Wednesday, August 9, 2017
St. Bernadette’s Catholic School

“The History of Attic Theater”




Tom Sutter, James Richter, Laura Leimer, Mark Moderson , John Marx, Brian Schneider, Christine Williams, Linda Muldoon, Jim Krueger and Diana Sandberg.

Upcoming Special Events

August 13 2pm - Riverside Cemetery Walk – City Pioneers
October 19 6 pm – Toast to Appleton History, AHS Wine, Beer and Cheese Event, Grand Meridian, Appleton
December 2 9-12:30 AHS History Fair at the ADI indoor farmers market, City Center

2017 Appleton History Speaker Series

January 11 Vulcan replica and early hydroelectricity – Tom Seidl February 8 Appleton parades – Greg Otis
March 8 St. Joseph’s Church and School, 150 years – Jim Krueger
April12 NativeAmericans–PeterPeregrine
May 10 Appleton East High School – 50 years – Corey Otis
June14 LawrenceUniversity–ErinDix(CanceledPowerOutage)
July 12 Cloud Buick - Steve Cloud
August9 AtticTheater–BerrayBillington
September 13 Pioneer and Riverside Cemeteries – Gwen Sargeant
October11 VoecksMeatMarketandFoxValleyCoin–MichelleGriesbach
November8 TheAppletonPictureShow--Bringyourownphotosforshowandtell!


•AHS Officers:

A.President - Thomas Sutter

B.Vice President - Gwen Sargeant

C.Secretary – James Richter

D.Treasurer – Laura Leimer

•AHS Board of Directors:

A. Terms through November 2017:

1. Mark Moderson
2. John Marx
3. Laura Leimer
4. Diana Sandberg

B. Terms through November 2018:

1. Tom Sutter
2. Christine Williams
3. James Richter

C. Terms through November 2019:
1. Linda Muldoon
2. Jim Krueger
3. Gwen Sargeant
4. Brian Schneider

Fund Raising Committee:
A. James Richter, Chairman
B. Gwen Sargeant, Vice Chairman
C. Laura Leimer, Treasurer
D. Linda Muldoon
E. Brian Schneider
F. David Buss
G. Jack Voight

Fund Raising SubCommittee-Promotions:
A. Mark Moderson, Chairman
B. Jim Krueger, Vice Chairman
C. Karen Moderson

Building and Grounds Committee:
A. John Marx, Chairman
B. Gwen Sargeant, Vice Chairman
C. Laura Leimer, Treasurer
D. James Krueger
E. Brian Schneider

Archives and Artifacts Preservation Committee:
A. Diana Sandberg, Co-Chair
B. Brian Schneider, Co-Chair
C. James Ritcher, Secretary
D. Tom Sutter
E. Laura Leimer
F. David Buss
G. Christine Williams
H. Gwen Sargeant
I. Dave Kalz

Additional Committee Chairs are as follows:
A. Mark and Karen Moderson, Principal Organizers
B. Brian Schneider, Technical Resources
C. David Buss and Diana Sandberg, Research Specialists
D. Gwen Sargeant, Public Relations and Web Page
E. Christine Williams, Monthly Programs
F. Gwen Sargeant, Publications


*Thanks to Steve Cloud for last month’s program on the History of Cloud Buick. *Thanks were given to the Post Crescent and the Bargain Bulletin for their continuing publicity for the Society.
*Asked all to renew their annual membership if they haven’t yet done so. *Reminded all of our AHS Cemetery Walk at Riverside Cemetery on August 13th, 2:00 p.m. Hopes everyone will attend.

*Also noted our upcoming History Fair on December 2nd as part of the Downtown Appleton Winter Farm Market. Put on your calendars to attend.

*Encouraged us to follow the issues of Fox Cities Magazine as they are doing many articles on local history.

*Encouraged us all to attend the Hearthstone’s “The Night the Lights went on at Hearthstone” on September 16th.

*The Door Prize was awarded to Kay Forton, a Taco John’s Gift Certificate.

