Take a 'Walk' on the Dark Side Redux

Posted by Scott on October 15, 2015

(written by Anita Taylor Doering and Scott Brouwer, Archives Staff)


WHAT:  Dark La Crosse Tour: The Radio Show

WHERE: Pump House Regional Arts Center, 119 King Street

WHEN: October 30, 7:30pm; October 31, 6pm and 8pm; November 6 & 7, 7:30pm

TICKETS: $12 tickets can be purchased by calling 608-785-1434 or online at www.thepumphouse.org; some themes may not be suitable for children under 16 years of age


The Dark La Crosse Tour: Radio Show is coming soon to the Pump House Regional Arts Center.  Based on the popular historical walking tours developed by the La Crosse Public Library Archives, this stage production will entertain the audience with the seedier side of La Crosse’s past and highlight the community’s historical resources.

In the format of an old-time radio show on stage, themes include the Red Light District, Prohibition era gangsters, La Crosse’s only lynching saga and the Armistice Day Storm of 1940 among other events in La Crosse’s past.  Even for those who have been on the walking tour or trolley tours through the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau, this program will feature new material that occurred beyond the downtown area and is presented in a fresh format with original music and visuals.

Bill Petersen, retired archivist who researched and developed the core of the stories commented, “These are not people to whom communities erect statues to commemorate these events, but they are part of our past and worth learning about.”  

Archives manager Anita Doering wanted to expand the walking tour content and allow people who might have mobility issues a chance to be engaged in the Dark La Crosse Tour experience without the walking component.  She immediately thought of the historic Pump House Regional Arts Center building as a possible venue.  Toni Asher, the Pump House executive director, offered guidance and encouragement throughout the process.

In addition to the Pump House, the Archives has teamed up with Michael Scott, local entertainer, storyteller and writer, to bring to life some of these macabre stories in an entertaining way as well as direct the production.  “I have enjoyed applying storytelling to history in order to make people and events come alive for audiences.  The folks on the walking tour have enjoyed it and I am excited to bring it to the stage.  This project is a trifecta of enjoyment for me.  It combines history, writing and acting.  What's not to like?"

A staple of the walking tour, archivist Scott Brouwer, will be the narrator who leads the audience from event to event and who frames each story in its historical context.  Actors make the vignettes come to life but they are not the focus. The Western Technical College’s Graphic Arts Club, headed by Ryan Schulte, has produced some amazing publicity for the show.

Local jazz pianist Luke Thering will be bringing his talents to the show as well, transitioning the audience from one vignette to the next with original period music.  Historical images from the Archives as well as from the Murphy Library Special Collections Department will be projected during the show to also help evoke the location and various time periods of each story.  A veteran of the Pump House, Ryan Soberg will manage the lights and slide show.

At the conclusion of the performances, the local history experts will entertain questions during a talk back Q&A.  Our generous sponsors for this run of shows include Gerhards/First Supply, NetKinetix, Stifel, and Trust Point.  

Petersen added, “This is a chance to be entertained not by fiction, but by true stories that come from the shadows of our city's history.  If you're not careful, you'll probably learn something about La Crosse you didn't know.”