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My Summer Bucket List

I got an email this morning from a smart, sassy and young chef who goes by the title “Joy the Baker.” I love Joy. She’s funny and self deprecating and always encouraging. She loves sugar, butter and flour, and she also loves tweaking familiar recipes to make them brand new. I swear by her inspired recipe for brown sugar bacon biscuits, for instance. Yes! Why not put all the delicious things together instead of eating them separately? This is the kind of thinking I applaud.

So she sent out her summer bucket list today, for recipes she’d like to try, travel plans she’s determined to make, and personal goals she’d like to ace in the next three months. I was in awe of her ambition and the diversity of her goals; everything from making her own rootbeer to mastering a yoga headstand. (I did not know that was a thing.) I also have great affection for making lists, so I decided to follow her lead. Here is my (perhaps overly ambitious) summer bucket list, which frankly, is mostly about theater.

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1.       See great theater performed outdoors. See, I’m starting with a gimme goal, since I know this one will be easy to accomplish. (The only thing I like better than making lists, is crossing things off of them.) I’m headed to American Players Theater in a couple of weeks to make this wish come true. But I’m also planning to see Optimist Theatre’s King Lear in Milwaukee, also outdoors, and perhaps this is the year I finally get the family together to see the free Opera in the Park offered by Madison Opera in July. As long as you’ve got a picnic and bug spray, you really can’t go wrong.

2.       See some theater in NYC. Got my plane tickets booked and theater tickets reserved for three shows in the Big Apple that are too good to miss. I’m heading off to New York later this month to see Three Tall Women, by Edward Albee; The Band’s Visit—a small-ish musical that everyone’s talking about; and the epic, if problematic musical Carousel, with Renee Fleming and Jessie Mueller. I’m still bitter that I had tickets to see Children of a Lesser God with Joshua Jackson and the show closed before I could get there to see it. Someday. . .


3.       Pick strawberries. And I mean lots of them. No idea how our fickle summer weather has affected the crop thus far, but this is a tradition I need to continue. Yes, they are a lot of work to process once you get them home — with very limited time before they begin to go bad. But this is where strawberry rhubarb pie comes from, for those picnics at APT. This is also where the best strawberry jam you’ve ever tasted starts. That will remind me of summer all year long.

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4.       Host a play reading. Better than Christmas, and even better than my birthday, my favorite day of any year is the night when I invite my favorite people in the world to my house (theater geeks all) for an epic dinner party with tons of homemade food, lots of wine, a bunch of pies (see above) and a newly finished script that I need to hear out loud. This year I’ve scheduled the reading before the play is even finished. . . summer is a busy time, and I need to have my first rate theater readers/commenters/listeners in place so I can debut my latest creation with confidence. A mash-up of three Shakespeare plays, it’s definitely a departure for me and I have no idea if it’s gonna work. But in this one beautiful night, my dream cast will help me figure out what I need to re-write — conveniently one week before it’s due for a contest. Let the menu planning begin!

5.       Work on a one-woman show. I’ve been kicking this idea around for awhile now. . .getting back into performing in a pretty low-stakes way. I really want to write a piece (about an hour long?) that I can perform in people’s homes — actually in their kitchens — for small audiences. This combines my two favorite things — food and theater. (See above. . ) And after casting around for a subject, I think I’m on to something. I read an article in Gastro Obscura a few weeks ago about Virginia Dare, the first child born in the Virginia colony. Her story has been told, re-told, and appropriated for half a dozen very distinct causes in the centuries since her arrival in this country. I’m excited to do some research and figure out who she really was, and what she represented at different points in history. I also think this story would make a great backdrop to my favorite food — making apple pie. Will keep you posted.

6.       Go to the pool. I need to force myself to go outside, with lots of sunscreen applied, and splash in the water. I need to be okay with walking around in a bathing suit and having fun with my kid. In short, I need to get over myself. This will be easier when I lose 40 pounds, which is my other goal for this year, which has nothing to do with theater, but will guarantee that when I go see a show, I’ll be wearing some fabulous dresses that I can’t fit into at the moment. Sigh.

7.       See some theater in Door County. I have lots of friends who spend their summers making theatrical magic in this tourist mecca, but I’ve never gotten over to that part of the state to check it out. I think this might be my year.


8.       Live through the ATCA conference. I volunteered more than a year ago to help out with the annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Association, which I’m sure will be lovely. . . it’s in Spring Green this July, and packed with really interesting guest panelists. As a local I’m excited to show off American Players Theatre to critics from all over the country. I’m hoping to meet lots of interesting, talented writers and theater practitioners, and learn all I can. I’m also prepared to take lots of deep breaths and long walks through the woods when the cacophony of arguing critics gets overwhelming. NB: bring more bug spray.

9.       Take my son to one show he’ll like. It’s a parent’s curse that the thing you love most in the world is also the thing your kid can’t stand. I will never enjoy playing golf. (Sorry Dad.) And so far, my 9 year-old doesn’t really like seeing plays. They are either boring, too scary, too long, or just too much to process for him. This summer I’m going to look hard for a show we can enjoy together. And I’ll bring paper and markers for him to draw at intermission, and I’ll bring snacks, and whatever else I can think of to make this a fun thing. I don’t think it’s a great loss that I’m not athletically inclined. . . but my own kid not loving theater. I’m gonna keep working on it.

Gwen Rice