The Fisherman’s Daughters | Northern Sky Theater

Book, Music & Lyrics by Katie Dahl

Where does the wind blow? Home again.

It’s 1908. Sarah Peterson lives alone in the woods on a windy point not far from Fish Creek, a spot the governor wants to claim for Peninsula State Park. When her sister, Nora, returns home from Chicago, the two have never felt further apart—but they must decide their next steps together. A funny, touching tale of two sisters and the land they love.

The 2021 production was a “preview production,” meaning it was presented with minimal sets and costumes, and with stage directions spoken aloud. The 2024 season will give this gorgeous show a proper full premiere.

Show Sponsors: On Deck Clothing Company, The White Gull Inn
Season Sponsors: The Cordon Family Foundation, Tony & Judy Licata

Produced in 2021, 2024

About the Writer

About the Writer

KATIE DAHL (Composer-PlaywrightLyricist)

In addition to being an independent, touring singer-songwriter, Katie Dahl is a playwright whose musical “Victory Farm” (co-written with Emilie Coulson and James Valcq) premiered in 2012 and has since seen two encore productions (in 2017, it made the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Top 10 Productions of 2017” list). “Victory Farm” is inspired by the true story of German prisoners of war who came to pick cherries in Door County during World War II.

Singer-songwriter Katie Dahl has performed her original songs everywhere from the dusty cliffs of Mali, to the winding canals of southern France, to the cedar forests of American northwoods. A year-round resident of Door County, Katie tours regularly and has earned accolades nationwide for the depth and power of her alto voice, the literate candor of her songs, and the easy humor of her live performances. In October, Katie’s song “Worry My Friend” hit #5 on the folk radio charts. Karen Impola of Iowa Public Radio says, “Katie Dahl’s music combines a love for her rural midwestern roots, a droll wit, and a clear-eyed appraisal of modern life, all served up in a voice as rich as cream.” Katie’s latest album, “Wildwood” (September 2019) was recorded in Nashville and features Birds of Chicago’s JT Nero (producer) and Allison Russell (harmony vocals).


Sarah - Kelly Doherty*
Nora - Anna Cline
Charlie - Chase Stoeger
John - Alex Campea 

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Fisherman’s Daughters’ embraces a Door County haven

WFRV-TV, Channel 5

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – A story about a park. Sounds simple. Not.

Not with the kind of musical/artistic expertise found in “The Fisherman’s Daughters.”

Northern Sky Theater is giving the new musical a special run this summer in the amphitheater of Peninsula State Park, where two sisters once lived in reality and now in the imagination of the show’s creator.

Author Katie Dahl weaves a beautiful tapestry of book, music and lyrics.Playwright Katie Dahl

A singer-songwriter in the first place, Katie Dahl’s palette is very much larger in this fictionalized account of how Peninsula State Park came to be in 1908 as Wisconsin’s first state park.

People who lived on the land were compensated, and some were put off – except for two sisters.

The musical is in touch with many sensitivities. Much is told in four characters, who are handsomely and brightly and song-fully and care-fully portrayed by performers inspired by bringing the persons/personalities to life:

+ Sarah Peterson (Kelly Doherty) resides on the family property – one cabin, one barn… one good well. She pesters the man who fishes aboard her deceased father’s skiff. In town, Sarah is an odd one, going around in a man’s long coat and trying to get rides back home – three point two miles. Sarah has lived by herself for the last two years since her father died. Her sister has not come home from Chicago.

+ Nora Peterson (Eva Nimmer), the sister younger by six years, has returned as the musical starts. Hers is an elusive story to the end. Nora is the smart sister. A teacher, she continuously corrects Sarah’s errors in speech – brought to humous vitality by a standing joke: Sarah flubs, Nora corrects, Sarah says, “Exactly.” Nora and Sarah tiff, with that having to do especially with the question of what to do with the land when the state comes knocking about selling.

+ Charlie (Chase Stoeger) is the town character, a talk-your-arm-off guy who is pretty good at a lot of things. He never gives Sarah that 3.2-mile ride on his horse-drawn delivery wagon, though. Charlie has a petition going to reclaim Columbus Day for Leif Erikson in part because Charlie is Norwegian. “Isn’t everybody?” he says.

+ John Murphy (Alex Campea) is the state guy, nine days into his job with the Department of Land Preservation. Coming from Milwaukee, he is smitten by Fish Creek and sees it as the garden spot of the world. John enthusiastically throws himself into formulating 3,800 acres into a place of rejuvenation.

Katie Dahl weaves these four people into her intricate tapestry in the first song, signaling this is musical theater of high quality. Signaled in the story is the arrival of change. Katie Dahl expresses that with the line, “Each day in the harbor, the wind blows yesterday farther away.”

This and that about the production:

++ It’s not done done. Props and set elements are not included. The characters speak stage directions in some instances. When not actively performing, they sit off to a side, often at a music stand with a script. COVID-19 got in the way of this being an official world premiere presentation. However, the presentation at hand gives an awfully good picture of the heart of this musical.

++ Audience size is limited. Seating is socially distanced. Masks are optional.

++ There is no such thing as a typical Northern Sky Theater show, and “The Fisherman’s Daughters” is one of the more less-typical. The book-music-lyrics by one person is not typical, though it was accomplished recently by Matt Zembrowski in “Dad’s Season Tickets.” The level of drama is not typical. Humor certainly is around but not as a dead-on comedy. And romance is not dead-on, either. Katie Dahl finesses a variety of sensitivities.

++ Northern Sky Theatre is very much about collaboration. Director Molly Rhode nurtures that, and willingness abounds. That certainly is the case with the orchestrations by the musicians. Katie Dahl’s music is colored by instrumentations – violin here, harmonica there and individual touches all the way through to enrich moods and emotions.

++ No printed programs are available this year. They are online, and some elements include videos.

++ The program contains no song list, so I did not guess at titles.

++ Learning stuff is part of Northern Sky Theater shows. James O. Davidson was the governor who set the Wisconsin State Park idea rolling, and he is a presence in the show by name. That’s a simple example. More complex is a process song, another in a line of teaching tunes: The audience learns about packing fish – the individual moves of this and next that… repeated in wearing repetition for the workers. There’s another process song, a human one: Katie Dahl tells the step-by-step of the sisters’ father coming from Norway to America, ending up in Fish Creek after walking nine days from Green Bay.

++ The production aside, a major change has occurred for theatergoers: Real restrooms! Running water! A facility has been built. No more hold-your-nose experiences in dank and dingy latrines.