Blue Barn Recruiting for 33rd Season Premiere

Blue Barn Theatre Announces Auditions for:

Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery

July 31st & August 1st, 2021: 2pm-6pm
*callbacks, if necessary: August 8th from 12-4pm
Location: 1106 S 10th St, Omaha, NE

Time Commitment: 8 weeks
Rehearsal Dates: August 30th – September 29th  
Production Dates: September 30th – October 24th
Compensation: $2,500

Company Members Needed
JUSTIN (38): ex-military, plays guitar, writes stories
EMILY (25): empathic, walks with a cane, appears to suffer from Lyme disease
KEVIN (28): drunk mostly, recites poetry, pines
THERESA (29): ambitious, coke-fueled, writes a neo-conservative blog
GINA (64): professor, Goldwater Girl, mentor or mother to the others


Auditions will consist of prepared sides, and cold readings from the script. Prepared monologues under 2 minutes are welcome, though not required. To request a copy of the script, sides, or to schedule an audition contact Barry at: bcarman@bluebarn.org                   
 ***All artists working at the BLUEBARN are required to have been vaccinated for COVID-19***

Casting Statement of Principle: BLUEBARN Theatre acknowledges the historic exclusion and lack of opportunity for artists who identify as Global Majority (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), LGBTQIA2S+, neuro-diverse, and artists with disabilities. We are committed to identity-conscious casting, and actively working against the field-wide implicit bias and systemic inequities that result in default white, cis, heteronormative casting. BLUEBARN is likewise committed to countering ableism, ageism, sexism, sizeism, lookism and other modes of discrimination in casting that continue to create barriers to participation in the theatre.  
    
Casting Notes Specific to Heroes of the Fourth Turning: BLUEBARN encourages actors of all identities to audition, with the following caveat: this play is, in part, about Whiteness and the way it operates in America. Each character is implicated. When considering actors who identify otherwise, an openness to investigate ‘passing’, ‘assimilation’, ‘adoption’, ‘erasure’, etc. is required in approaching these characters. Both the creative team and interested actors should enter the process with intentionality with regards to that responsibility. Actors from their early 20s to early 40s are encouraged to audition for Emily, Kevin, Justin, and Theresa. Relative rather than specific ages are sought. Actors from their early 50s to early 70s are encouraged to audition for Gina. 

About Heroes of the Fourth Turning: August 19th, 2017. Two days before the solar eclipse. One weekend after the Charlottesville riots. It’s nearing midnight in Wyoming, where four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party. They’ve returned home to toast their mentor Gina, newly inducted as president of a tiny Catholic college. But as their reunion spirals into spiritual chaos and clashing generational politics, it becomes less a celebration than a vicious fight to be understood. Heroes speaks to the heart of a country at war with itself.

High Risk Element Disclosure: Heroes of the Fourth Turning features physical violence, trauma-inflected character work (particularly Emily), emotional violence, and language and ideas that are potentially harmful to a number of intersecting identities (particularly the TGNC and BIPOC community). BLUEBARN is committed to a creating a community of care around this production with the appropriate professionals and an intentional process to mitigate harm and provide a safe space for this work and the artists engaged in it to thrive. 
For more information, contact Barry Carman at bcarman@bluebarn.org or (402) 345-1576 ext 4

The Music Lives Again with Rave On Productions’ ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Jesse White stars as Buddy Holly in ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Omaha, NE–Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story tells the true story of Buddy’s meteoric rise to fame, from the moment in 1957 when ‘That’ll Be The Day’ hit the airwaves until his tragic death less than two years later on “The Day the Music Died”.  The incredible legacy of the young man with glasses, whose musical career spanned an all-too-brief period during the golden days of rock & roll, continues to live on in Buddy.  Seen by over 22 million people around the world, Buddy will have you on your feet and “send you out of the theatre on an unstoppable high” (The Boston Globe).

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is the second show in Rave On Productions’ Omaha Series – a season of rock musicals presented in various venues around the Omaha Metro.  The Omaha Series debuted in February with Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Waiting Room.

Billy McGuigan, known for his portrayal of Buddy Holly in Omaha and across the United States is making his directing debut alongside Kimberly Faith Hickman.  “I remember watching Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story in London when I was in my late 20s and I was completely blown away.  It’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” says Billy McGuigan.  “It’s been a career goal of mine to produce and direct this show and I waited until I knew I could find the perfect person to take on the role of Buddy because it’s a role that’s very personal to me.  As soon as I met Jesse White in our drive-in production of Don’t Stop Me Now last summer, I knew that was my guy.  He was my Buddy.”  

