The artistic director of UW-Marinette's Theatre on the Bay packed a lot into his first year, but has even more planned for the future.
Dr. Doug Larche came to the University of Wisconsin-Marinette, a two-year campus of the UW System, with impressive credentials. But living in Northeast Wisconsin's vacationland has not changed his accustomed work pace--except perhaps to increase it.
Larche was hired as a member of the Communications and Theatre Department faculty, Theatre on the Bay Artistic Director and the campus' first Playwright-in-Residence. He and his wife, Susan, came from Iowa with a Northwoods family dream of small-college teaching, impressed with "the sheer unlimited promise of the place," said Larche.
Larche's background includes a Ph.D. from Indiana University, an MFA from the University of Iowa Playwright's Workshop, post-doctoral study at Harvard, Yale and Oxford Universities, 25 years of teaching across the Midwest, and two years as cabinet member and Director of Cultural Affairs for the State of Iowa.
Three months before his appointment began, Larche arrived in Marinette with his mission clearly in mind: to build on the 35-year legacy of Theatre on the Bay, a campus/community theater created and nurtured primarily by UW Colleges professor emeritus Herbert L. Williams, to form partnerships with local organizations, and to befriend rather than compete with the "800-pound gorilla up the road that has lured and devoured audiences from Theatre on the Bay forever."
"I couldn't see it any differently," said Larche. "I'm ecstatic that the Weidner exists! Likewise, I'm very excited about the Meyer, the new and the old theaters in Door County, all the area professional, university, school, community and church theaters that contribute to a diverse tapestry of performing arts opportunities. There's room for all of us, and we need to support each other."
Larche's greatest love is creating and staging new works, both his own and "finding and supporting the voices of others." To date, he has mounted over fifty new plays in his career. His first production for Theatre on the Bay was his own "Angels in the Snow: The Berlin Wall Musical Drama." (Listen to an audio clip of "Angels."). In February, he staged the Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula premiere of Kevin Kling's new work, "The Ice Fishing Play." In the spring, his newly-formed student theatrical group, Bayside Players, took his multimedia, interactive drama about health and substance abuse, "S*M*A*S*H," on a tour of area middle schools while Theatre on the Bay presented the world premiere of his new play, "Ganderland: A Mother Goose and Father Gander Musical," based on his 1976 book, "Father Gander," a revision of traditional nursery rhymes without violence, sexism and racism, with a cast and production crew of almost 90 young people.
The summer season saw Woody Allen's comedy "Play It Again, Sam" and the gospel musical "Smoke on the Mountain" by Connie Rae, while his son Jason Larche adapted and directed two children's versions of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest."
To accomplish all this, Larche has enlisted the help of the community, including Habitat for Humanity (which helped build the set for "Angels"), local businesses that sponsor productions, and the M&M Area Foundation, which sponsored "S*M*A*S*H".
With no sign of slowing down, Larche has a full menu of classics, musicals, comedies and children's plays planned for this year, plus the creation of Baygulls with Cheese, a comedy improv troupe, and Bards on the Bay, a spring workshop for playwrights. For the complete season listing, visit the Theatre on the Bay site. Even better, visit UW-Marinette's Theatre on the Bay for a performance or two!