Battle of the Buffet: Peninsula Players

Just as you would expect of summer camp, a bell rings to invite us to lunch and dinner. These meals, however, are not traditional camp-fare. They are full of pulled pork, mashed potatoes, homemade coleslaw, strawberry shortcake, and brunch – once a special Sunday exertion, now a weekly occurrence – consists of egg scramble burritos, fresh fruit and scones.

I’ve been here two weeks, and the buffet might be my biggest challenge yet. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve gained two pounds in two weeks. Katie, my roommate and co-administrative intern, asked me if it might be muscle. I am a runner, but I know it ain’t muscle. At this rate, I’ll be as round as Violet Beauregarde by the end of the summer. I must take drastic measures. I need to learn discipline. Dis-cip-line. Three meals, three syllables. I can do this.

At first I thought it would be okay to take a bit of everything. A burrito loaded with cilantro, sour cream and salsa, cheesy refried beans (you know you’re in Wisconsin when…), rice, and a brownie with ice cream for dessert. The take-a-little-of-everything method must cease immediately. I think all those food items I just listed went directly to my I-sit-all-day-long thighs.

Like I was saying, when the buffet table stretches as long as a football field, the sampling practice isn’t productive. Your plate is still heaping by the time you reach the end of the table. Cheesy Shepherd’s pie, cheesy biscuit, rhubarb crisp for dessert with ice cream and whip cream. How can you stop yourself? It’s impossible to refuse a warm fruit crisp. And if you’re going to go, you may as well go all out.

Here, every meal is a family holiday buffet. You cannot give yourself the excuse of it being a special occasion when really it’s a daily affair. When that lunch bell rings, I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs – I thought I wasn’t hungry, but suddenly my mouth’s watering. I’ve now applied the upside down triangle technique to my meals. Breakfast being the largest meal, lunch a little smaller, and dinner the smallest. Today my should-be meal triangle more closely resembled a square with love handles. Restraining myself at dinner may be the hardest part – especially because we eat so early – 5:30 – and by 8:00 p.m. I’m hungry again. So I feel the need to eat more, to stave off hunger later. This is my all American problem. THE BIG BUFFET DILEMMA. I need to be my mother and remind myself that I can always go back for seconds. Not to let my eyes be bigger than my stomach. The absolute guilt at having food on my plate that I cannot eat keeps me in check most of the time. Although when it does happen,  I’m overfull and ever more guilty for having to eat what’s left.

Katie reminds me that when shows get going, we won’t just be sitting all day in the box office. We’ll be setting up the canteen, and selling goodies early in the afternoon to snacking staff members. After dinner we’ll be on our feet, house managing and selling concessions – so, in theory, we’ll be burning off at least half of our dinner calories. But we will still be in very close proximity to snackies – which may be a dangerous game.

When it rains, water rushes down the hairpin curve and brings dirt and rocks with it. The water pools outside our cabin, filling the ruts in the gravel road and making streams and rivers. Yesterday we took a post-dinner walk – trying to burn off a some of dinner – only to get caught in the downpour. I channeled my inner child and veered for the puddles with my rain boots.

In our bathroom, only one of our sinks currently works, so we huddle together while brushing our teeth. This does not bother us, theater people don’t have personal space. I bought myself a fabulously fuzzy fleece robe from the sale section of Victoria’s Secret.  It makes midnight bathroom runs possible, takes the edge off of a chill morning, but most importantly – preserves my sense of self when all my coworkers see me leaving the bathroom after a shower. The other day we had tree servicemen here, clearing out our dead trees in the early morning. The sound of chain saws ripped through the still Fish Creek morning, and as one of the interns walked back from the shower in her towel, they asked her, “Who owns this car? We need it moved.” Later, she said, “Strangers should never ask me questions when I’m not wearing pants.”

We’re still in the process of figuring out showering schedules – there’s nothing worse than rushing in there to find someone else already washing. Some of us sing in the shower, most of us randomly break out in song, or at the very least, join someone else who has started to hum a little ditty.

They serve god awful coffee in the lodge. Now I know it’s just not in a not-for-profit’s budget to serve my snobby fair trade dark roast coffee, but this stuff tastes like pish, as Nana would say. It’s like caffeinated hot brown water. And I’ve drunk loads of it to avoid the post-lunch slump. I guess maybe I should invest in 5- Hour Energy, but I can’t be converted from a coffee drinker to the more questionable ingredient list of said energy drinks. So Katie got us a miniature coffee maker for our room.

