Ya Ya You Betcha | Northern Sky Theater

Ya Ya You Betcha logo

Created by Frederick Heide
Adapted by Paul Sills
Co-directed by Jeffrey Herbst and Paul Sills
Additional Adaptions and Lyrics by Lee Becker and Frederick Heide

Beauty, humor, and music come together in this collection of stories from Scandinavia, presented on the AFT stage in its 2003 summer season. Ya Ya You Betcha was co-directed by AFT Artistic Director Jeff Herbst and the late Paul Sills, legendary Second City director and longtime Baileys Harbor resident. Epic heroism, magic, depth, talking animals, and Ole and Lena jokes abound.


Green Bay Press-Gazette
WARREN GERDS - June 2003


‘Betcha’ has something for all


“Ya, Ya, You Betcha!” is the name of a show but also the answer to a question:


“You’re going to chop my head off?”


A damsel asks that of the merrily merciless king in the Rumpelstiltskin-like tale, “Tom Tit Tot,” that’s part of the American Folklore Theatre fare this summer.


The dark humor in the Q&A is a mere fraction of the fun in this super production.


Some of the American Folklore Theatre’s shows come from a specific kind of performing called Story Theatre.


Paul Sills, the creator of the style (and founding director of Chicago’s famed The Second City improvisational theater company), has a residence in Door County and participated in this show.


In short, this is something special.


Scandinavian folk stories are the foundation of “Ya, Ya, You Betcha!” They are told in a luscious blend of acting, singing, movement, pantomime, song, music, and special effects.


Eight actors and three musicians romp through such tales as “The Princess Who Always had the Last Word,” “Swan Maiden” and “The Way of the World.”


These are wonderfully funny, touching or haunting.


Woven in are Door County name-dropping and modern-day references – for fresh touches.


Troupe co-founder, Green Bay native Frederick “Doc” Heide, is a musical creator/performer.


Among the outstanding performers are Doug Mancheski, Laurie Flanigan, Jeffrey Herbst (co-director with Sills) and Treva Tegtmeier.


Tossed in are Ole and Lena (or Sven or Lars) jokes.


Here’s one: Ole and Lena go fishing to Canada and catch one fish. Figuring expenses, Lena says the fish cost $400 a pound. Ole says, “At that price, it’s a good thing we didn’t catch any more.”


As usual, American Folklore Theatre makes sure there’s something for every age.


Along with kid jokes, there are a few earthy wink-winks for Mom and Dad.


It’s all packed into 80 minutes.


Shows are played out on the troupe’s beautiful new stage, designed by Jim Maronek of the company.


The stage allows lots of freedom for the troupe and retains the woodsy charm that makes the theater so distinctive. Pine trees still grow through the stage floor.

Door County Advocate


Ya, ya, it’s a fun show, Ole - AFT scores again with story theatre


Scandinavians may have a stoic, even dour reputation – after all, they left the frozen north of Europe for, well, the frozen north of the Upper Midwest – but there is a rich tradition of storytelling and humor in the future, and it’s a tradition that American Folklore Theatre is ready to explore.


AFT’s latest story theater production, “Ya, Ya, You Betcha” is a recreation of one of its shows from 1992, “Tales of the Midnight Sun.”


Some of the elements are the same in the current show, now running a t Peninsula State Park.


Paul Sills – the pioneer of the story theater style – again directs (this time in conjunction with Jeff Herbst), and AFT co-founder Fred “Doc” Heide is still the driving force behind the show.


The company, however, is almost completely different (only Heide and Herbst were in that first production); the technical side is far more developed; and they, of course, have a brand new stage to play on.


Like AFT’s other story theater show, “Ya, Ya, You Betcha” is made up of folk tales and music. Props are kept to a bare minimum, and the actors explain the action as they are going along. Think of it as story time for several hundred of your best friends.


The eight tales are drawn from the folk tradition, so there are all manner of elves, dragons, transforming animals and curses.


The stories also dig deep into the heart and the soul. The “Swan Maiden,” where a man tries to capture the wilds for his own, shows that love can’t triumph over all. Then again, the young heroine of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is willing to go to any length to regain the man she loves.


It isn’t all wind-swept Nordic epics. Tales like “Little Freddy and His Fiddle” and “Tom Tit Tot” showcase the Scandinavian sense of humor.


A string of Ole and Lena jokes are used for punctuation between the tales. They…well, best just to hear them.


The company has a grand time with the stories. Perhaps the best if “The Princess Who Always Had to Have the Last Word.” In it, three brothers travel to try and get the hand of the aforementioned princess. Their task – to somehow make her speechless. Yet the ones who are focused only on the goal are not the ones who get her hand. Instead, it is the one who pauses to see what is around him and who finds treasure in every piece of trash. Doug Mancheski brings the character to life in a few short minutes on stage, making every simple action pure fun.


The rest of the company – Lee Becker, Kari Damien, Jon Hegge, Laurie Flanigan and Treva Tegtmeier – also have their moments in the spotlight, and they take full advantage of them.


The show did drag a bit Tuesday night – it may have been the heavy air or the early part of the season. “Ya, Ya, You Betcha” is also longer than past story theater shows. the energy for the last couple of stories seemed to dip noticeably, even though they were lighter tales.


“Ya, Ya, You Betcha” is still a fun time. And it serves proof that Scandinavians, at the very least, can laugh at themselves.