Tags Posts tagged with "Theatre"


Danielle Meadows

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 bbc.com

Will Patterson

University of Nebraska at Omaha Theater will be producing the first ever rendition of “Harambe: The Musical.” The musical about the life and death of America’s favorite gorilla is written by UNO graduate and Broadway Playwright Eric Bloom.

“This has potential to be the next ‘Hamilton,’” Bloom said. “This is a tale about another American hero who died tragically to a gunshot wound.”

Bloom said the inspiration for the musical came to him during the revival of interest in the estranged gorilla. His personal belief is that Harambe has a story worth sharing, and it would be wrong not to memorialize his story through choreographed music and dance.

But storm clouds are already forming above Bloom’s masterpiece. Several activist groups have come forward to protest the performance and the university. Additionally, many students are planning to avoid the performance all together, in fear of spurring further conflict in their lives.

“Wait, people are still talking about the gorilla?” said one stu-dent. “Hasn’t that joke been dead for months?”

One individual vehemently opposing the production of “Harambe: The Musical” is the person who was ordered to pull the trigger on the beloved Cincinnati Zoo gorilla.

“That gorilla ruined my life,” said Harambe’s killer, who spoke only under the condition of anonymity, “I’m in the witness protection program because of that gorilla. Every night I fear that one of his loyal disciples will finally find me.”

The killer of Harambe once again fears he or she will be pushed into further secrecy if “Harambe: The Musical” ever makes it to the stage.

Despite the opposition, Bloom is determined to go through with “Harambe: The Musical.” In all the performance will include 17 original songs, one for each year of the gorilla’s complex and difficult life. The run time of the show is estimated to be three and a half hours of nonstop singing and dancing.

“I found that Harambe faced a lot of the difficulties that most students face every day,” Bloom said. “Just like the typical college student—he felt trapped, and all he wanted was to throw small children.”

These difficulties are portrayed through catchy musical numbers, such as “Get Out Of My Enclosure.” Audience members will be encouraged to sing along and participate in the emotional journey of “Harambe: The Musical.”

“My only regret with the production is that we weren’t able to get an actual gorilla,” Bloom said. “The folks at the Henry Doorly Zoo can be so difficult to work with sometimes.”

At the time of publishing, the Cin-innati Zoo had refused to com-ment on the matter. Calls were answered with: “This isn’t the phone number for the Cincinnati Zoo. Please stop calling my home. You’re scaring my wife and children.”

Jeff Turner

“The Guard” is pitched as “a comic drama about the permanence of art and the impermanence of life paints shimmering portraits of Rembrandt, Homer and those who protect the art we cherish.” The Jessica Dickey play only came out last year, and it’s a work with a lot of moving parts.

“It’s a narrative about how people are connected to art and how art connects people throughout history,” describes cast member Michael Juarez, who plays Homer and Simon.

Preview nights will be Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Tag Nite Out will be Wednesday. Performances will be February 24-25 and March 1-4, 2017 in the UNO Theatre.

In an interview for Ford’s Theatre, Dickey talks about how she became fascinated with museum guards and wanted to learn more about their lives.

“A work of art, much like a person, there’s only one. So if something happens to it, that’s it,” Dickey said.

Dickey is interested in art and why it’s needed: “Why do we seek it? Why do we make it? Why do we keep it?”

“The Guard” is her love letter to the medium. She was commissioned to write the play by Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated. She says in that same interview that the legacy of the theatre allowed her to think bigger and made her feel like she could write whatever she wanted.

The cast all portray two different parts, budget constraints play a factor but this is by design.

“Most of our characters are complete opposites of each other,” said Kayla Moore who plays Madeline and Henny.

The vibe amongst the cast is relaxed. They will crack jokes and banter with each other. These are people who love art, love acting and know what they’re doing, but they, for the most part, enjoy each other’s company and have a great deal of chemistry with one another. The director of “The Guard” is Dr. Cynthia Melby Phaneuf.

“She’s really capable. She’s been able to work with wonders with everyone in various levels of the department. She’s very hands on and gets you into an emotional state, she is a very compassionate person,” said Juarez, who has been in all of her productions since enrolling at UNO.

The actors were open about some of the other work they’ve done, and while most had mainly worked with the UNO theatre, Juarez had lived in L.A. at one point.

“I did this one really fun scary movie where I was kidnapped,” he said. “I tried to escape, but he choked me and fed me to his dog. Not a very large role, but it was memorable.

Tickets to “The Guard” are free for all UNO students. For general audiences, preview nights are $6 and all others are $16. For tickets, visit www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre or call the box office at 402.554.PLAY.

The UNO Theatre Box Office accepts all major credit cards. More information about Jessica Dickey is available at www.jessicadickey.com.

Photo Courtesy of omahaplayhouse.com

Cassie Wade

The Omaha Community Playhouse brought a piece of the Wild West back to town with its latest production “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” directed by Jeff Horger.

