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June 26, 2007

NYT's postcard from Wisconsin

Jennifer A. Smith

While I had planned on writing this Tuesday about the role of readers in the quality and quantity of arts coverage, I am a) too pooped to take that on right now and b) inspired by Joe's post to take another look at coverage of the "Outback" by big-city media.

While Joe had some frustrations with the New Yorker's musical coverage, I enjoyed an article in the New York Times last week about the very small town (pop. 65 or so) of West Lima, Wis., which is home to an "intentional community" of artists and eccentrics. The Times piece ("Into Middle America but Staying on the Fringe," June 20), by Matt Gross, actually appears in the travel section, not arts, since it's part of the Frugal Traveler's "American Road Trip." While the community Gross writes about, Dreamtime Village, has already been covered by Wisconsin papers, I'm guessing this is its first national exposure in a major paper. Gross offers up a nice place-portrait that captures a sense of quirkiness without overdoing it.

As Gross notes, West Lima is not far from Spring Green, Wis., home of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. I've been to Spring Green twice in the past two weekends since it is also home to American Players Theatre (APT), a professional repertory company. I caught Saturday's opening night of George Bernard Shaw's "Misalliance," an excellent production that I find myself already mentally red-flagging for December's year-in-review piece of local arts highlights. (My review of the show will appear in this week's Isthmus.)

APT performs in an outdoor amphitheater that seats about 1,150 and, when Mother Nature cooperates, the result can be stunning. It's also a laid-back spot filled with pre-show picnicking and crowds that feel a little more alive than at most indoor shows. Sitting in the crowd last Saturday night, life seemed pretty good.

My aunt, who lives on a dairy farm between Madison and Milwaukee, forwarded me the NYT article and wrote in her e-mail, only half-jokingly, "Why would anyone live anywhere else but the Midwest?" While I can think of several cities I'd gladly give up Madison for, my aunt's got a point: there's some interesting stuff here, and I think living in any community is enhanced exponentially by being plugged into your local culture (in whatever form "culture" resonates with you).

Posted by Jennifer A. Smith at June 26, 2007 6:00 AM


I am glad to hear APT is doing well. I have never been there but someone gave me a brochure a couple years ago that was so well written and fun to read, I have wanted to see one of their shows.

Posted by: joe at June 26, 2007 1:13 PM