Spring Green businesses hope tourism will survive without vital theater patrons

The American Player's Theater in Spring Green has canceled all shows for the season.
The American Player's Theater in Spring Green has canceled all shows for the season.(NBC15)
Published: May. 16, 2020 at 6:28 PM CDT
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Business owners in Spring Green hope tourism will survive, without thousands of American Players Theater patrons in town for the season.

“It's unsafe,” APT artistic director Brenda DeVita, said. “In a venue the size of ours with a thousand people, it's almost an impossible thought that we would put that many people at risk-- not even including the fact that we'd put our actors and artists at risk.”

DeVita called it a sad decision, especially as 75 percent of the theater’s operating budget comes from ticket sales.

The financial impact, however, goes beyond the company’s famed Hill Theater.

Nearby business owners said APT’s season cancellation will leave a mark on an already difficult year.

Karin Miller, the owner of Spring Green General Store, called APT customers her own—a large part of the base being APT audience members, as well as the cast and crew.

At Nina’s Department Store, Joel Marcus said Spring Green visitors tour local shops and restaurants by day and watch APT shows by night.

“Tourism is huge,” he said of the town. “and APT is the main draw.”

Hearing APT’s announcement the day he reopened his shop to passersby, Marcus said he felt a “gut punch.”

However, he added, “We’re not going to give up. I’ve talked to several merchants, and we’re going to do everything we can to make Spring Green open and welcoming. Hopefully people will come to our many other attractions.”

DeVita told NBC15 that if there are better guidelines by the fall, she hopes to bring live shows to small audiences. In the meantime, actors will release a free play reading series on PBS Wisconsin.