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Dear friends,

     We've just come from a lovely evening at the Alpine Resort in Egg Harbor where we announced our new name at our annual Raise the Curtain Event. 

     With our loyal supporters spread far and wide across the Midwest and beyond, we know that it is simply impossible for you all to be here with us in person for this special night.

     However, we wanted you to hear the announcement from us first. Below we've included our press announcement before we officially release it to the media. 

     We are looking forward to another great season of music and laughter with all of you.

     See you under the stars!



"Northern Sky Theater" to be American Folklore Theatre's New Name


Beginning officially in January 2015, Door County's award-winning American Folklore Theatre (AFT) will debut a new name: "Northern Sky Theater."


The new name was announced at the company's annual "Raise the Curtain" fundraising event at the Alpine Resort in Egg Harbor on May 25. The event was attended by approximately 200 people closely connected with the theater, including donors, volunteers, and company members.


Artistic Director Jeffrey Herbst opened the performance portion of the evening by singing one of company co-founder Fred Alley's most memorable ballads, "Beneath the Northern Sky." Alley was a key contributor to AFT's early success, writing seven original shows before his untimely death in 2001. The new name is, in part, a tribute to Alley and his enduring legacy with the theater.


Herbst spoke candidly to the crowd of loyal supporters and friends regarding his own realization that a name change would be a positive move for the company.


"As long as the company was generating works entirely from within, the name wasn't an issue professionally," Herbst said.  "However, when Fred died, we lost one of our most prolific writers. In order to continue our mission of developing new works, it became essential that we reach out and network with potential partnering organizations. It quickly became apparent that these other organizations and their writers had to look past our name in order to understand the kind of shows we create. Our name was a hindrance to making these needed connections."


Herbst added, "We also routinely heard from potential audience members who were thrown off by the 'folklore' in our name and had no idea about the kind of original programming we do. As we evolved, branding became more difficult with the 'American Folklore' name."


The company believes that the name "Northern Sky Theater" accurately evokes the unique AFT experience. AFT performs its summer season in an outdoor amphitheater in Peninsula State Park, where the natural setting is itself a dramatic element. "It's inevitable when watching a show in the park, that at some point your eye is drawn upward to the sky to contemplate the changing clouds, the first twinkle of starlight, a dangling moon, or even a jet flying into the setting sun," Herbst said.


Changing the name of the theater has been a consideration in the company's long-range plan for the past seven years. In January, the company announced a decision to change and invited comments and suggestions from the community.


In the following weeks, a task force made up of senior company members, as well as representatives from AFT's writers, performers, board members, and volunteers, reviewed more than 300 proposed names before settling on "Northern Sky Theater" and recommending it to AFT's Board of Directors in April. During the current season, the company will introduce the new name to its audience and promote it throughout the community, and a new logo will be introduced in the fall.


AFT originally began as "The Heritage Ensemble" almost 45 years ago, founded by David Peterson at the University of Wisconsin. The group reorganized and changed its name to "American Folklore Theatre" in 1990, when it separated from the university and incorporated as a non-profit performing arts company. Over the past 25 years, AFT has evolved from an ensemble performing traditional folksongs and tales to a full-fledged theater organization that primarily focuses on the creation and presentation of original, full-book musicals.


"Northern Sky will be guided by AFT's longstanding and ongoing mission of creating original theater under the stars for people of all ages," Herbst said. "Everything people love about our theater will remain the same. Our new name celebrates our past while looking strongly to the future."  


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.