Hometown Tourism, Part 1

Having lived in Green Bay since 2006 and realizing that I don’t know the town apart from its dumb football team… And having had my travelling abilities dramatically curtailed by the requirements of my new job… A few months ago, I decided to be a tourist of my own hometown. I compiled a laundry list of events and venues in the Green Bay area to try out. I thought with Halloween and the close of the autumn season, now would be a good time to pause and reflect on the handful of things I’ve done so far. I’ll start with the most recent and work my way backwards.

Weidner Center: Aquila Theatre Presents Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Last night, I had theatre tickets to see “Frankenstein” at the Weidner Center. It was performed by the Aquila Theatre Company out of New York. Directed by Desiree Sanchez and starring James Donovan as Victor and Robert Madeley as the creature.

The first half was – by my reckoning – a faithful adaptation of the source material , which I both expected and appreciated. (The 1931 Universal film, while entertaining in its own right, is really nothing like Mary Shelley’s novel.) After intermission, the production took more creative liberties, but I was okay with them because they mostly held true to the main themes of the Frankenstein story. I must also compliment Mr. Madeley for his portrayal of the creature. He had great physicality and voice work, and he was a very believable creature.

Frankenstein

Unfortunately, that’s about all the good that I can say about this play. The rest of the production was pretty terrible.

They start the play in the Shelley home in the 19th century, and Mary indicates that she is going to tell a tale about the future. So we end up getting a story set in modern times, where police cars have red and blue flashing lights and Victor brings his creature to life not with lightning but with a crash cart and paddles. I was fine with this, except the actors inexplicably held onto thick accents and the script held onto 19th century old English. I don’t know if the rest of the actors were any good or not, but these creative choices made their job ten times more difficult, as they seemed to put all their energy into remembering long speeches and monologues with awkward wording and delivering them with unnatural accents. There was very little theatricality in their performances.

But the lack of theatricality may also have had something to do with the fact that they had very little to work with on stage. Very little effort was put into costuming. They had virtually no props (just a handful, most of them recycled for multiple purposes). I have seen theatrical performances before make very clever and creative use out of a single prop, like “Cry Innocent!” where they masterfully used nothing but towels to tell a frenzied tale of the mass hysteria present in Salem. This wasn’t that. The lack of props in Frankenstein screamed of cheapness or laziness (or probably both). It was especially frustrating because of all of the long speeches and monologues – characters who were listening to the speaker had to just stand on stage, staring. And if you’ve ever read the novel, you know that “listening” is pretty much the beginning and end of Captain Walton’s character development! The very least they could have done was given him a table and chair so he (she, in this production) wasn’t so awkward.

But worse than the lack of props was the complete absence of scenery. Again, I’ve seen minimalist performances done masterfully, and this again cried out as cheap and lazy. All they had were lights and shadows projected on some black canvases and a really cheap soundtrack in the background. I can understand if, for economic reasons, they didn’t want to carry around huge and heavy set pieces. But for fuck’s sake, a couple of matte painting murals would have been better than this shit. Scenery and props help sell the bit. They make the play feel more real. Without them, you can’t help but notice that you’re watching a play. You can’t get sucked into the fictional universe because the whole time you’re sitting there, you’re thinking “I’m watching a play. This is still a play. Yup, definitely watching a play.”

I don’t know if these creative decisions are truly born out of cheapness and laziness as I suspect, or if it’s some sort of conceited pride thing (we don’t need stage rats, the actors can carry the whole thing on their own talent). But as a scenic artist and prop maker, I found this style outright insulting. And as a paying customer, I was dissatisfied with the production.

Green Bay Fear

I only wound up acting on two nights, but visited Bones and Morgan on most other nights. And I’ve already told the most interesting story that occurred while acting. So this whole section here is just a sort of reference point that my near-death experience belonged here, mixed in with these other stories.

Graveyard Romping

Ditto for this story.

Windigo Fest

The second annual Windigo Fest was held in downtown Manitowoc this year. I went down for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by the event. Logistically, it was small – just two city blocks. All of the vendors on one of the blocks consisted of typical carnival food stalls. On the other block, most of the rest of the vendor tents were of halfway-decent haunter exhibits, craftsmen, and artists.

Mostly, I was impressed by the shear number of people who attended. Manitowoc is not a very big city (and they lost a lot of jobs and residents years back when some big employers left town). Manitowoc is even less significant within the haunt community. And I was there not late at night, but in the early afternoon. I didn’t expect there to be much of a crowd, but I was wrong. The crowd wasn’t just bored Manitowoc residents looking for something to do on a Saturday, either. Judging by the professionalism displayed in the costumes and make-up (and most attendees were in costume, for a refreshing change of pace), a lot of these people were serious, legit haunters. My guess (since I didn’t recognize any of them) was that this event was drawing in people from all over the state, and perhaps further out.