“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is performed by nine cast members. Its production is an official event the Nebraska 150 Celebration, which is a year-long celebration of Nebraska’s 150th year of statehood.

Narrator Chris Berger, whose main purpose throughout the show is to ensure smooth transitions between scenes, opens the show by reading Bible verses while a funeral procession files on stage. A coffin containing the body of cowboy Bert Barricune, played by Isaac Reilly, is placed on the saloon tables while a small group of mourners gather to pay their respects.

Annoyingly curious reporter Jane Dowitt, played by Aubrey Fleming, reveals that while Barricune lived the ordinary life of a cowboy, he knew extraordinary people, including Senator Ransome Foster. Foster agrees to explain how he knew Barricune, and with a little set rearranging, the cast flashes back to 1890.

Barricune is revealed to be a gruff, rough and tough Wild West cowboy. He travels where the work is and only returns to Twotrees to visit and verbally spar with his love interest, Hallie Jackson. Beneath his rough exterior, Barricune is revealed to have a heart of gold and protects those he cares about, even when it means risking his own life.

Photo Courtesy of omahaplayhouse.com

Hallie Jackson, played by Sydney Readman, is Twotrees’ saloon owner. She’s a fast-talking tomboy with a no-nonsense attitude. While her character can come off as overly abrasive at times, she is central to the main character’s development and even develops into a better, more-open minded person by the end of the show.

Ransome Foster, played by Dennis Stessman, is the show’s main character. Foster, who was found beaten outside the territory, is carried into town by Barricune. After healing, he makes a deal to stay in Twotrees for free in exchange for teaching the town members to read and write. He’s the production’s hero and though he’s not big and strong, he still fights for what he believes in.

One of the show’s biggest clichés take away from its overall message. Jim Mosten, played by Chad Cunningham, is an African American man working with Hallie in the bar. He’s an excellent supporting character, but is routinely referred to as “boy,” by the white characters. The racism detracts from Foster’s message of equality for all.

The show may not be appropriate for all age groups. Viewers interested in taking children should be warned that expletives include the f-bomb and n-word being dropped during the show.

Despite its drawbacks, the Omaha Community Playhouse’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” is worth a watch. The excitement of spit takes, live gun fire and classic underdog story line are worth taking the time to see.

The show runs until Feb 10 – March 12. Tickets are available for purchase through the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office, OmahaPlayhouse. com and TicketOmaha.com.

Admission costs $36 for adults and $22 for students. Reduced prices are available for groups of 12 or more.

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

Will Patterson

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.

Jeff Turner

Local theaters used to be big; especially in Omaha. Not all that long ago, there was the Dundee Theatre which balanced old movies with various new releases. People didn’t patronize it enough, and it shut down. Luckily though, it has been sold and donated to film-streams, and will be reopening in 2018. There’s another such theatre in Benson opening soon and it will be multipurpose.

Initially known as the Benalto Theatre, the Benson Theatre of long ago would seat up to 400 people for a variety of performances including vaudeville, film screenings and community events. Currently, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered “demolished.” The building was recently purchased by the Lund Company as a real estate investment. The interest of those involved with the project, Executive Director Amy Ryan and Artistic Director Jason Levering is to sublease the space and restore its original purpose for the community.

As of May 1, the Benson Theatre board has raised funds to purchase the building at 6054 Maple St. developed plans for its renovation and is within $1.4 million of it’s total fund-raising goal.

Their mission is to engage, enhance and enrich the Benson community with educational and artistic experiences, and their message is starting to resonate with people throughout the city; as is stated on the website.

The Benson Theatre board, spearheaded by Ryan, formed in 2009 and received its nonprofit status in 2012. The total cost of the project, including construction and six months of operating costs, is $2.4 million. Construction will begin when all the funds have been raised.

In addition to securing almost half of its fund-raising goal, the theatre has formed 37 community partnerships with local organizations that plan to use the facility once it opens, including the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media, Hear Nebraska and Benson High School.

The venue will host educational workshops and seminars during the day and entertainment during the evening. Educational offerings will include: Corporate-sponsored basic business, marketing and financial planning workshops for artists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and underserved populations, including special needs groups and the impoverished, business, marketing and entrepreneurship classes, as well as life and social skills classes.

The 225-seat assembly theatre will provide the backdrop for film, live theatre, musical performances, vaudeville and comedy. It will also be available for private events.

The interior resembles the currently down Dundee Theatre mixed with some of the upscale class of the dine-in theatre in Midtown or the Alamo Drafthouse. As far as a project that would draw interest towards Benson, this is a sure thing. Patrons could go see a film or a performance, and then go drink and make merry, or they could go to a show at the Waiting Room and it would all often be on the same block.

A theatre within walking distance is a lost gift, and almost impossible to find outside of New York or L.A.. What a Benson Theatre restoration would offer to the neighborhood and to Omaha at large would be tremendous.

The fundraising goal is $2.6 million, with $1.2 left to raise. Students can get involved by either donating volunteering at the website at http://bensontheatre.org/.

