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See Some Stellar Theatre in Wisconsin One Weekend

This week: Here’s your visitor’s guide to Spring Green, where a new season at American Players Theatre starts on June 7.

A packed house at the Up-the-Hill amphitheatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin.   Photo: Courtesy of American Players Theatre

Summer is around the corner—and that means outdoor theatre will soon be coming to amphitheatres everywhere. But you don’t have to trek to Canada for Stratford Festival or Oregon for Shakespeare Festival. The American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin (5950 Golf Course Rd., 608-588-2361) is less than a three-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago—and its 35th summer season is about to start.

The shows take place in a grandstand outdoor amphitheatre set on 110 woody acres. And for the first time this season, starting June 7 (through November 9), there will also be contemporary plays in APT’s 200-seat indoor Touchstone theatre, including works by David Mamet and Joan Didion.

Thank Brenda DeVita, recently named APT’s first new Artistic Director in 20 years, for the change of pace. “I intend to stay with what we do special here, which are the classics and specifically, a niche in Shakespeare,” says DeVita, who has served as APT’s Company Manager, Casting Director, and Artistic Associate since she first joined the company in 1995. “But I’m really excited to be exploring more modern classics that focus on American writers—Mamet being one that I would call a real game changer in American theatre.”

Taking that cue, the season starts with American Buffalo from June 7 to November 8, the first Mamet production in the theater’s history, directed by Kenneth Albers. From June 24 to October 4, DeVita herself will be staging John Didion’s melancholic The Year of Magical Thinking, which features APT core company member Sarah Day. Tom Stoppard’s clever Travesties (August 10 to October 3), a directed by Chicago’s William Brown, has nearly sold out already for its entire run.

The rest of APT’s nine-play lineup includes Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet, Oscar Wilde’s comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, The Doctor’s Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw, and Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, all of which will take the stage in the 1,148-seat Up-the-Hill amphitheatre. Euripides’s Greek masterpiece Alcestis will take place in the indoor theatre.

Tickets range from $44 to $70, but book by June 6 and get an extra 20 percent off.

Do: Take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, also in Spring Green. This is where Wright lived and worked from 1911 to 1959 (5607 County Rd. C, 877-588-7900; from $20 a tour). Open for the season starting May 1, the estate has sweeping views of the valley.

Eat: Located in the neoclassical Old State Bank in Spring Green, Freddy Valentine’s Public House (134 W. Jefferson St., 608-588-0220) serves BBQ brisket and sweet potato fries with roasted garlic aioli.

Stay: Book a room at House on the Rock Resort, situated on designer Alex Jordan’s architectural marvel, House on the Rock (5754 Hwy. 23, Spring Green, Wis., 608-935-3639). Summer rates are from $165; a package with American Players Theatre includes two tickets from $215). While there, tour the wild complex of rooms, streets, buildings and gardens spanning 200 acres.

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