In the summer of 2015, I had the pleasure of subletting a townhouse in the suburbs of Minneapolis with several friends who were acting and directing in various projects around the area. It became a place for friends to gather and share stories, struggles and dreams for their work in theatre. At the time, a friend quipped, "Michael, you need to get a place like this where we can gather."
That thought stayed with me as I left graduate school and started looking for the home that would house this current phase of my professional journey. What might the possibilities be to find a place that would allow artists to gather, hone their craft, present their art, and share great times together?
Tisch Mills was not, as you can imagine, a place I expected to find. And yet, here we are! The Forst Inn is the perfect place to build and develop the many elements of a performing arts retreat space that we envisioned that summer. The hidden jewel that is the arts community of northeastern Wisconsin is an amazing resource on which might rest the fulfillment of those imaginings.
At the Gala in September, I had family members gathered from distant places and cherished that opportunity to share this cool space with them. The next week, a good playwright friend of mine stopped by for the preview of The Glass Menagerie and we shared stories as he lent a hand painting the set. Tonight, as I sit here in the pub, cast members from the UW Manitowoc production of Spring Awakening are sharing the performance of The Glass Menagerie together. In November, several fabulous actress friends of mine from Des Moines and Chicago will be performing in The Smell of The Kill. These are just a few examples of the many people who have and will come and share the space with each other and with those local folks who are making this project happen.
Theatre is, at its core, a collaborative experience. It is about the gathering of dedicated souls with a desire to share the creative journey. I am looking forward to the many souls who will enter the doors here! It's a blessing and a gift for us all.
Thanks for sharing it with me.. --- Michael
Ten months ago Michael finally decided to take a look at this theater space in Tisch Mills I’d been telling him about. While he really just intended to spend a year in the area and then move on, he will tell you how the amount of theater and arts in the area caught him off guard – and the space had him curious.
He walked in and immediately wondered how this space could possibly be closed. Ideas turned into a plan, and I felt like the successful Realtor connecting the right person with the right property. But as we discussed the Forst Inn and all of it’s potential, it became clear that this was too huge an undertaking for just one person, and slowly it became clear that we needed to do this together.
The plan became a reality and we dove in, creating a non-profit community organization to manage the theater, figuring out how to get the building up and going again, and tending to the many details of our Gala opening of the theater and adjoining pub meanwhile keeping our day jobs up and running.
Amidst all this hub-bub of final details, I received an email from musician Peter Mulvey regarding his Spring concert at the Forst Inn (oops! Did I just let that slip?). In it he said, “So glad you're running a room. Rooms where art happens are the pinnacle of civilization.”
A room where art happens... Yes! That’s what we’re creating – and we both are in our element doing so. His words were a poetic reminder that all these small details will lead up to that reward – providing people with another space to gather and enjoy the experience of art happening.
After 10 months of planning, on Saturday night we finally get to do just that. With Unwound in the pub. The art of S.v. Gonia in the art gallery, and Janet Planet taking the stage, old and new friends alike will enjoy these experiences together. I’m looking forward to the magic and thankful to the Universe (and Michael!) for this grand experience. See you soon! - Catherine
I just couldn’t imagine what theatrical production the former owner, Ron Kaminski, had in mind when he nailed cardinals, woodpeckers and palm trees to deck of the Forst Inn. It was a puzzle I had to solve.
Nostalgia comes in many shapes and sizes. One of the joys of preparing for this journey at The Forst Inn has been the number of times people have responded to the news of its return with stories of their memories of shows seen, roles performed, and events celebrated. During the long spring and summer preparing to arrive here, those conversations were mostly heard in the theatre community of Manitowoc, where the memories were joyfully focused on the time period during which Ron Kaminski filled the Inn with laughter and companionship.
Since occupying the property and beginning the exciting (and slightly frightening) task of sweeping out the dust and cobwebs, that experience has not only continued but also expanded into some remarkable new paths. For the community of Tisch Mills, the history of the Inn goes back long past the days when Kaminski converted the dance hall to a theatre. Their stories include memories of Frances Forst as she welcomed guests to the bar along with the many events and celebrations that took place in the dance hall. At that time, the theatre was a dance hall, and the backstage area was the Palm Bar...an open space that provided an airy space to pause and refresh from the exertions of whatever excitement was happening in the hall. These are stories of the social life of a community.
And it doesn't stop there. The building itself is filled with pictures, memorabilia, antiques, and equipment that have their own history and story to tell. What entertainment was centered around the player piano since it was built in the 1920s, or the news and programs that may have been listened to on one of the cabinet radios from that time? Even the furnaces, kitchen equipment and bathroom fixtures seem to have a tale to tell about the lives that were lived in and around these rooms.
It is a magical place. A place that has captured signal moments and daily living for close to 150 years. We who get to renew that magic and both preserve and reimagine the ongoing phases of The Forst Inn are truly blest. If you haven't done it yet, navigate to the history page and take a look at just a slice of some of the things we've found. It's a lovely journey.
'One week in as the new proprietors of the Forst Inn – and what a week it’s been! Our website and box office went live, and it was on!
Tickets started selling, UPS deliveries with needed equipment started arriving, the liquor license paperwork got completed, all sorts of calls went out to various contractors, artists, liquor distributors etc., the mailing list was prepared, our first artist exhibition was secured for the art gallery, two new board members joined the Forst Inn Arts Collective Board of Directors, auditions were held for the first play, and cleaning began in earnest with a host of friends and volunteers including Katie, Michael Sheek's daughter, and her boyfriend Mike who drove in from Minnesota to give three days of solid cleaning. It was a pretty amazing week – so much progress has been made.
But as I drove out of Tisch Mills tonight it hit me how remarkable the week was in another way. Our new neighbors couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful – from Ann, the Manager of Fat Boyz, to Linda the town clerk, to Kay, the owner of Cold Creek Winery, to Theresa, who runs the post office, to Ray, Joe, Carol and Steve at the fire station, to Gonzo and Curly who will be cutting our lawn, to our helpful neighbor Carl, to Pete and Sue who stopped on the road to congratulate us and are sending their son down to give us a hand – each and every one has made us feel welcome and has been incredibly helpful.
I’ve heard newcomers to the lakeshore area comment on how friendly people are here. I might have found the source – perhaps it’s something in the water in Tisch Mills, and if we’re lucky, some of it flows out to the rest of us.
Thank you to all the volunteers who helped this week, and thank you to all of our new neighbors who were so warm and welcoming. You never know where adventure will find you – and the adventures have just begun. Peace, friends.
When I moved to Wisconsin in August, 2016, one of the most striking and unexpected aspects of the area was the way that it reminded me of my childhood growing up on the Jersey shore. The string of towns running along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Door County to the south had all the nostalgic icons of my youth: quaint marinas, small town main streets, seagulls, crashing breakers...they were all there. Enjoy the article below that describes a hidden gem that highlights this wonderful aspect of Northeast Wisconsin. (Click picture for article.)