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Will Patterson

Up next in University of Nebraska at Omaha Theatre’s 2016-2017 season is the collaborative production of “A War of Roses: Foreign Flames.”

The production is a more contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” by Vincent Carlson-Brown, who is using the production as partial fulfillment of his English department master’s thesis.

Staying true to Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” the performance is inspired by actual events that occurred between 1455 to 1487. During this time, England faced war from foreign threats in addition to internal fighting between two families seeking to secure the crown.

The historical conflicts between the English houses of York and Lancaster have inspired many works of literature throughout the years, including George R. R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones.”

“A War of Roses: Foreign Flames” follows behind “Shakespeare’s Dog” in this year’s lineup of performances and brings a darker tone with it. The once cheerful appearance of the theatre has been replaced with a set depicting the consequences of the conflicts tearing across England.

The soundscape of the production has been prepared by Aaron Wrigley, a second year graduate student who graduated from UNO in 2013 with a bachelor in arts.

Wrigley describes the production as feeling “epic and larger than life,” which he attempts to bring to life with his use of audio effects. He provided the soundscape for “Shakespeare’s Dog” earlier this year as well as the performances of last year’s UNO theatre season.

“We’re trying to tell a story that we feel is timely based upon the current affairs of how our world feels today,” Wrigley said; an opinion also expressed by the production’s director.

Scott Glasser, a professor at UNO, is directing the collaborative productions in addition to his help producing the final script.

“It’s the first time UNO, Creighton and Nebraska Shakespeare are officially collaborating,” Glasser said.

“A War of Roses: Foreign Flames” is only part one of the two-part script. While UNO takes on the first half of the Shakespeare adaptation, Creighton’s theatre group will put on the second half of the performance, “A War of Roses: A Fire Within,” in the following weeks.

The play’s cast at UNO will primarily be actors from UNO in addition to selected alumni that have been brought aboard through the efforts and funding by Nebraska Shakespeare.

Glasser said that while the productions are individually designed,they do continue to unfold the plot.

“The story continues and even the characters continue, but it will be different actors, different costumes and different sets,” Glosser said.

The play will be running from Nov. 3 through Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Nov. 6, and then again on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Nov. 12 and ☻.

Students who want to see the performance are able to secure their tickets for free by presenting their MavCard at the box office at the Weber Fine Arts Building. Due to limited space in the theatre, students are encouraged to collect their tickets ahead of time to ensure their spot.

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Will Patterson

“Sister Act” is the musical comedy based on the 1992 film by the same name and is currently performing at the Omaha Community Playhouse with two University of Nebraska at Omaha students in lead roles.

The play follows the story of night club singer Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses a crime she shouldn’t have. In a pinch she finds herself at the police station ready to relay her situation. It’s there that she encounters an old friend from high school, ‘Sweaty’ Eddie, who now is a police officer.

Deloris is ushered into the Witness Protection Program for her own safety and taken to the one place Eddie believes she will be safe: a convent by the name of The Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith. This stark change of environment throws Deloris into a whole new world where she changes and is changed by those around her.

It is these two characters, Deloris and Eddie, that are portrayed by two students currently enrolled at UNO. Zhomontee Watson, a 20-year-old psychology major with a minor in theater, plays the role of Deloris Van Cartier.

‘Sweaty’ Eddie is played by Marcel Daly who is currently double majoring in saxophone and vocal performance.

Watson and Daly have previously performed together in the Rose’s production of the “Little Mermaid” this past summer.

“The show is much bigger than a show girl who gets put into a church,” Watson said while elaborating on the show’s plot.

“It’s about a woman who’s all about herself.”

Watson described her character of Deloris as absolutely fabulous and undeterred by outside opinion. She explained how she saw the story develop around a character that is so confident in the things she does.

Regarding the message of “Sister Act,” Watson said, “It’s a lesson in itself that it’s not just you. That you need people to guide and help you along your way.”

Eddie experiences his own journey throughout the course of performance according to Daly.

Eddie earns his unfortunate nickname for being nervous and sweating. Daly described the character’s conflict as being an internal struggle with whether to become someone more outgoing or stay the ‘Sweaty’ Eddie everyone knows.

“He’s not quite as loud as Deloris, but he kind of wants to be like that,” Daly said. “He admires that about Deloris.”

“Sister Act” is directed by the Omaha Community Playhouse’s artistic director Kimberly Hickman. Hickman recently moved to Omaha after living in New York for the past eight years.

Hickman encouraged students to not only attend the upcoming performances taking place at the playhouse but to also attend auditions. Watson and Daly echo her support and both encourage students interested in the performing arts,regardless of experience level, to dive into auditions with an upbeat attitude.

“I love working with students so I hope more UNO students decide to come out,” Hickman said on the creation of future casts.

In the remainder of the 2016-2017 performance season at the playhouse Hickman will direct all the mainstage musicals, which include “A Christmas Carol,” “Rock of Ages” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Sister Act” runs through Oct. 16.