And so Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story starring Jesse White as Buddy will perform a three-show amphitheater tour, July 30th at SumTur Amphitheater (Papillion, NE), July 31st at Soaring Wings Vineyard (Springfield, NE), and August 1st at Davies Amphitheater (Glenwood IA).  All tickets are $35 and are available at TheOmahaSeries.com

Prior to each performance My Boomer Radio will be on site with a live DJ, taking audience requests and audience members can participate in 1950’s dance lessons with Kimberly Faith Hickman and students from the McGuigan Arts Academy.

Photo provided by Rave On Productions

The Con Man’s Band

Con artist Harold Hill decides to fleece the citizens of River City, IA by selling them on the promise (and equipment) of a boys band and then split with the cash.  However, his shenanigans actually begin to spark a bit of life into the staid town and the local librarian/music teacher sparks something in the heart of The Music Man currently playing at Great Plains Theatre.

Meredith Wilson’s story is considered one of the finest musicals ever made and for good reason.  It’s funny, sweet, and serious.  It also teaches valuable lessons about the importance of family, the folly of narrow-mindedness, and the transformative power of love.  In fact, the script’s only weakness is its incredibly abrupt ending.  That being said, this show does have a little something for everyone.  Memorable tunes.  Unforgettable characters.  And some lengthy dance numbers.

Mitchell Aiello provides a worthy piece of direction for the production as well an exemplary piece of choreography.  As director, Aiello demonstrates a strong understanding of the characters and their motivations as he knows what moments to emphasize to maximize the humor or the emotion.  He has also guided his troupe to solid performances and has well shaped the quirky personalities of the characters.

But Aiello truly shines as choreographer as he has assembled some impressive, larger than life dance numbers that utilize the entire theatre.  Some notable moments were the opening “Rock Island” where the actors perfectly emulated the jostling of a train, the theatrical “Seventy-Six Trombones”, and the energetic “Shipoopi”

This particular musical depends on its chorus and featured players more than any others as the two leads are the only fully developed characters and this group comes through in the clutch.  Some truly wonderful performances are supplied by the barbershop quartet of Bear Manescalchi, Brayden Krikke, Billy Eric Robinson, and Joshua Steckelberg who will entertain you with “Lida Rose”, “Sincere”, and “Goodnight”; Kendra Campbell as Eulalie Shin, the mayor’s wife and town’s cultural bastion who also happens to be a raspy voiced, talentless hack; and Susie Jolink as the steadfast matriarch of the Paroo family. 

But I’d like to give special notice to Margaret Campbell and Jacobi Robinson for their performances.  Campbell skillfully vacillates between being an obnoxious brat and a sweetheart as Amaryllis.  Though he has no lines, Robinson gives a master class in how to be present in a scene and he has an absolutely flawless sense of rhythm as his dancing is so precise and on target.

Corbin Eakes is a blast to watch as Marcellus.  His animation could power a city and he milks the role for everything it’s worth.  He is so delightfully high strung as he helps his old partner in his schemes and he throws himself into his dance routines, especially in “Shipoopi” and “The Sadder but Wiser Girl”.

Rachel Weinfeld is a darling Marian.  She perfectly captures Marian’s aloof, somewhat condescending nature at the start of the show complete with the ramrod posture of a very proper librarian.  As she slowly opens up to the world, her body language becomes more fluid and graceful as Hill helps her gain a new lease of life.  And her soprano is heavenly.  She provided some of my favorite musical moments with her soaring and sustained final note in “My White Knight” and her touching take on “Till There Was You”.

Gregory Gore provides a refreshingly original take on the role of Harold Hill.  Gore adeptly underplays the character and gives him a fierce intelligence.  His Hill thinks fast on his feet and seems capable of turning the most impossible situations to his advantage.  With every victory, he gives a knowing and smug smile suggesting that he knows he’s a step faster than these bumpkins.  Gore also has that oily charm that makes his insincerity seems sincere and he makes certain to imbue his Hill with enough positive qualities so his transformation into a decent person is realistic and believable.  Gore also has a well-modulated baritone that shines in “Ya Got Trouble” and “Marian”.

Jim Wohler Restorations has constructed a terrific “less is more” set with the outlines of store fronts, houses, windows, and an excellent footbridge.  Becky Dibben’s costumes invoke memories of the early 1900s with straw hats, classic suits, and billowing dresses.  Kent Buess’ lights make one think of clear, starry nights and also enhance emotional moments with soft colors.

