The Playw(right) Choice

TAP’s 2024 season features plays by two Wisconsinite playwrights, four female playwrights

There are many things to pay attention to while you watch a play: the acting, the set design, the music, the story. 

As an audience member, the person who actually wrote the production you’re watching might be the last thing on your mind. But behind the scenes, deciding whose work to put onstage is a real consideration.

When Sturgeon Bay’s Third Avenue PlayWorks (TAP) was picking productions for its 2024 season, highlighting the work of two groups – female playwrights and Wisconsin-based writers – was a playbill priority, according to TAP’s Jackie and Steve Kane Artistic Director Jacob Janssen. Of the company’s five upcoming plays, four were written by women and two by Wisconsin-based playwrights, with one featured writer fitting into both categories.

That writer is Erica Berman, a Madison-based playwright who wrote No Wake, a play about an unlikely friendship that will be onstage at TAP Sept. 25 – Oct. 13. Though the story is set on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, the lakeside resort-town setting makes the play feel much closer to home, Janssen said. 

“It feels like an incredibly Door County story,” Janssen said. “It’s written by someone who has grown up in Wisconsin and knows this place deeply, so we’re really excited to have it.” 

Berman’s plays have previously been produced in the state and beyond it, including The Winnipesaukee Playhouse, located near the setting of No Wake. Her play Finder and the North Star was directed by former TAP actor C. Michael Wright, and was part of statewide theater festival World Premiere Wisconsin alongside several Door County theater companies, including TAP, Peninsula Players Theatre and Northern Sky Theater. 

The next Wisconsin-made play to be shown at TAP is A Gift of the Magi, a classic story reimagined as a chamber musical by UW-Milwaukee grads James DeVita and Josh Schmidt. The play made its 2010 world premiere at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and it’ll come to TAP Dec. 11-29.

In the same way shopping local helps local economies thrive, “shopping” for playwrights within the state keeps Wisconsin’s art economy healthy, Janssen said.

“Having a local arts economy where art institutions are investing in the talent that calls this place home means that those folks can continue to live here and they’re not going to move away to some other location because it’s potentially more lucrative,” Janssen said.

Featuring female playwrights is important to TAP for a different reason, that being the historical exclusion of women from theater.

The first four plays in TAP’s 2024 season are written by women, including the following: 

  • May 1-19, Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson – Apt. 2B by Kate Hamill. The play is a “very silly, very fun, feminist retelling of Sherlock” that positions female versions of the main characters in a modern-day setting, according to Janssen. 
  • June 12-30, Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones. The play will feature familiar faces from previous productions at TAP as it follows two movie extras trying to break into the Hollywood acting scene.
  • July 17 – Aug. 18, Jeeves Saves the Day by Margaret Raether (who Janssen jokes is “almost a Wisconsin writer,” as she lives just below the Wisconsin-Illinois border.) The play follows a quick-witted man as he navigates a series of entertaining escapades.
  • Sept. 25 – Oct. 13, No Wake by Erica Berman. 

Playwrights may be a hidden part of the production from an audience perspective, but they aren’t invisible to TAP. As the company prepares to take plays from the page to the stage, they talk with playwrights about their works and what they plan to do with them, Janssen said. This happens less frequently with writers of established plays that have already been performed, and more frequently with playwrights of world premieres.

Forging relationships with playwrights means creating the potential for more collaboration with them in the future – but more than that, it makes for a more robust rendition of the writer’s work. 

“One of the great things about doing work by living playwrights is that we can actually get in touch with them and ask them questions and get responses,” Janssen said. “Making efforts to be in dialogue with those writers makes the work deeper and more vital and alive.” 

For more information on subscriptions and tickets, visit or call 920.743.1760. TAP’s Steve and Jackie Kane Theatre is located at 239 N. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay.

Related Organizations