Fish Fry – Comedy, Opera, & a Secret Recipe – Premieres May 23

The fish fry may not have been invented in Wisconsin, but this is where we turned it into an art form. TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater and Fresco Opera Theatre join forces to celebrate this beloved tradition in a new production, Fish Fry – Comedy, Opera, & a Secret Recipe, running for 10 performances, May 23 – June 2, at the TAPIT/new works Studio Theater, 1957 Winnebago Street.

Cookie and C-Roc

In this production, Sal, the long-time proprietor of the nearly-legendary Sal’s Place, home of the best fish fry on Lake Cattywompus, plans to join the professional pickleball circuit and needs someone to manage things in her absence. She announces a challenge – the person who successfully completes all three tasks will get Sal’s secret recipe and the restaurant. As three contestants vie for the top spot, and two eccentric tourists hunt the lake’s fabled Giant Muskie, there’s lots of action, intrigue, and unexpected romance. Ultimately, all candidates get their just desserts, ensuring a future full of good fun and good flavors.

Fish Fry plays with the conventions of opera, such as people, or in this case, fish, singing a long time before their deaths. It features arias from famous operas like Carmen and The Magic Flute, but with new lyrics.

Sarah Whelan directs, weaving together a script by Danielle Dresden, from TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater, and musical direction by Dr. Melanie Cain, from Fresco Opera Theatre. The cast includes Donna Peckett, from TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater, George Abbott, Liz Light, Isaac Brieske, Dresden, and Cain. Jackie Harrison-Jewell, graphic design, Lyn Marie Neuenfeldt, designing fish hats and costumes, and Frank Cain, stage manager, round out the production team.

UW-Madison professor Dr. Janet Gilmore, who studies fishing communities, fishing, and even fish fries, served as a consultant on this project. In outreach events, May 9 at the Sun Prairie Library and May 16 at the Waunakee Public Library, and following selected performances, she will share her insights and facilitate a group discussion about the Wisconsin fish fry tradition.


Performances are at 7:30 pm, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00, May 23 – June 2. Tickets, available at, are $20 for general audiences, $17 for students. Contact TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater at, or 608.244.2938, for more information.

This project is supported, in part, by funds from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin; the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; Dane Arts with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times; the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation; and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation; and the Neil Allen Peckett Memorial Fund.

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