There were a few blips in the evening’s production.  Cue pickups could have been tighter at some points and the pacing needed to be a bit brisker at certain moments.  Some actors really needed to speak up as I lost a few bits of dialogue and there were a few instances of microphone issues.

In the end, it’s a very enjoyable night at the theatre and, to paraphrase one of the show’s songs, you really ought to give The Music Man a try.

The Music Man plays at Great Plains Theatre through July 25.  Showtimes are Wed, Sat-Sun at 2pm and Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm.  Tickets cost $40 ($20 for students) and can be purchased at www.greatplainstheatre.com.  Great Plains Theatre is located at 215 N Campbell St in Abilene, KS.

OCP Needs Some Passengers for the Locomotive of Death

Omaha, NE.–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding auditions for the upcoming production of Murder on the Orient Express on Saturday, July 10 at 10:30 a.m. at Revive! Center Omaha, Sunday, July 11 at 1 p.m. at OCP and Monday, July 12 at 1 p.m. at OCP.

Through upholding high ethical standards, demonstrating respect for all and consciously working to provide diverse representation, OCP is committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment in which all community members feel a sense of belonging, and does not discriminate in casting practices on the basis of an individual’s ethnicity, age, gender, physical and cognitive ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, country of origin or other factors. Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse and inclusive casting.

Production: Murder on the Orient Express

Adapted by: Ken Ludwig

Director: Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek

Show Dates: Sept. 17 – Oct. 10, 2021

Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Performances are Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre. Actors are called to the theatre one hour before curtain.

Rehearsals: Begin August 1, 2021

Show Synopsis: A thrilling whodunit set aboard the world’s most famous luxury locomotive, Murder on the Orient Express will keep you guessing until the very end. When the Orient Express becomes stranded by a snowstorm, a passenger is found stabbed to death in his private room. With the murderer still on board, a detective must solve the crime before the train reaches its destination.

Roles: Hercule Poirot – Male identifying, all ethnicities: A famous Belgian

Monsieur Bouc – Male identifying, all ethnicities: A Belgian man

Mary Debenham – Female identifying, all ethnicities: A governess

Hector MacQueen – Male identifying, all ethnicities: Rachett’s personal secretary

Michel and Conductor/Marcel – Male identifying, all ethnicities: one actor will play two roles

Princess Dragomiroff – Female identifying, all ethnicities: A Russian dowager

Greta Ohlsson – Female identifying, all ethnicities: Princess Dragomiroff’s traveling companion

Countess Andrenyi – Female identifying, all ethnicities: A countess through marriage

Helen Hubbard – Female indentifying, all ethnicities: an outspoken and flamboyant American from the Midwest

Colonel Arbutnot – Male identifying, all ethnicities: Scotsman

Samuel Rachett – Male identifying, all ethnicities: middle aged American businessman

Auditions: Those who wish to audition may choose one of the following three audition dates:

§ Saturday, July 10, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Revive Center Omaha, 2402 Lizzie Robinson Ave. (24th & Lake), Omaha, NE. 68111

§ Sunday, July 11, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68132

§ Monday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68132

Callbacks: Monday, July 19, 7:00 p.m.

Notes: Auditions are by appointment only. Please contact Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com to schedule an audition appointment and request audition paperwork and sides.

Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script provided at auditions.

When arriving to audition at the Playhouse, please enter through the Stage Door entrance on the West side of the building.

Please Bring: All contact information, personal schedules and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an audition form. To expedite the check-in process, please bring a recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

COVID-19 In accordance with the CDC, if an individual is not vaccinated, they must wear a face mask. If

Protocols: an individual is vaccinated, they can decide whether to wear a face mask or not. All performers are required to be fully vaccinated. Proof of vaccination will be required upon casting.

Contact: For more information, contact Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com or (402) 553-4890.

For Adolts Only

From L to R: Sean Riley and Michael McIntire play the citizens of Tuna, TX in ‘Greater Tuna’

Welcome to Tuna, TX, home of the most eccentric, bizarre, and moronic people you’re likely to find on the planet.  Join them for a day in their lives in Greater Tuna which is currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

This play is the first in a series about the peculiar citizenry of Tuna.  The shows are constructed as a combination of sketch comedy and soap opera.  The characters and situations are over the top and some storylines don’t get wrapped up until future shows.  One thing the shows have in common is that only 2 actors play the town’s citizens making it a showcase for character performers.

Marc Liby provides some skillful direction for this production.  He keeps the pace going at the speed of a bullet train to rev up the comedy’s momentum and knows how to keep the many individual story arcs bright and interesting.  His shaping of the actors’ numerous characters is stellar as each character has his or her own life with a change in costume, voice, and posture.

