Fish Creek, Wis. (August 14, 2023) – Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, is proud to announce the cast of “Trying” by Joanna McClelland Glass and the return of actor Lee E. Ernst to Wisconsin. “Trying” runs for three weeks, August 16 through September 3, and is generously sponsored by Main Street Market.
Judge Francis Biddle, who served as attorney general for Franklin Roosevelt and as the chief American judge at the Nuremberg Trials, is now an arthritic man facing his own mortality. The refined and brilliant Biddle meets his new secretary, the young, tenacious Sarah, fresh from the Canadian prairie. We soon learn that Sarah is the latest in a line of secretaries who have yet to live up to the expectations of the cantankerous judge. Through their time together, we see how strangers from diverse backgrounds, at different points in their lives, can grow to understand and even learn from one another. “Trying” is a moving yet funny portrayal of finding common ground.
Lee E. Ernst, a 17-year founding member of American Players Theatre and a 20-year member of Milwaukee Repertory Theater, returns to Peninsula Players Theatre to portray the historic Judge Francis Biddle. Ernst is a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow who has portrayed other historical figures during his career, including John Barrymore, Vince Lombardi, Richard III and Frank Lloyd Wright, and the fictional Hamlet, King Lear and Hercule Poirot. Ernst’s previous Peninsula Players Theatre credits include “A Fox on the Fairway,” “A Few Good Men” and “Opus.” His recent credits include Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” and Marley in Tom Mula’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” at Milwaukee Repertory Theater; “August: Osage County” and “Inherit the Wind” at the University of Delaware Resident Ensemble Players.
Emiley Kiser makes her Peninsula Players Theatre debut as Sarah, Biddle’s determined assistant. Kiser grew up along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina. She earned a degree in theater from DeSales University before spending six years in New York City. Her previous credits include the roles of Helena, Hero and Juliet at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and Emily in “Our Town” at Palm Beach Dramaworks. She performed in “Dance Nation” and “Late, A Cowboy Song” while earning her MFA in acting at Northwestern University.
Melanie Keller, who directed last season’s “Murder for Two,” serves as the director for “Trying.” Door County audiences may recall Keller’s performances in “Salvage” or “A Fox on the Fairway.” Keller has directed and acted at First Folio Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre and Signal Ensemble Theatre, where she won a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actress for her performance in “East Berlin” and “The Russian Play.”
Keller is working closely with the cast and design team, including composer Christopher Kriz, a five-time Joseph Jefferson Award winner. While writing the original music that will underscore “Trying,” Kriz first found inspiration in the two distinct characters of the play. Mirroring their relationship with two different musical voices, Kriz wove these instruments together, first as opposites, then gradually forming a rich, intertwined arc. As the storytelling and music weave together, Biddle and Sarah’s journey is enhanced. Kriz’s Chicago credits include Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Regionally he has worked with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and more.
Other members of the “Trying” creative team include scenic designer Jack Magaw (“Dames at Sea,” “I and You,” “Talley’s Folly”), who has 17 years worth of design credits at Peninsula Players Theatre. Besides his work nationwide at many professional theater companies, Magaw is also an adjunct professor of design at The Theatre School at DePaul University. Costume designer Evelyn Danner (“The Rainmaker”) returns for her second season. Her recent costume credits include “The Real Housewives of Motown” at Black Ensemble Theater, “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” at Marriott Theatre, and “Swing State” and “Gem of the Ocean” at Goodman Theatre. Lighting designer Stephen Roy White (“Murder for Two” and “Silent Sky,”) has more than 50 previous design credits at Peninsula Players Theatre. His regional credits include Northlight Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Organic Theater and a Joseph Jefferson nomination for “The Woman in Black.”
The audience pavilion’s side panels, doors and vents will remain open throughout the summer season and run of “Trying.” Patrons should dress for the weather and be prepared for shifting temperatures and breezes off the bay. Peninsula Players Theatre is a smoke-free campus. Smoking is prohibited on the grounds at all times. Audience members are encouraged to arrive early for a pre-show beverage or snack at the Luna Bar and Canteen. The grounds open 90 minutes before the show. Student and group tickets are available. “Trying” performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m., except for Sunday, September 3, at 2:00 p.m. The theater and its offices are closed on Mondays. To purchase tickets, phone the Box Office between 1:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at (920) 868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.