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plays

Danielle Meadows
CONTRIBUTOR

The University of Nebraska at Omaha Theatre will present “Tales of the Lost Formicans” by Constance Congdon–a play with a unique combination of joy, sorrow, humanity and aliens.

Directed by Professor Ryan Hartigan, theatre students bring “Tales of the Lost Formicans” to the UNO mainstage this month. The cast includes Bethany Bresnahan, Randy Breedlove, Ankita Ashrit, Noah Diaz, Enrique Madera, Kameron Shelley, Shae’Kell Butler and Angie Reynolds.

“Tales of the Lost Formicans” is centered around Cathy, whose husband left her for a much younger woman. Leaving life in New York, she returns to Colorado to live with her parents. A perpetually angry teenage son, a father with worsening Alzheimer’s and a local conspiracy nut might sound like a lot to handle–but then come the aliens.

During this production, the UNO Theatre Department worked with the Department of Gerontology to learn more about Alzheimer’s and how it impacts victims and their families. A common yet heart-breaking neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s (sometimes referred to as senile dementia) often comes on slow and worsens over time. Treatment may help ease symptoms but there is no cure.

“Alzheimers is sad because literally no one survives it,” said Jessie Curry, the production’s assistant stage manager.

Jim, the character who suffers from Alzheimer’s, often experiences episodes of forgetfulness. Actor Enrique Madera believes “Tales of the Lost Formicans” shines a light on what people endure as they care for someone who is slowly deteriorating.

“It opens your eyes to what people go through as they take care of someone with Alzheimer’s and making sure they’re safe, loved, appreciated and not taken for granted,” Madera said.

Madera plays Cathy’s son, Eric, who is very brash and frustrated throughout the play due to his parents’ divorce. In the meantime, aliens invade and analyze this family. After the mysterious creatures are introduced, the play centers around how the family deals with its dying patriarch while aliens look to this family in search of the humanity in humans.

“This show is kind of a comedy but kind of not,” assistant director Geran Ramet said. “It’s an interesting hybrid which should attract people because it’s not what they’re used to seeing.”

After auditioning at the beginning of the semester, rehearsals started about a month ago, according to Ramet. Through three hours of rehearsal per day, six days a week, cast and crew have worked together to embody the joy, sadness and humor of “Tales of the Lost Formican’s”.

Previews nights for the play will be April 12-13, with performances April 14-15 and 19-22 in the Weber Fine Arts building theatre. All performances start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are free for all UNO students.

“The play shows that through adversity and struggle, we find who we are,” Ramet said, “There’s always hope in difficult situations and sometimes when we’re at our worst is when we find ourselves.”

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Photo Courtesy of omahaplayhouse.com
Photo Courtesy of omahaplayhouse.com

Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

The Omaha Community Playhouse is diving into the second half of its 2016-2017 theater season with a production of “Around the World in Eighty Days” under the direction of Carl Beck.

The cast of the performance is a mere five members. This small group of thespians coupled with innovative set design portray the tale of Englishman Phileas Fogg and his French servant Jean Passepartout as they attempt to travel around the world in 80 days.

“Around the World in Eighty Days” is based on the French novel by the same. Originally written by novelist Jules Verne and published in 1873, the story has seen a smooth transition into English and the stage.

At the beginning of the performance the audience is introduced to the absurd Phileas Fogg, played by Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek. He is oddly calculating, seemingly unreasonable and a wealthy Englishman. A mysterious aura surrounds the character that is peeled away, piece by piece, as his more human emotions and motives are exposed by his journey around the world.

Photo Courtesy of omahaplayhouse.com
Photo Courtesy of omahaplayhouse.com

Jean Passepartout, played by Ablan Roblin, is the newly hired servant to Fogg. This French man is seeking a simpler life in London but quickly finds himself swept up into the bizarre life of his new employer. Throughout the play this character is a centerpiece of the comedy. Roblin’s explosive performance does the character of Passepartout justice.

Aouda, played by Teri Fender, joins Fogg and Passepartout after an impromptu decision to save her from fanatics. This character is essential in the development of Fogg’s personality as she assists in the unveiling of deeper emotions behind the calculating man.

Half of the humor spawned throughout the play can be credited to the impressive speed with which the actors change costume and character. This is particularly true for Ben Beck and Monty Eich, two of the five cast members, who vanish off stage and return within the minute in an entirely new character.

This rapid character switching leads to Eich and Beck playing a barrage of characters throughout the performance. Both of the actors do this fantastically, completely reworking their mannerisms and voice for each character.