With only 2 actors to play a town of oddballs, skilled, versatile actors are a must and this show has got them in the form of 2 of MRT’s favorite sons:  Michael McIntire and Sean Riley.

McIntire and Riley’s timing is polished to a fine sheen and I think they set a record with their blitzkrieg costume changes.  Both also brilliantly essay the many lunatics of this town and are guaranteed to have you laughing from the diaphragm by the time the night is through.

Michael McIntire plays most of the town’s intense characters.  Some favorites were his rendition of Bertha Bumiller, a tough as nails morality freak who leads an organization to ban literature such as Romeo & Juliet due to its depiction of teenage sex and Roots because it only presents one side of the story; Elmer Watkins, a conspiracy theory fueled survivalist; and radio host Harold Dean who delights in blaring the town’s issues while dodging a stalker.  But his capstone character was Reverend Spikes who gives a rather energetic and lascivious eulogy which had the audience howling.

Sean Riley plays most of Tuna’s dopes and nerds.  Some of his classic performances include his take on the dorky Petey Fisk, the head of the local SPCA who often smuggles dogs to the Bumillers through their youngest child; the deadpan and potentially deadly Didi Snavely who runs the local weapons shop; his laconic Arles Struvie who hosts the thrice daily news broadcasts and is one of the few townsfolk with a couple of brain cells.  But his most surprising character is Stanley Bumiller, the ne’er do well son of Bertha who takes one of the show’s storylines in a shockingly dark direction with his grudge against a judge who sentenced him to reform school.

Kerri Packard certainly had her work cut out for her with this show, but her costumes suit the personalities of each of the town’s characters with the overalls and flannels of some of the hick characters, the frumpy dresses of the town’s elderly women, the con artist suit of Rev Spikes, and the clothing of Stanley Bumiller which seemed inspired by Mike Myers’ Wayne character from Wayne’s World.  Clayton Dombach keeps his set fairly simple with a large friendly sign welcoming people to Tuna and his backdrop depicting a farm community.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds boost the comedy especially with the UFO scene which was influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Shon Causer’s lights always suit the emotional thrusts of the various scenes.

This is pure escapist comedy which will make you forget about life for a while and provide the healing magic of laughter.  Take a night to lose yourself in humor.

Greater Tuna runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through August 1.  The show has 2pm showtimes on June 26, July 2-3, 7, 13, 18, 20-21, 30, and August 1 and 7:30pm showtimes on July 9, 17, 23, 28, and 31. Tickets begin at $26 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 660-385-2924 or visiting www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo provided by Maples Repertory Theatre

Key of E(xcellent)

From L to R: Cassie Slater, Karl Hamilton, Emily Gardenhire, Andrew Scoggin, Taylor Kraft, and Jacob Barton star in ‘I Love a Piano’

It’s a tribute to the music of Irving Berlin.  It’s I Love a Piano and it’s currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

Yes, the show is a tribute to the works of Berlin, but it’s so much more than that as well.  In many ways, it’s one of the most difficult shows I’ve ever seen staged as it’s, essentially, dozens of mini-plays mashed together.  As, arguably, America’s greatest composer, Berlin was not only extremely prolific over his 50 year career, but he also possessed rare versatility as he could write standards, comic songs, love songs, heartbreakers, and even patriotic songs.  Over 60 of his songs are performed in this production and each is a vignette which requires effective direction and triple threat performers as they need to be able to sing, dance, and, most importantly, act through the songs.  And, trust me, this show has that in spades and then some.

Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley did a stellar job arranging this show as each song flows naturally into the next and essentially tells the story of America from the turn of the century through the 1950s.  I was especially impressed with the framing device of a covered piano and the piano is actually the central character as you follow its journey through the joys and heartaches of America over five decades.

Courtney Crouse’s direction is some of the most nuanced I’ve seen in a show.  As I earlier stated, a director really has to be rock solid to direct this production as he or she is, more or less, directing 60 tiny shows and needs to string it all together logically.  Crouse’s direction has just that assurance.

His staging is impeccable as he makes full use of the stage and I always had a clear line of vision to every performer and there was never a single moment of upstaging.  His knowledge of the beats was dead on target.  Doubly crucial as the beat changes came with lightning speed.  He guided his troupe to utterly flawless performances and they knew how to hit the song points that made them funnier, sadder, more serious, more gleeful, and just more fun.

Jacob Barton and Taylor Kraft have absolutely unmatched stage chemistry.  The real-life couple have the panache and polish of Fred & Ginger combined with the timing of Abbott and Costello.  Each just consistently builds on small things the other does, creating something magnetic and mesmerizing in the process.  Both have the capability to make you cry such as their touching work in “Blue Skies” or can make you laugh such as their battle of one-upsmanship in “Anything You Can Do”. 

