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Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin people & ideas
Volume 52, Number 2 (Spring 2006)

Upfront,   pp. 4-12


Page 4

Diraction: tago orth 
IT'S A CRISP WINTER DAY, the kind where the blue sky 
and the sun shining on snow make you forget you can see your 
breath in the air. Nestled along Lake Superior lies Washburn, a 
sleepy town of about 2,300 with a picturesque beauty that 
charms in every season-the perfect haven for artists. 
It was the vision of an artistic haven that gripped Jan Lee in 
the year 2000, when she decided to buy a Swedish-Lutheran 
church in the heart of Washburn and turn it into a perfor- 
mance venue. Lee was undeterred by the small population of 
Washburn. "Just because people live in small communities 
doesn't mean they shouldn't have year-round access to quality 
entertainment," Lee says. Out of that belief, StageNorth was 
born. 
And some five years later, StageNorth is still going strong. 
The bustling 90-seat entertainment facility features both local 
and international concerts-approximately 16 each year-and 
produces a minimum of six plays annually. It is also used for 
producing middle school plays and a musical every two years 
because there is no theater department at the local school. 
Vigorous use has not diminished the charm of the building, 
which dates back to 1887 and still has the original church bell. 
In 2002, the theater was officially declared a Wisconsin 
Treasure. Observers like Anne Katz, executive director of Arts 
Wisconsin, say the honor is well deserved. 
"StageNorth is a marvelous cultural asset for the Bayfield 
peninsula," says Katz. "Jan Lee's professionalism and commit- 
ment to quality and community shine through in all of 
StageNorth's work, and she's a great advocate for the arts on 
the local level." 
Nor does Lee shy from controversy. Late this winter, 
StageNorth was poised to produce The Laramie Project, a soul- 
searching, documentary-style drama about the 1998 murder of 
Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student who was 
beaten and left to die outside of Laramie, Wyoming. 


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