Bike, hike, swim, theater


Summer is the best time to appreciate what our region of the country has to offer—from taking a North Shore scenic drive in Grand Marais or biking the Root River State Bike Trail in Lanesboro to a longer getaway to Door County in neighboring Wisconsin, or—heck, I say just driving through southeastern Minnesota in the summer is pretty breathtaking.

Guess what? Not only do these great summer destinations have sprawling midwestern heartland to offer, but they are also home to summer theater festivals that are worth the drive.

All travel times are estimated from the Twin Cities. If you know of regional festivals outside the Cities that we missed, let us know. We’ll add them to the list.

American Folklore Theatre
Where? Door County, WI
Travel Time? About a 6 hour drive from the Twin Cities
What? The American Folklore Theatre creates and presents professional musical and dramatic productions that will further the knowledge of the heritage of the United States. “We don’t wait to see what goes over in Manhattan. We forge ahead and write lyrics, the whole shebang.” The shows are presented outdoors in the open air. From June 17 to Aug. 29, it’s staging Cheeseheads, the Musical, Sunsets & S’mores, and Muskie Love in repertory.

Call (920) 854-6117 for more info.

American Players Theatre
Where? Spring Green, WI
Travel Time? 4½ hours
What? An outdoor amphitheatre in the woods that presents classical theater. APT will open brand new second space that will have its grand opening in July. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, The Winter’s Tale, and King Henry V, Shaw’s The Philanderer and Noel Coward’s Hay Fever in repertory June 6 to Oct. 18. In the new space, the Touchstone Theater: Acting Shakespeare, Harold Pinter’s Old Times and O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Call (608) 588-2361.

Big Top Chautauqua
Where? Bayfield, WI
Travel Time? 4 hours
What? From the website, “Presents a seventy-plus night summer season of concerts, plays, lectures, and a highly acclaimed professional local troupe which performs original multi-media musicals.” All in a 900, all-canvas, state-of-the-art tent theater! Original musical revues include Riding the Wind and Wild Woods and Waters, plus performances by the Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, and Yonder Mountain String Band. Most nights from June through Labor Day.

Call (888) 244-8368.

The Black Hills Playhouse
Where? Rapid City, South Dakota
Travel Time? 9 hours
What? In Custer State Park, they’re presenting Brighton Beach Memoirs June 11-21; The Sugar Bean Sisters June 25-5; SUDS July 9-19; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown July 23-August 2; and Sweet Metigoshe August 6-16.

Call (605) 255-4141

Commonweal Theatre
Where? Lanesboro, MN
Travel Time? 2¼ hours
What? A year-round professional theater company in southeast Minnesota’s bluff country. Lanesboro is the perfect destination for a beautiful day. You can bike the trail or canoe. . . The first time I visited Lanesboro I was lucky enough to spend the entire day in my friend’s hammock. Just the right kind of town for that. Hedda Gabler, April 16-June 12; The Odd Couple, May 15-Oct. 23; The Rainmaker, June 19-Oct. 24.

Call (800) 657-7025.

Grand Marais Playhouse
Where? Grand Marais, MN
Travel Time? 4½ hours
What? The theater in this North Shore town is putting on the thriller The Final Twist June 26-July 5, Some Enchanted Evening, the Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein July 23-Aug. 2; and Wizard of Oz Aug. 27-Sept. 6.

Call (218) 387-1284.

Great River Shakespeare Festival
Where? Winona, MN
Travel Time? 2½ hours
What? This is a dream of a festival. Truly, as good as they come. Two Shakespeares in rep each summer, with the apprentice company adding a third at the end of July. There are “Festival Mornings” each Saturday at a coffee shop downtown, where the community can discuss the plays with the actors, artistic staff and technicians. Friday and Saturday night pre-show “Preludes” feature wonderful musicians (including local favorite Simone Perrin) to start your night of entertainment off right—lazing in the grass with a root beer float, listening to music. From June 26 to July 26, it’s staging Love’s Labours Lost and The Tempest. The apprentice company will addHamlet starting July 21.

Call (507) 474-7900.

Heartland Festival
Where? Platteville, WI
Travel Time? 4¾ hours
What? The University of Wisconsin-Platteville puts on this festival, staging a murder mystery and three musicals in repertory from June 12 to Aug. 9: the dinner show And the Killer Is . . ., plus the musicals You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Forever Plaid; and The Producers.

Call (608) 342-1298.

Highland Summer Theatre
Where? Mankato, MN
Travel Time? 1½ hours
What? This professional summer theater is based out of Minnesota State Mankato. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change runs June 11-14; followed by Plaza Suite June 24-28; and Damn Yankees June 10-19.

Call (507) 389-6661.

Mantorville Theatre Company
Where? Mantorville, MN
Travel Time? 1½ hours
What? In the stone 1918 Opera House of this tiny village near Rochester, Mantorville, the company puts on old-fashioned melodramas—with audience participation. Be prepared to cheer for the hero and boo the villain. Running in Crop Circle, or The Spaceman Cometh June 26-July 12; Script, Script! Show Me Some Script! or A Simple Case of (printed) Matter over Mind, July17-Aug. 2; The Road to Kasson or If You See a Fork in the Road, Take It Aug. 7-23.

Call (507) 635-5420.

Minnesota Centennial Showboat
Where? Saint Paul, MN
Travel Time? 0 hours away!
What? Theater and a boat? Yes! This floating theater, docked at Harriet Island Regional Park on the banks of the Mississippi, will present Is There a Doctor in the House? June 19-Aug. 29. The musical comedy is a vaudeville version of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid. (651) 227-1100.

Paul Bunyan Playhouse
Where? Bemidji, MN
Travel Time? 4 hours
What? It’s staging Sisters of Swing June 10-20; The Odd Couple June 24-July 3; Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, July 8-18; Greater Tuna, July 22-Aug. 1; and The Who’s Tommy Aug. 5-15.

Call (218) 751-7270. More from Paul Bunyan AD Zach Curtis on MinnesotaPlaylist.

Peninsula Players
Where? Fish Creek, WI (Door County)
Travel Time? 6 hours
What? In the 74th year along the shore’s Green Bay, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater performs The Lady With All the Answers June 16-July 5; A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine July 8-26; Mark Twain’s Is He Dead? July 29-Aug. 16; and Wait Until Dark Aug. 19-Sept. 6.

Call (920) 868-3287.

St. Croix Festival Theatre
Where? St. Croix Falls, WI
Travel Time? 1 hour
What? It’s staging Crimes of the Heart June 13-28; Under the Lintel July 9-12; Four by Two July 23-Aug. 2; and Sylvia Aug. 13-23.

Call (715) 483-3387.

Theatre L’Homme Dieu
Where? Alexandria, MN
Travel Time? 2¼ hours
What? On the shores of beautiful Lake Le Homme Dieu. this year Theatre L’Homme Dieu imports some successful productions from around the state: Deer Camp: The Musical, June 23-28; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, July 7-12; Mom’s the Word, July 14-19; A Don’t Hug Me County Fair July 21-26; and The Secret Garden July 28-Aug. 2.

Call (320) 846-3150.

Anna Sundberg has worked as an intern at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona and the Court Theatre in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is frequently an audience member and sometimes a performer.

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