Both Barton and Kraft also get their own individual moments to shine.  Barton will tickle your ribs as a draftee in World War I who just wants to sleep in as he sings “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and brings you home for the holidays with his soaring tenor in “White Christmas”.  Kraft is equally amusing in “Gee, I Wish I was Back in the Army” as she pines for the plethora of available soldiers and will make you swoon with “They Say it’s Wonderful”.

Cassie Slater and Karl Hamilton were the funniest couple of the afternoon.  Both have astonishing comedic chops which they use to fullest potential.  Their shining moment was “Let’s Go Slummin” as they delightfully spy on other classes to get their jollies.  Hamilton also gets to show off his equally potent dramatic chops with my favorite song “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” as he plays an army sergeant trying to help his private get through the fear and loneliness of war.  Likewise, Slater will stir your soul with the moving “Russian Lullaby”.

Last, but certainly not least, is the dynamic duo of Andrew Scoggin and Emily Gardenhire.  Both also possess the grand gift of comedy and are the most symbiotic twosome as their best moments come in their duets as they usually play a couple who are not quite on the same page.  Some of their best moments include the thoroughly entertaining “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” as an arguing couple who literally get caught in the spotlight.  They can also be syrupy sweet as in the duet “Isn’t it a Lovely Day”.  Or downright intimidating as they glare down an overexuberant bell ringer in “Lazy”.

Jennifer Hemphill’s choreography is elegant, expansive, and utterly perfect.  Never is there a wasted bit of energy or step.  Clayton Dornbach’s set gives off the sense of a Broadway theatre with is lighted columns and steps.  Shon Causer’s lights really enhanced the production especially with emotional blues for some of the sadder numbers and the use of spotlights as police officers breaking up a speakeasy.  Darrell Wagner’s costumes will take you on a trip through the decades with coats and tails, three piece suits, lovely dresses, and military fatigues.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds provided a subtle backdrop for the show and Kevin Casey and his band (Katie Hutton, Sophia Indelicato, Jordan Perry, Nick Welker, Jamie Baker) gave full justice to the score.

It truly is a show that has a little something for everyone (comedy, drama, acting, singing, and dancing) and a dandy kickoff to the MRT season.

I Love a Piano runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 11.  Showtimes are at 2pm on June 27, 29-30, July 9 and 11 and at 7:30pm on June 27, July 2, 7, and 10. Tickets begin at $26 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 660-385-2924 or visiting www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo provided by Maples Repertory Theatre

Maples Repertory Theatre’s ‘Looking Forward’ Season Begins with ‘I Love a Piano’ & ‘Greater Tuna’

Macon, MO–After a season off due to COVID-19, Maples Repertory Theatre returns to live performances with its “Looking Forward” season and it has a little something for everyone. The season kicks off with:

I LOVE A PIANO


June 16 – July 11, 2021

Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin

Conceived by Ray Roderick & Michael Berkeley

This celebration of music and lyrics of Irving Berlin follows the journey of a piano as it moves in and out of American lives from the turn of the century to the present. Along the way, the story comes to vibrant life as the cast sings and dances over sixty of Irving Berlin’s most beloved songs including “Blue Skies”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, “Always”, “White Christmas”, and, of course, “I Love a Piano”.

  • Wed. June 16 – 7:30
  • Fri. June 18 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Sat. June 19 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Sun. June 20 – 2:00
  • Fri. June 25 – 2:00
  • Sun. June 27 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Tue. June 29 – 2:00
  • Wed. June 30 – 2:00
  • Fri. July 2 – 7:30
  • Wed. July 7 – 7:30
  • Fri. July 9 – 2:00
  • Sat. July 10 – 7:30
  • Sun. July 11 – 2:00

Featuring: Cassie Slater Wooley, Karl Hamilton, Emily Gardenhire, Andrew Scoggin, Taylor Kraft, and Jacob Barton

GREATER TUNA


June 23 – August 1, 2021

by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard

Two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages who live in the second smallest town in Texas. It’s an affectionate comment on small-town life and attitudes. Two of Maples Rep’s favorite comedic actors, Michael McIntire and Sean Riley, are slated to star.