One unfortunate aspect of the play is its, at times, unflattering use of foreign accents, outfits and stereotypes. A drawback to a production that is based on a publication made over a century ago is some of its outdated mediums for humor.

A particularly distasteful scene includes the portrayal of Native Americans as savages attacking a train that is transporting Fogg, Passepartout and company. Additionally, the use of Indian and Chinese accents can easily be seen as less than politically correct.

Regardless of some off-putting themes, Omaha Community Playhouse’s “Around the World in Eighty Days” is definitely worth the watch. The play keeps a nice tempo, never letting audience members feel bored. Those seeking quality local theater should definitely consider this as one of their first stops.

The show will be running through Feb. 12 in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Hawks Mainstage Theatre. Single tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students on all days except Wednesday. On Wednesday adult tickets cost $28 and student tickets cost $16.

Photo Courtesy of Mariel Richter
Photo Courtesy of Mariel Richter

Mariel Richter
CONTRIBUTOR

The University of Nebraska at Omaha recently opened a special exhibit, Inspired by Shakespeare’s Work: The 30th Anniversary of Nebraska Shakespeare, in the Criss Library Archives and Special Collections area.

The exhibit, which will be on display through Aug. 12, gives insight into the planning, educating, and entertaining performed by the Nebraska Shakespeare group. The nonprofit got its start in 1986 and performed its first Shakespeare on the Green the following year.

Archives and Special Collections Director Amy Schindler explained that the Nebraska Shakespeare exhibit includes programs, photos, costume and set designs, among other memorabilia. Documents from Nebraska Shakespeare operations and productions teams are also on display.

“We hope students will learn a bit about the long and varied history of Omaha cultural institution Nebraska Shakespeare, and especially about Shakespeare on the Green, which is literally right outside the library’s doors every summer,” Schindler said.

Shindler hopes spectators will gain an appreciation for the diverse stories, people, and information from the records available in the exhibit.

Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Inc. has more than 200 volunteers and local collaborators, such as the City of Omaha, Creighton University and UNO, that help produce annual productions.

The UNO exhibit coincides with the 400 year commemoration of William Shakespeare, making the exhibit even more appropriate as Omahans crowd the UNO campus to see the new Shakespeare on the Green performances.

This exhibit does not show the extent of the full archived collection, as it highlights primary pieces of the records. Researchers can find additional archived information in the UNO online database or by contacting Criss Library Archives and Special Collections.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELTERBELT THEATRE
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELTERBELT THEATRE

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Faustus McGreeve

Contributor

Imagine a near post-apocalyptic future where women can detect when they are down to their last ovarian egg and have a government-enforced time limit on when they can fertilize before the egg is destroyed. That is the setting of Crystal Jackson’s play, “The Singularity”, being produced as the first of four plays The Shelterbelt Theatre offers for their 23rd season.

The science fiction story metaphorically centering on women’s issues is the start of an all-female written season. The shows selected are in response to the national discussion of gender parity happening lately in theater circles.

Shelterbelt Theatre’s Artistic Director, Elizabeth Thompson, felt like the company was in a unique position to do something in favor of producing more female-driven plays.

“I want to be part of the solution,” Thompson said. “Versus contributing to either the problem, or the complaining.”

Thompson, who is also the director for “The Singularity”, promises audiences the show is something completely different, new and fresh. This should surprise few given that the theatre’s main focus is producing new original work.

“We are the only theater company that is 100% reliant on the modern playwright and that makes me proud,” Thompson said.

“The Singularity” features 40-year-old Astrid played by MaryBeth Adams who in an obstacle filled search to fertilize her last egg meets a young scientist played by Jon Roberson. The scientist has stolen a box of dark matter which Astrid decides to impregnate herself with. Will Muller and Craid Bond round out the cast playing duel roles each.

They play up the Sci-Fi elements of the show, which Thompson thinks will play well given the Halloween season, but there is much more to the story.

Thompson’s hope is that audiences leave the theatre wanting to have a discussion about what they just experienced and specifically about some of the ideas and themes that are discovered within the world of the play.

“Astrid’s search for a donor to fertilize her egg and the struggles she encounters are a giant metaphor for the current abortion conversation and where our society might be headed in relation to women’s health resources if we don’t stand up strong and tall for ourselves,” Thompson said. “The piece as a whole reflects the idea of falling down, and hard, but more importantly what happens next and how the choice of getting up and moving forward can be the true reward. It is hopeful in a really messed up way.”

Out of the four shows this season, Thompson chose this play to direct because of a personal connection and affinity she had with the script.

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