How would you describe yourself?
Tough question. I love music, art, writing. I love the quiet reverence of the driftless and the slow pace it brings. Love being a part of my community.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Certainly my family. After that, I’m proud of what we’ve built at Slowpoke Lounge & Cabaret, what I’ve helped to build at American Players Theatre. Privately, I’ve written a lot of fiction that I’m proud of.

Have you read any good books?
Too many to count. I’ve recently finished a new pair of books by Cormac McCarthy which were astounding, The Passenger and Stella Maris. I also recently read Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott, which I loved. In the last few years, my absolute favorite is Slumberland by Paul Beatty.

Who is your personal hero?
There is a little hero in everyone, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jerry Baryenbruch. Jerry helped start an ambulance service in Spring Green when it was nothing more than a hearse, and kept it alive until we have a thriving volunteer service today. Small towns like Spring Green are built on the backs of volunteers and people who give their lives to their communities. Those are heroes we can’t do without.

Do you have a life philosophy that you live by?
Honesty, clarity, transparency. Seek reverence. Seek joy. Slow down. Be kind. Help. That’s probably enough.

What do you like most about yourself?
It feels impossible to answer without hubris. On my best days, when I can be thoughtful, when I can smile, when I can bring a new idea into the world, those are the days I like myself best.

If you could change the world, what would you change?
We can change the world. We do every day. Every time we lead with kindness. Every time we share something we love. Every time we listen. I would like to see a world more focused on people than money, a little more selfless, and try to make some small contribution to that.

What do you think is the meaning of life?
Know the world and help to make one where we can all find joy.

Do you prefer working alone, or do you like working with others?
It depends. I’m most comfortable working alone, but I’ve spent my life in theater, the most collaborative of the arts, and learned that I’m always stronger as part of a team.

What’s something that no one would guess about you?
If I tell you, no one would have to guess. I don’t actually have many secrets. I love to write but am unpublished. I love to play the piano but rarely play in public. I run a bar but am ultimately pretty introverted.

What is your deepest belief about life?
People are people. We are all different and we get to be who we are. We have to listen to each other, for real, and take each other seriously.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
The future. See how it all turns out. Maybe somewhere in a widely populated galaxy.

If you could be doing anything, anywhere right now, what and where would it be?
I’m not sure there is much at all I want to change with my life. More time to relax and travel, I suppose, but I know I would soon feel the itch to be accomplishing something.

What’s the one thing you wish you could have a do-over for?
If only are the two most dangerous words in the English language.

How do you work on yourself?
I read. I write. I hike. Play piano and sing along. Those things help. I suppose awareness, or what we have come to call mindfulness, is the goal, and those things help me on that journey.

What’s one thing you’ve had to overcome in your life?
I’ve been pretty lucky in life compared to most. My own fears and neuroses, of course, the occasional stumble and fall, but beyond that, I’ve had good fortune.

How do you handle being in a bad mood?
I eat. I sleep. I separate myself from people.

Who is the most important person in your life?
Stacy Wood. My love. My life. My best friend and my wife.

What did you learn about yourself from any of your previous relationships?
I’m not a great person for the first hour after I wake up, or when I’m hungry. I try to fight that and also separate myself from people at those times. Also, that every relationship is about sharing and partnership. Not strictly selflessness – we have to find time for ourselves as well, but trust, certainly.

What question do you always want people to ask you about yourself?
Do you want to go out to eat with me?

What is your all-time favorite song, or think a person should listen to at least once?
I love ‘Round Midnight as played by Miles Davis. That’s one of thousands.

If you weren’t here running your business or doing the work you do, what would you be doing instead?
I think about this a lot. Today, I’m doing what I want to do. When the time comes, I wish I was doing something else. I hope I have the courage and wherewithal to do it.

Photo Sourced from americanplayers.org

How has this pandemic affected YOU or YOUR BUSINESS here in the Driftless?
Immensely. At APT, we had a year of no live plays, and a second year with limited productions. At Slowpoke, we lost a year of shows, and stumbled through with government grants and the occasional customer. The good news is that in both cases, we’re coming back strong!