  • Wed. June 23 – 7:30
  • Fri. June 25 – 7:30
  • Sat. June 26 – 2:00
  • Fri. July 2 – 2:00
  • Sat. July 3 – 2:00
  • Wed. July 7  – 2:00
  • Fri. July 9 – 7:30
  • Tues. July 13 – 2:00
  • Sat. July 17 – 7:30
  • Sun. July 18 – 2:00
  • Tues. July 20 – 2:00
  • Wed. July 21 – 2:00
  • Fri. July 23 – 7:30
  • Wed. July 28 – 7:30
  • Fri. July 30 – 2:00
  • Sat. July 31 – 7:30
  • Sun. Aug. 1 – 2:00

Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the Balcony. Tickets may be purchased at www.maplesrep.com or by calling the Box Office at 660-385-2924. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Pictures provided through courtesy of Maples Repertory Theatre

A Feast of Farce

Collyn and Emerson are ad agents hoping to land an account for a chain of hotels owned by Samuel Briarwood.  To seal the deal Emerson invites Briarwood and his niece to dinner at her home.  However, her husband currently goes through a 9 month gestation and delivery every 24 hours due to a hypnotic suggestion.  To avoid the embarrassing situation, Emerson gets her husband out of the house and hires an actor to play him.  Unfortunately, Emerson’s husband comes home early.  You can find out the rest by watching Temporary Insanity, a world premiere production by Karen Schaeffer and currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

Schaeffer’s script has considerable promise.  I enjoy the play on the title as it’s a reference to Ted’s daily birthings as well as Emerson’s being a little crazed herself due to her freaking out about the dinner plus the general looniness of the situations that erupt throughout the night.  The farcical second act is everything a great high-energy comedy needs to be with slamming doors, mistaken identities, and new plans spun out on the fly.  But the first act moves a little too slowly and feels more like a traditional comedy as it spends its duration setting everything up to fall apart in the second act.

Jon Flower provides some pretty effective direction with the production.  His actors are always moving and animated so the show is never static.  He developed some great visual gags, though an extended kissing gag will be even funnier once we’re a little further past the pandemic so actors feel safe in actually kissing instead of using body language to simulate the passion.  Flower also guided his actors to solid & strong performances and I was especially impressed with the performances he got out of his two youngest cast members.

Some of the entertaining performances you’ll see during the night come from Michael Taylor-Stewart as Ted whose groans of “pregnancy” liven up the second act.  Sherry Josand Fletcher is also amusing as Emerson’s mother, Marie, who agrees to play the maid for dinner, but proves to be an atrocious actress with her godawful Cockney accent and constant curtseying.  Robert Wagner also provides some chuckles as Ted’s drunken friend who only wants to play with a puppy.

D. Laureen Pickle is a scream as Emerson.  She perfectly captures the frazzled ad agent desperate to land the deal with her cockeyed plans to have an elegant dinner that constantly blow up in her face.  Pickle’s Emerson gleefully guzzles wine from the bottle, cooks so poorly that she can’t even toss salad (or perhaps tosses too well, depending on one’s point of view), and always seems a half step away from dissolving into a giggling hyena ready for a straitjacket.

Heather Wilhelm shows a mastery of straight man comedy as Collyn.  She’s the more level headed of the two ad agents and is clearly the glue holding Emerson together.  She can easily toss off a deadpan zinger and then engage in a bit of soap opera style acting as she concocts a tale with the professional actor hired by Emerson to cover his amorous advances on another character.

Don Harris’ performance as Samuel Briarwood was the fuel that kicked this show into hyperdrive.  As Briarwood, Harris is a blustering, old-school businessman and his flustered and puzzled reactions to the strange situations swirling about him are always a treat to watch.  His romantic tension with Fletcher’s Marie provided some of the funniest moments in the show.

Joey Lorincz creates another classic BLT set with the elegant home of Ted and Emerson complete with the numerous doors needed for a proper farce.  Said set is also impeccably dressed by Jon Flower to give it the feel of a home.  Todd Uhrmacher’s costumes are right on the mark with the uniform of the pizza delivery boy, the evening gown and suit clothing the Briarwoods, and Marie’s karate gi and maid’s uniform just to name a few.

The energy of the show was at an incredibly low ebb for a great deal of the night which made it feel too naturalistic as opposed to the bombastic, over the top feel required for farce.  Once Harris blew onto the stage, the momentum starting kicking up to the proper level.  Cue pickups were also a bit off and tightening them up will help to boost the energy.

In the end, this show does provide an enjoyable evening of insanity.  It almost has the feeling of an extended episode of I Love Lucy with Emerson’s hare-brained schemes and everything getting tied up in a nice little bow as an end.  And who could ask for anything more?