Reports of Officers and Board Members:

AHS Secretary and Museum Organizer James Richter gave a report on AHS Museum activities:

(1)Our GRAND OPENING OF THE APPLETON HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM & RESOURCE CENTER was a huge success. We had 115+ visit during the three hours from 6:00 to 9:00. Mayor Hanna did the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with AHS Officers and Board. Several members, friends, relatives and guests joined us. Personal tours were provided to Mayor Hanna. Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and many others.

(2) An AHS Archives and Artifacts Preservation Committee has been formed to address the many pictures, documents and artifacts that have already been donated to AHS. Diana Sandberg and Brian Schneider have been elected as Co-Chairs. Committee is studying what computerized software to acquire to document all items and their donors. Also looking at basic identification and filing systems to use for pictures and documents. We need volunteers in the near future to help with identification and filing.

(3)Urged all attending to visit the Museum regularly. All initial exhibits are in place and have been well received. Explained our intent to rotate exhibits every four to six months.

AHS Wine, Beer and Cheese Event Co-Chairs Mark Moderson and Jim Krueger gave a report on the upcoming fund raising event:

A Toast to Appleton History

The Appleton Historical Society is hosting a fundraising event on October 19, 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Grand Meridian to raise money to help fund Our New Appleton History Museum at 128 N. Durkee Street. We are asking community support for donations as well as an invitation to be part of this exciting event.

Our exciting event will feature Wine, Cheese and Beer tasting, along with delicious selections of Hors d’ oeuvres and tasty deserts for all that attend. A bucket raffle, door prizes, silent auction, and 50/50 raffle will be running throughout the evening. We hope you all will attend.

Tickets are $25.00 a person in advance, $30.00 at the door. Corporate tables with seating for eight are available for $250.00 and will feature your company name on the center of the table.

PROGRAM: “The History of the Attic Theater”
PRESENTERS: Berray Billington

Speaker Background:

Berray Billington is the President of Attic Chamber Theatre. He works as a chef for compass group Eurest division at Thrivent. He is the father of 3 beautiful daughters, Emily, Eliabeth (Lizzie) and Eleanor (Ellie). Berray attended the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point where he pursued a degree in Theatre emphasizing in Costume Design and Directing. For 12 years he ran the Waupaca Community Theatre, creating their summer musical season. He also directed and designed the annual Waupaca High School musical. He has acted and designed regionally with the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, a professional regional theatre in Clinton Iowa. In 2011 Berray auditioned for Attic theatre and was cast as a chef in their production of Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water”, Berray is sure he was cast because he had the costume. In February 2012, he directed Attic’s Winter show “You know I can’t hear you when the water is running”. He joined the board that spring and was elected to President this past September. He has been working to re-organize and revitalize Attic Theatre. He introduced the chamber theatre concept, introduced adult refreshments in the lobby, created the Music in the Attic concert series which celebrates an American music theatre composer and is Attic Chamber Theatre’s annual fundraiser, reads and see show throughout the state looking for those which will challenge Attic chamber theatre and our audiences. His goals are to continue to revitalize the Attic Intern program, present new and interesting theatre and continue to promote, fundraise and make our Attic Theatre Great again.

The Program


Barry was pleased to be here to tell the story of Attic Theater. As they were formed in 1950, their 50th Anniversary has come and gone. They started at an historic house at 122 N. Union Street that was just coincidentally moved one block, as many of us should have noted in the Post Crescent. The building will now adorn the southwest corner of Union and Franklin Streets. He said the origin of the name “Attic Theater” is somewhat shaky.


In June of 1950 a local theater advocate named Zoe Comer Cloak announced a new yet unnamed summer theater troupe in Appleton.

Zoe had a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Minnesota in education and a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University in Arts, Speech and Drama. She taught speech and related subjects. During this time she continued her studies in drama at the Chicago Art Theater and participated in the founding of the Children’s Theater in Chicago. After arriving in the Fox Valley, she directed the Little Theater of the Fox River Valley as well as assisted her husband in directing the activities of the Berkshire Playhouse Drama School in Stockbridge, Mass. for 11 years.

