With paid attendance up to 30,000 a season and the ability to do three shows in repertory, it was time for Wisconsin's American Folklore Theatre to take a step forward as an entity. To that end, the company recently instituted a nine-member board of directors.
"AFT has become an important artistic and fiscal resource for the region," said producer Fred Alley. "We felt it was time that the founding members of AFT shared responsibility for the theatre's well-being with the Door [County] community."
Mary Seeberg will chair the new board, with Cynthia Stiehl serving as vice-chair.
The theatre, then called "Heritage Ensemble," was founded in 1971. Spokesperson James Kaplan told Playbill On-Line, "Our mission statement probably needs updating; when it was first written, the theatre was more historical, lots of things with whaling and Civil War songs. Seven years ago, new writers came in with traditional musical comedy leanings that incorporated the folkloric basis. Also, since the shows are for families, they now tend to be 60-70 minutes long.
"We also do an indoor show in the fall," said Kaplan. "That's how [the Weavers revue] Goodnight Irene started." As for future plans, AFT hopes to do an original show with Milwaukee Rep to honor Wisconsin's sesquicentennial (150 years) in 1998. Last season, AFT mounted Lumberjacks In Love, Tongue'N Cheek and Northern Lights, all written by Fred Alley and James Kaplan and directed by Jeffrey Herbst. Alley, Kaplan & Herbst previously worked together on the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre revue of Weavers songs, Goodnight Irene.
For information about the American Folklore Theatre's summer season, which plays at Peninsula State Park, off Highway 42 in Fish Creek, WI, call (414) 868-9999.
-- By David Lefkowitz