Temporary Insanity runs at Bellevue Little Theatre through June 27. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $20 ($18 for seniors, $10 for students) and reservations can be made at http://bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com/reservations.html.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

Switzerland in America: Black Bear Manor & Ouray, CO

Black Bear Manor

Today the road has brought me to Ouray, CO.

Ouray (pronounced you-ray) is nicknamed the Switzerland of America and is a quaint, mountain village nestled in the Rocky Mountains.  I was actually led to this trip by a couple (The Jacksons) whom I met when I visited Racine, WI earlier this year.  They told me I had to visit Ouray as it contained the most beautiful B & B they had ever visited:  Black Bear Manor owned and operated by Tom and Cyndi Elliston.

The inn was actually on my list, but on the farther end as Ouray is nearly 13 hours away from Omaha.  But with the country rapidly reopening and the fact that I hadn’t had a proper vacation in nearly two years, I decided to embark on the biggest road trip I had undertaken.

This was truly a tale of two drives.  The first day of the drive was pretty flat as once you get past Lincoln, the state of Nebraska is pretty flat and sightless.  Around Kearney, the route veered off the interstate and became mostly a highway drive which broke up the monotony as I at least was able to drive through small towns.

Around noon, I found myself in the tiny town of Alma, NE and I decided I could use a lunch break to stretch my legs and stopped into KJ’s Café for a bite to eat.

It was a pretty decent little diner where I enjoyed a Special Hamburger (it’s uniquely seasoned) along with some fries while I continued working through my latest volume of Sherlock Holmes pastiches.  After a restful meal, it was back on the road.

The lack of scenery continued to be broken by occasional forays through small towns as I passed from Nebraska into Kansas and eventually into Colorado.

After 7.5 hours, I finally found myself at my stopping point of Limon, CO.  It’s a town of only 1,000 people yet actually has a Holiday Inn.  I was weary and truly grateful for the free upgrade to a suite as I was darn near ready to collapse after the grueling drive.

A couple hours of relaxing did rejuvenate me enough to attend an evening service at Our Lady of Victory.  Most surprising to me was that the service was at 7pm as, historically, most Catholic services tend to be held between 4 to 5:30pm on Saturdays. 

Our Lady of Victory

It was a very nice service as Father shared a great sermon about witnessing and the best way to do it was to tell people about why Jesus was my friend.  After the service I returned to the hotel where I read for a bit before finally answering the calls to the land of Nod.

The next morning, I was out the door by 8am for another long drive.  But the scenery began to change around Colorado Springs when I saw the Rockies looming in the distance.  Soon I was enjoying a picturesque drive through the mountains and forests and I just drank in the scenery as well as watching numerous rafters shoot the rapids.

Around 3pm, I finally arrived in Ouray and felt like I was transported back in time.  The town definitely has the feeling of another era with its older building designs and a Main Street where all the major businesses are located.  And everything is within walking distance.

Soon I found myself at Black Bear Manor which is one of the most interestingly constructed houses I had seen and I suspect the building had been a traditional hotel once upon a time.  Before I could dial the inn’s number, Tom opened the door, introduced me to Cyndi, and gave me the nickel tour of the inn before leading me to lucky number 7, Cliffside King.

The room is small, yet comfortable, with a soft king-sized bed and a private balcony which has a view of the Rockies.  I got settled in, wandered about the inn, and then took a walk through town.

Ouray has a semi-boxed in feeling as it’s surrounded by mountains on all sides and only has two ways in and out.  One from the north and one from the south.  The southern entrance/exit is actually the start of the Million Dollar Highway.  This highway is a 20ish mile stretch of road considered the most beautiful drive in America.  The flip side is that it’s also considered one of the most dangerous with its narrow roads, hairpin turns, and lack of guardrails.  The speed limit never exceeds 25 mph on this road that connects Ouray with Silverton.

Million Dollar Highway

I had a relaxing walk through town (though it is very steep) and stopped in at Ray’s Jerky where I bought some jalapeno jerky for my hikes the next day and snacked on an old-fashioned hot fudge sundae complete with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry at The Yankee Girl Café & Sweets before going back to the inn.

I decompressed for a bit before heading out to dinner at the Ouray Brewery.  Only rooftop dining is currently available, but it was a cool evening and I supped on a Green Chile Cheeseburger while sipping on a Box Canyon Brown (most beer in Ouray is brewed locally or regionally) which was quite flavorful and tasted closer to a black beer without the bitterness.  After a satisfying meal, I returned to the inn and spent some time in the hot tub where the churning water massaged and soothed aching muscles.  I then went back to my room where I forced myself to stay up late to compel my body to adapt to Mountain Time.