In making her announcement of a summer theater troupe in Appleton she said “I’ve had the idea for a summer theater for a long time....The difficulty in Appleton always has been finding a place.” In addition, she said , “We think there is plenty of talent in the community and we hope gradually to build up a good playing company”.

“First, the group was initially more of a repertory theater than the open auditions theater that is currently in place. Second, the would-be actor enrolled in a summer acting class after applying for membership. The first year more than 35 applications were received, 20 were accepted. Each member paid a tuition fee of $30 for lessons, royalties, publicity and other production costs. Every student/actor worked in various capacities around the theater-building sets, gathering properties, making costumes, building sets, painting and doing any task that needed to be done.”

As the organization was formed things fell into place. “The company still needed a name. Rehearsals and classes were held in the attic of the Cloak home at 122 N. Union Street, yet no name seemed right until, according to Zoe Cloak, ‘the appearance of a book, about the classic Greek arena theater (in Attica). Arena style was to be our choice for the intimacy of audience with players, requiring actors unwavering concentration on what they, in their characters, come or on stage to do...The book’s title. The Attic Theatre, .... struck us ambitiously but amusingly appropriate for our name’ (The Post Crescent, May 8, 1981)”

The first year their plays were performed in the “Knights of Pythias Hall at Lawrence and Morrison Streets with an 8:15 p.m. curtain on the weekends, and tickets were priced at $1.20 for adults and 60 cents for students. Capacity was about 300, with a total of six performances on two weekends.”

“The first play selected, The Great Big Doorstep is not one of America’s best known works and was not at the time. As the Twin City News Record said on July 21, 1950, “The Great Big Doorstep is not a particularly brilliant nor gripping play.” The comedy was fairly well received. K. K. “Tim” DuVall played the “garrulous father”.

So the theater was off and running, and it’s progressed for 67 years:

•1955 the Polio Epedimic threatened Attic performances for two years. People were told to stay in their homes and avoid contact with others.

•1957 the City Centennial year Attic did the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

•1958 the audience was asked to pick from seven shows. Admission prices were $1.40 for adults, and $,75 for students. New for 1958 they started selling ads in their programs.

•1959 they did their first play at Lawrence University, in Cloak Theater.

•In the 1960’s the Theater incorporated itself and became a non-profit organization.

•Also in the 1960’s they presented their first musical..

•In the 1970’s they began to produce three straight shows and one musical.

•In 1972, now nationally recognized movie actor Wilhelm Dafoe performed in a show.

•In the 1980’s they started hiring multiple Directors.

•In 2000 they almost folded. Lawrence University didn’t want them in their facilities, and they were down to two shows a year.

The Attic Theater of Today:

• Where it Attic Theater headed today – they are going back to their roots.

•Up next is “Music in the Attic” an evening of Gershwin, which will be performed October 4, 5, 6, and 7.

•Today their plays are all performed at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley Theater. It’s very expensive at $10,000 a month and they do two months.

•They have had sadness too this year, Joe Hophensperger one of their founders died.

•Current ticket prices are $17.50 for a straight show, and $19.50 for a musical.

•One of the things that Billington did when he assumed the leadership role was to have alcoholic beverages served during shows. It has been well received.

•This fall they will have Champagne and Cheesecake available.


•Billington said what is it going to take to get you to come to Attic: more information?, more advertisements?, or is it show choice?

•Billington encouraged us all to attend a show or two and believes we will be back for others.

•He was kind enough to donate a pair of tickets to their September 13th show.

•He also encouraged us to read more about them, their schedule and their history on their website

EXCERPTS WERE TAKEN FROM Attic Theatre-The First 50 Years by Judith Winzenz, July 1999.

James L. Richter, AHS Secretary, 8/27/17

8-2017 The Attic Theater - Berray Billington Denise Behreandt