The size and small quantity of vendors meant that I wasn’t engaged for very long. I might have had more fun socializing had I known anyone there. If I return to Windigo Fest in the future, I’ll have to be sure not to go by myself, but rather with a friend.

The highlight was finally being able to see the Dead and Breakfast up-close and in-person. I’m not sure exactly what role the D&B plays in the Windigo Fest, but I assume it’s substantial since it’s the only haunt thing I’m aware of in Manitowoc and the festival is held literally right outside their door. I’ve been wanting to spend the night at the D&B, but for want of a dogsitter. Morgan seems interested, so maybe she and Bones, and I will pick a weekend this winter and dogsit for each other while we each spend a night. I’m looking forward to being able to review that place.

Pumpkin Farms

Earlier in the day, before I went to Windigo Fest, I also hit up two pumpkin farms. In all the years I’ve lived in Green Bay, I had only been to one pumpkin farm, and I couldn’t remember what it was called or what city it was in (other than it was not in Green Bay). I chose Porter’s Patch in Bonduel and Delzer’s Pumpkin Farm in Oconto Falls, knowing full well that one of these two was probably the pumpkin patch I visited previously.

Porter’s Patch was a massive disappointment. The prices for activities were outrageously high. They had warning signs and placards containing rules plastered all over the place. Everything about the place felt unwelcoming. There wasn’t even anything that really suggested the Halloween holiday. No decorations or references to ghosts or witches or anything fun. It was basically just a farm with some autumn harvest goods and typical farm activities. The only good thing I got out of Porter’s were some decent photographs of an old and deteriorating barn.

Delzer’s Farm was, indeed, the pumpkin farm I had visited before. Though I still had a very nice time there. The prices were much more reasonable. The atmosphere was warm, inviting, and friendly. The corn maze was not difficult, but (surprisingly) not painfully easy, either. The haunted house was underwhelming, but at least they had a haunted house. I also fell in love with a small, animatronic, harmonica-playing skeleton that – to my dismay – was not for sale. The food was pretty good and cheap, too.

The only thing complaint I would lodge is that I was hoping – between these two farms – to get a really good sampling of harvest foods. Years back, I went to Apple Holler, and the had the most glorious selections of meats, cheeses, chocolates, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. And that’s one of my favorite things about autumn – the harvests. So maybe next year I’ll make the trip back down to… Sturtevant? That’s funny, I could have sworn it was in Kenosha county, not Racine.

Dog Beach

Dog BeachIn late August, I introduced Bones and Morgan (and Isley) to the Point Beach State Forest dog beach. It was a pretty cold day, Remy wandered off and got lost for a while, and we all wound up eating sand for about a week after. But I still enjoyed myself and nabbed a really great photo of my friends.

Green Bay Farmer’s Market

Earlier in the day, before the dog beach, there was the farmer’s market. I really enjoyed myself here. The atmosphere was almost exactly what I expected and probably as close as I’m liable to get to the Chinatown/Penny Dreadful atmosphere that sort of spurred me to do this local tourism in the first place.

There was a huge crowd, and yet the leisurely pace made it feel not overly crowded. It was a perfect venue for taking a stroll. The food smelled great, though with 50 vendors selling the same produce, one wonders how anyone doing any shopping can pick one vendor over the other. I would be crippled by choice paralysis. There were some crafts tents, though I wish there had been a slightly greater ratio of crafts to food. There were also a few corporate vendor tents there, too, which I think most people would agree, we’d prefer to see zero of.

The only thing I would have liked better is if they held the market at night. Ironically, I had a chance to attend the Farmer’s Market on Broadway, which is held in the afternoon/early evening (but still ends before nightfall). The Broadway location wasn’t very far away from the downtown location, but I had a lot greater difficulty finding parking and – on that particular night – gave up and came home.

I might give Broadway another chance next year, and I’ll definitely be returning to the Green Bay market next year.

Brown County Fair

A week before the farmer’s market and dog beach, I attended the Brown County Fair. This was another venue I’ve been to before, many years ago. It was pretty much as I remembered it. It wasn’t bad by any means. But it was small (compared to other county fairs I’ve been to) and there wasn’t anything that really stood out as memorable. I doubt I’ll return to this county fair again. I won’t rule out attending county fairs elsewhere in the future, but there’s gonna have to be something really interesting or unique to entice me back. The usual carnival rides, games, crop and livestock displays, and rodeos aren’t enough to draw me in. I need something more.

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