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Wabeno Area Players celebrate 40 years of performing arts

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Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR
Carol Bartlein and RJ Chickey read through their lines as co-directors Maline Enders and Mary Ellen Keller watch. The Wabeno Area Players will be putting on the performance of The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine later this month.

On the Nancy Volk auditorium stage inside Wabeno High School, Carol Bartlein and RJ Chickey read through their lines.

The two will be the only ones you’ll see on stage when the Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine premieres later this month.

“They never really talk to each other. They’re just writing and reading each other’s letters,” said co-director Mary Ellen Keller.

Bartlein has been part of the Wabeno Area Players for more than 40 years. It’s Chickey’s first play with the group.

“This is the longest participating to one of the shortest participating and we’ve been on the stage together,” said Bartlein.

While the group is a bit older, it was officially named the Wabeno Area Players 40 years ago.

The group was the first to perform on the Nancy Volk stag, named in honor of one of the founding members, in 1999.

The Wabeno Area Players provides scholarships to students for college and to attend camps. It also hosts its own camps and conferences.

The group has helped shape visual and performing arts in the Wabeno community and beyond over the past few decades.

“We have some leaders who wanted it to be so much more. To bring the arts, to bring theater to, not just Wabeno, but Townsend and Lakewood and Crandon and Laona and all of the areas in between. To get people on the stage and to bring the arts,” said Bartlein.

Wabeno Area Players was started by a group of teachers who were retiring but wanted to keep being involved in the arts.

It started by putting on a performance here and there and has since grown into an entire season with locally performed and directed plays as well as bringing in artists from outside the area.

While they’ve gotten some grants over the years to support their seasons, Bartlein says it’s mostly support from patrons that have kept them going over the years.

“It’s been supported by the community,” she said.

It’s giving back to the community that Chickey is most looking forward to with his role as Sheldon in the upcoming performance.

“When you’re in a theater environment, you get the opportunity to play around, have fun with the community that you’re building, the family the that forms over the course of a play. Then you get to entertain an audience. You get to make people happy. I haven’t been on stage in like 10 years, so I’m really excited to get back out there,” said Chickey.

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Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR
Maline Enders and Mary Ellen Keller are co-directing The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine.

Maline Enders and Mary Ellen Keller are co-directing The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine.

They sit together in the auditorium in seats close to the stage making notes to themselves and occasionally giving feedback to Bartlien or Chickey.

Enders was one of Bartlein’s students while growing up in Wabeno and did a few performances with the Players in High School.

“Lots of years later, I get to work with her again and we’re still enjoying the arts and still enjoying drama. That never stopped. That’s something that I can continue to work on and grow. It’s a lot of fun too. We have fun,” said Enders.

Keller, like all of them, describes working together on the plays as being part of a family.

“It really is family. It really is about the arts. It really is about stretching yourself. It’s very worthwhile and very rewarding,” she said.

The Wabeno Area Players are excited to share their upcoming season with the Northwoods that will include new performances like The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine as well as some of their favorites like Nunsense and Steel Magnolias.

“I think we have a really dynamic season coming up. It has such variety,” said Bartlein.

As the Wabeno Area Players pour their heart and soul into their performances, they hope the community celebrates the arts and continue to support it for the many years to come.

“The arts broaden people’s minds. It broadens people experiences and when they can become involved in it it’s something you can do the rest of your life,” said Keller.

Performances of The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine are the last two weeks of March and first two of April.

You can learn more about the performance and the Wabeno Area Players’ upcoming season on its website.

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