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Dear Friends,

 

We hope this finds you and your family warm and safe.

 

We're writing to share some very big news: The AFT Board has voted to change our name!

 

To what, you might ask? We're not sure yet. But first let me say this.

 

We realize some of you may not be pleased with what you've just read. You're wondering why we'd change a name that for almost 25 years has signified joyous family memories under the stars.

 

We understand. We love the name AFT, too. So it's taken us years to reach this decision.

 

The reason is pretty simple. The name just doesn't fit us.

 

  When we began in 1990, we thought we'd mostly be carrying on the tradition of our predecessor, the Heritage Ensemble----that is, doing revues of authentic American folk songs with a few moss-covered jokes tossed in.

 

Very quickly AFT became something quite different, focusing on new book musicals about Wisconsin culture. They're not "folklore" in the way most people use that word.

 

And our name makes it really hard to attract new audiences who'd love what we actually do. Many of them think we're a children's theater. Or amateur. Or a bunch of bearded banjo pickers in suspenders extolling the wonders of Paul Bunyan's ox.

 

Our name has also made it really hard to attract new writers and composers, the lifeblood of a theater like ours.

 

So to coincide with our 25th anniversary and make sure we're as strong as possible for the next 100 years, we want to change our name. But our mission remains the same. We'll still be creating affordable, family-friendly original musicals rooted in Midwest culture, presented with the highest professionalism we can muster.

 

We already have a few strong name ideas. And because we dearly value your input, we're writing to see if you have any suggestions.

If so, we'd love you to send them to us by no later than Friday, February 14th, 2014. You can email your suggestions to Holly at hfeldman@folkloretheatre.com. 

 

Your reward should we choose your suggestion: Your photo on the cover of the New York Times? Dinner with Justin Timberlake? An all-expenses paid trip to Crivitz?

 

Actually, just the satisfaction of knowing you helped in this all-important project. And maybe an ice cream sundae after a show with my darling wife Jody and me. Our treat.

 

Thanks for your help. You are AFT.

 

Warmly,

Doc Heide

Co-founder, American Folklore Theatre

Official Media Release

 

Beginning officially in 2015, American Folklore Theatre (AFT) will debut a new company name.

 

The decision has been a long time coming for the award-winning Door County troupe. Several years of serious consideration by their Board of Directors, management, cast, crew and outside advisors took place.

 

The company originally began as The Heritage Ensemble almost 45 years ago, founded by the University of Wisconsin. The group reorganized and changed its name to American Folklore Theatre when it separated from the university and incorporated as a non-profit performing arts company in 1990.

 

Over the past 25 years AFT has evolved from a story-telling and concert-centric ensemble to a full-fledged theater organization that primarily focuses on the creation and presentation of original full-book musicals. Some of its shows, such as the hit comedy "Guys on Ice", have performed in dozens of theaters coast to coast.

 

"Our mission has not changed in any way. We will continue to produce original family-friendly musical theater that celebrates Midwest culture. The new name will better introduce the company to the next generation of patrons and creative collaborators and will better communicate and celebrate who we are and the art that we create," stated Artistic Director, Jeffrey Herbst.

 

The change, which will coincide with AFT's 25th anniversary in 2015, has been a part of its long-term strategic plan for the past seven years. While people who know and love AFT are comfortable with the name "American Folklore Theatre," the company has found that it has drawbacks.

 

"The name 'American Folklore Theatre' communicates connotations about our focus that are no longer accurate. In some important subliminal ways, the name can even work against us - particularly in attracting new audiences and potential collaborators that are unfamiliar with us. Our unique mission and creative "pipeline" depend on attracting new artistic collaborators that "get" who we are and what we do," added Managing Director, Dave Maier.

 

"People who aren't familiar with us may assume 'folklore' means we're a bunch of amateur banjo pickers in suspenders singing to kids about Paul Bunyan," said AFT Co-Founder, Doc Heide. "Nothing could be further from the truth. We're fully professional. Our shows are original book musicals about Wisconsin culture that enthrall people of all ages. We know this change may be hard for some of our fans, and hope they understand that it'll help keep us vital and relevant for decades to come."

 

"We're at a stage in our development similar to 1990, when we transitioned from "The Heritage Ensemble" to "American Folklore Theatre." It's again time for a new name that doesn't hold us back - that helps us succeed. So, after much careful thought - and some nostalgia - we know it's time to take this significant step," added Artistic Director, Jeffrey Herbst.

 

While the company has strong contenders for a new name, they are looking to the community for their input. Submissions for names can be sent to hfeldman@folkloretheatre.com through Friday, February 14th, 2014.

   

American Folklore Theatre is a non-profit professional theatre organization that produces original musical shows in repertory from June through August.  AFT continues its performances into the fall with shows in Door County indoor venues September through October and over the Christmas holidays. For more information on American Folklore Theatre, please call the AFT office at (920) 854-6117 or visit the AFT website at www.FolkloreTheatre.com.