to the public earlier this year. Now at the end of November, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest will be the first, full-production show to be performed at the new venue. 

The 16-member cast has been rehearsing since September, directed by Baileys Harbor resident and actor John Wilson. Wilson wanted to direct Cuckoo’s Nest for years, having starred in a rendition of it at Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, shortly after the movie adaptation of the original book was released. 

Even now – 61 years after the book was released and 48 years after the movie came out – the story’s message is a relevant one, Wilson said.

“It’s a very anti-authoratarian play,” Wilson said. “We’re at a point now, politically, where that’s something we’re grappling with.”

Because of his prior involvement in the play, Wilson knew directing it would be a major undertaking, thanks to its large cast and somber story that deals with mental illness and its treatment.

“It’s not exactly a crowd-pleaser,” especially compared to the light, comedic plays that are more commonly performed by Door County theater companies, Wilson said. 

But when he approached Champeau and DeVillers about the possibility of directing Cuckoo’s Nest, they approved, having worked with him before when he directed Rogue’s rendition of All My Sons. He had also worked with another Sturgeon-Bay based community theater group, Isadoora Theatre Company, as the director of Painting Churches and Circle Mirror Transformation.

Once Wilson got the greenlight, he started putting together the cast. Most of that cast comprises local amateur actors, but three main roles will be played by Actors’ Equity Association members, including Door Shakespeare’s producing artistic director, Amy Ensign, as Nurse Ratched; Northern Sky Theater performer Doug Mancheski as Randle McMurphy; and Christopher Powless, an actor from the Oneida community in Green Bay as Chief Bromden.

“We’ve got a very good cast and it’s all starting to gel,” said Wilson, about a month out from opening night. “It’s getting really fun to watch.”

Performances will be held Nov. 24, 25, 26 and 30, and Dec. 1, 2 and 3. Sunday performances will start at 2 pm; all other performances start at 7 pm. 

The play takes place at the DC Arts Center, 917 N 14th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $20 for students and can be purchased in advance at roguetheater.org or at the door. 

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