Did you know that Northern Sky Theater is only four steps removed from the birthplace of American playwriting?! Follow along as Northern Sky cofounder Doc Heide takes us through the degrees of separation:
1. In the first decade of the 20th century, a professor of English named George Pierce Baker created America’s first playwriting course (at Radcliffe) and then a few years later its first laboratory theater to produce original shows (at Harvard). Among his students were Eugene O’Neill, Thomas Wolfe, and Alexander Drummond.
2. One of Drummond’s students, Robert Gard, came to Wisconsin during World War II to launch a new regional theater program, the Wisconsin Idea Theater.
3. A story about lumberjacks in one of Gard’s books, “Wisconsin On My Doorstep,” inspired a lanky, chain-smoking Madison music teacher named Dave Peterson to write a musical based on it. Gard loved the show and hired Peterson, who was soon penning folklore-based shows that toured from Wisconsin to Europe and the Far East.
4. Peterson, in turn, hired Doc Heide, Fred Alley, Gerald Pelrine, and Jeff Herbst to perform in his folk-singing troupe, the Heritage Ensemble. In the early 1990s, these guys launched American Folklore Theater (renamed Northern Sky Theater in 2015) in Peninsula State Park, performing solely original work.
So the proud tradition of writing and producing American shows can be traced in one continuous stream from its headwaters to today’s Northern Sky Theater.