Colder by the Lake was formed quite a few years ago, when an amphibious life form with a sense of humor not appreciated by his fellow sea creatures crawled out of the Indian Ocean, where he perched on the back of a big golden man named Atleast, who stood on the shell of a giant turtle, held up by four rubies as big as rubies would have to be to hold up a giant turtle standing under a giant man. Under the rubies were the god Ganesh, a sub sandwich with turkey and smoked gouda, and the blueprints for the Atari 1600.
Years after the crawling-out-of-the-ooze episode, Margi Preus, a refugee from points east via points near west, stumbled into town one day and declared it not big enough or funny enough. Soon one of these deficiencies was remedied when she and cohort Jim Calder taught a commedia del’arte course at the .. This was in 1983, when no one had a job and few saw this is an immediate problem, leaving plenty of time and human resources to do things like take classes in improvisational theatre and take the resulting ideas to their inevitable and illogical conclusion and form a comedy theatre troupe. But Margi had worked her evil magic in previous small-to-medium sized Midwestern cities, namely LaCrosse, WI, home of Heart of LaCrosse Comedy Theatre. (Heart of LaCrosse is no longer active; however, former Colder by the Lake company member Howard Bell moved to LaCrosse in 1996; coincidence?)
So we staged “Of Ice and Men (or, Real Vikings Don’t Eat Lutefisk)” at, believe it or not, Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake (that big table with the church bench seats on the upper level near the doors to the bathrooms? That’s where the stage was). The group moved on to do shows at the Orpheum Cafe (201 E. Superior Street in downtown Duluth, where
some Italian restaurant a coffee place an internet cafe a computer store is now located), Fitger’s Spirit of the North Theatre, the Norshor Theatre, and just about every other venue in the Twin Ports area that has overhead lighting and room for chairs.
Colder by the Lake spent the first 10 years doing mainly sketch/revue style comedy, and since then broadened its focus (focii?) to include full-length plays, adaptations of Dickens, Aristophanes and Shakespeare, collaborations with other performing arts groups including the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Access Theatre, and the College of St. Scholastica, commissioned shows for corporations and nonprofits, live radio variety shows, and two original comic operas. We took The Jack Chick Plays to the Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2010, after staging it at the Duluth Play Ground. Our 27th (yeah, we know) Anniversary Show, Older by the Lake, (or, The Colonoscopy Monologues) was staged in 2010 also.
In 2001, Margi Preus took early retirement according to the little known “rule of 21” (years of service + number of children). Buoyed by the generous retirement package offered by Colder by the Lake, Margi lives today in Splendor, a small neighborhood near Hartley Field. Longtime company member Jean Sramek was promoted to the position of executive director during a solemn ceremony known as The Passing of the Cardboard Boxes. Margi is now artistic director. We give out random titles at Hallowe’en, as well.
What a long, strange, etc., etc., etc. What does the future hold? If any of us played poker, we’d say it held a straight flush or some aces or whatever is good to hold in poker. But let’s just say that we’ve done pretty well over these 28 years and we’re not quitting any time soon.