What is another name you would give the Driftless?
I’d never heard the name before I moved here, but love the poetry of it. I’d read Leopold, and thought of this area as the Sand County, but I like Driftless so much better.

What is your favorite season in the Driftless & why?
I love the autumn. Some of that is for selfish reasons, as my work at APT slows down and I can find a little more free time than in high summer. But I love the warm sunny days and chilly evenings. I love it when the bugs disappear and hikes get a little more peaceful, but it is still warm enough to take time on the river.

Tell us of an experience /memory you had with Driftless lakes, rivers or waterways?
I like to kayak up a little creek off the Wisconsin up here. It’s quiet and lazy with some beautiful views. A great place to drift and daydream.

What are some of your favorite places to go for fun here in the Driftless?
I love Dr. Evermore’s. Blackhawk Lake. White Mounds. Governor Dodge and Devil’s Lake. I try to get to the Shitty Barn as much as I can, and spend a lot of time at Slowpoke. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention American Players Theatre.

What are some of your favorite places to eat here in the Driftless?
I love Reunion. It’s right across the street, here in Spring Green, and is absolutely world class farm-to-table with a well curated menu. Also, when I’m looking for more of a picnic, Wander Provisions is one of my new favorite places to hit before a hike.

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … What would you tell them?
It’s a great place to relax into nature. It’s filled with people who embrace authenticity. It attracts artists and musicians. It’s a haven for songwriters. There is fresh food everywhere. And it takes your heart rate down, just enough to see the world around you.

Are you a Cat or Dog person?

Are you an Early Bird or Late Owl?
Late Owl

If given the opportunity, would you go to outer space (moon, mars, space stations)?

What color socks are you currently wearing?

What skill or instrument would you like to learn or play?
Auto repair

What 1 message would you put in a bottle?
be kind to your mind

What was your very first job?
Prep cook

How / where did you meet your best friend?
In a theatre control booth, a lifetime ago

What does your dream vacation look like?
Chill, and far away, with lots of new foods


If you could learn another language, what would that be?

I Would Rather …
Live on a small boat

So, what’s your story?
I was born in Chicago, and moved to the Driftless in 2000 for work with American Players Theatre. I’ve raised a family, built a business, and found a home here.

Photo Sourced From slowpokelounge.com

Tell us about what you do for work or your business, and how long have you been doing this?
In addition to my work as Production Manager at American Players Theatre, I own and operate Slowpoke Lounge & Cabaret with my wife, Stacy. It is a cocktail bar where we regularly have live music, and on other nights, everyone is free to play records off the shelf.

Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career with your business.
I’m just thrilled that the musicians and artists who play there continually tell us how welcome they feel, how much they love the sound of the room, and the audience. While we’re still trying to get bigger crowds, to a person, every musician has loved performing at Slowpoke. That means a lot to us.

Tell us about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.
Though I do much of that in my day job, at Slowpoke we’re kind of after the opposite. We’re making a place where we can all slow down, relax, and stop worrying about making things faster or more efficient. We’re certainly trying to keep ticket prices low, and the music is always free to play (records, tapes, etc), but it is also important that musicians and artists are paid well so they can continue to share their gifts with us.

Photo Sourced From slowpokelounge.com

Tell us about one person that you’ve met, that stands apart from the rest, or has influenced you while here in the Driftless.
I have to shout out to Cari Stebbins and Owen Brush at The Octagon Barn, who taught us how to embrace the place where they came from and welcome strangers into their home. To Ashley Pfannenstiel and Shannon Porter at Wilson Creek Pottery, who taught us what it means to leave everything behind and take a chance on a life dream. And if I have to choose one person, certainly Chris Staples, who built the Shitty Barn and showed us so many ways to see the world, and the Driftless, and make it our home.

What do you wish other people knew about you or your business?
At Slowpoke Lounge & Cabaret, we believe that music and theatre matter, and that life is a little better when we share them together. Mostly, I want folks to take a chance on the music. Come on out and dare to see a new band, try a new style of music. We’ve got something exciting every week, plus lots of off night stuff like open mics and poetry nights. We’re worth the drive.

By Michael Broh

Feature Image sourced from americanplayers.org