I biked down to Blue Horse and picked up some good coffee. Unfortunately, when I got there, all decked out in my red yoga pants, rolled to the knee on the right side to avoid bike chain, pants-ripping peril, a bright blue tank top and my person covered in sweat (to which Julia said, “New fashion statement, Brittany?”), there were about six beans of my favorite roast, The Velvet Hammer. I think the name of it is so evocative. A hammer: something that hits things hard, such as nails, and drives them with force into another object, such as a wall. Velvet: smooth, luxurious, slinky velvet dress, the velveteen rabbit. So, the coffee version must be something that wakes you up with blunt force, and yet soothes and cajoles you out of bed. How delightful. Anyway, other people must have the same thought process I do about velveteen rabbit hammers, because it was gone. Suggestions were made about coming back later, but that was not an option. I refused to drink pish coffee one more day. Needless to say, I left with the Italian Roast.

The coffee, now brewed on a wake-up timer in the morning, saturates the entire cottage – all four bedrooms – with the smell of deliciousness. Samantha, our housemate, brought this to my attention at breakfast. I invited her to bust in and have some with us. She said she would have, if she’d not been naked, coming directly from the shower.

A very fat porcupine lumbers around on campus. Mice live in the Boat House dorms, and centipedes too. No snakes, which is lucky, because apparently they have been known to leave their skins on people’s beds in the past. Squirrels and raccoons fall into our dumpsters and we put sticks in there to give them a way out.

You’re never more than 3 feet from a spider. That was another lesson learned at the Peninsula Players. There are many spiders here (indeed, there are bugs of all kinds). The spiders, though, sometimes drop from midair onto the table and make their way towards your lunch plate. They are in the bathroom, loitering in the corners of the toilet stalls. There are tiny baby spiders scrambling around, learning how to weave webs, and sometimes you feel creepy crawlies down your shirt.

Audi says, “It’s just Charlotte. Think of all the spiders as Charlotte.” She says this as spiders crawl out of her book work.

As a child, spiders put the fear of God in me. Someone told me you swallow an average of eight spiders while you sleep. I would pray every night before bed that spiders would not crawl in my mouth, or bite me while I slept. I prayed fervently. This was my greatest wish. I even performed a “spider check,” which consisted of lifting the covers and inspecting the sheets to make sure that there were not any invaders present at the time that sleep was to commence.

The other day, as Katie and I did inventory in the canteen, a very large spider sat in the sink. He was sitting still, so we left him there while we worked. It felt as though we had agreed about sharing the space. I named him Todd. When we finished, I found a container and released Todd into the wild. Or the garden outside the canteen. Same difference, as we all learned in Honey I Shrunk the Kids!

Here at the Peninsula Players, we interns are like freshman with our Pokémon backpacks. They look kindly upon us, expect us to grow, be challenged and they give us the chance to fail. Our ages range from upper classmen college students to post-grads, but all of us share our newness to the Peninsula Players summer camp. We greedily eat up information, gossip, stories of the past. When you choose to intern at a theater that’s been around for 75 years, there are many, many stories from the past.

All these idiosyncracies only make being here more lovely, and being constantly outdoors is a real pleasure. Eating lunch all together in the sunshine and hearing the waves crash from my window are unbeatable pleasures.

It’s definitely a learning game – all hands on – and you’ve got to learn fast.



  1. Hey. I love you and I want to BE you in my next life, a kind of deja vu but not; being you ( so like me ) in a better place, doing it right with a way cooler Mama. (Sorry, Nana). glad to hear you are eating your veggies ( and biscuits and desserts and … everything with CHEESE!

    Does this mean I should nix plans to deliver ho-made choc chip cookies to the crew this week? “I am the baker of the household! And I make a mean chocolate chip! I can also make layer cakes, pies and dip! And Bill needs them more than wants them … and he wants them for all-ll-ll time! And the Co –ve Road Bake Shop — is baking on T-I-M-E! (To the tune of Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell and stuck in my phsyche by Bill who told me the song gives him the “willies” … I’m trying to get him to recover from that by associating the song with something he LOVES…)

  2. I LOVE reading your stuff. You are so funny, and when I’m done reading, I want there to be more. And Wisconsin is the home of the buffet as well as world-class queso;I envy you a little on the cheesy buffet front…


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