Ouray Brewery

The plan worked as I woke up at 6am.  I then lazed about watching some TV and catching up on the news.  At 9am I headed down to breakfast.

Black Bear Manor is unique in that it offers two breakfasts.  At 7am a continental breakfast is laid out and then a hot meal is served at 9am.

The hot breakfast is served buffet style so you can have as much or as little as you please.  The place was packed as the inn was actually sold out (the first I’ve experienced since starting this project back in 2013).  I filled my plate with a smidge of everything so I was able to enjoy a taste of French Toast Souffle, ham, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, and fruit.  It was such a nice day that I ate outside and enjoyed some conversation before heading off to commune with nature.

A little breakfast buffet

I began my day at Cascade Falls Park and I certainly got my exercise in.  It’s not an extremely difficult trek, but it is steep and one has to take the much higher altitude into consideration so be sure to pace yourself.  Interestingly enough, the trek actually starts at the waterfall and it is an awesome sight, not to mention a quite refreshing one as cool air buffets you from the thundering falls.  I spent nearly two hours hiking around and keeping my strength up with water and jerky.

When I was through with Cascade Falls, I made my way over to Box Canyon Park which included a brief, and I do mean brief, drive on the Million Dollar Highway.  Box Canyon contains two treks.  An easy 500 foot walk to Box Canyon Falls and a difficult trek up to a high bridge overlooking the falls.  With the sun beating down on my head and my protein supply depleted, not to mention the few hours I had just done, I decided to simply visit the falls. 

The roar of the falls in deafening and one wouldn’t even be able to have a shouted conversation.  As I gazed upon this force of nature, I suddenly realized how the battle between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty would have played out in reality.

Box Canyon Falls

I then returned to Black Bear Manor where I organized photos and caught a small nap.  Around 4pm, I took a walk down to Ouray Hot Springs and back and partook of Black Bear Manor’s happy hour where I enjoyed some regionally brewed beer.

About 6pm, I headed over to an Ouray institution, The Outlaw, for dinner.  The restaurant has a rustic feel, but is actually a fine dining establishment.  I entered the restaurant and smiled as I listened to the piano player deal up a bevy of standards and movie tunes.  I was led to a table at the back where I ordered a New York Strip with garlic mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  I had a side salad added on and the meal came with a small loaf of freshly baked garlic bread.

The Outlaw

In fairness I didn’t think the salad merited the extra $5, but that was countered by the steak which was tender and delicious and seemed a bit bigger than the 10 oz advertised on the menu.  The potatoes were fluffy and light and the vegetables were nice and crisp.

From there it was back to the inn for another session with the hot tub and a quiet, peaceful evening.

Breakfast the next morning consisted of a breakfast casserole, personal quiches, bacon, eggs, and fruit.  I had another round of great conversation with fellow guests before embarking on my day.

As the previous day had been quite active, I decided today would be a relaxing day.  So I decided to visit The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings.  This is a very unassuming hotel, but hides the incredible vapor baths below.

For $25 per two hours, day guests can enjoy a soaking session in the famed caves.  The mineral water that comes from the springs is a constant 104-108 degrees and is not recirculated.  The water is completely chemical free and is known for its restorative and therapeutic properties.  The cave acts as a natural sauna so you’ll really sweat out the impurities.  Sections of the cave also drip much cooler water which helps to cool down the body after a session in the springs.

From there I returned to Cascade Falls where I just admired the waterfall while engaging in a conversation with my best friend.  Afterwards, I headed down to the riverbank by Black Bear Manor where I pondered life for a little while.

In hindsight, I think I made the day too relaxing.  By mid-afternoon, I was itching for another activity, but some nearby museums had not yet reopened and the local historical museum was about ready to close.  Should I ever find myself this way again, I’ll be sure to visit them as well as schedule a jeep tour, another local highlight.

Instead I took a little walk and then enjoyed the happy hour where Tom serenaded the guests with some solo guitar work and songs.  He even takes requests and I joined him for some two man harmony on Jim Croce’s “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”.

Tom performs for his guests during happy hour.

Then I made my way to The Mineshaft & Tiki Bar.  This completely outdoor restaurant provides a comfortable eating experience under the sun and I enjoyed a Philly Steak for the evening repast before returning to Black Bear Manor for a bit of writing and photo organizing.

The Mineshaft & Tiki Bar

What a way to close the trip! Today I had what is easily one of the best breakfasts I’ve enjoyed since starting this project. This morning I enjoyed Chile Relleno Casserole, breakfast enchilada (with some red and green salsa), country potatoes, and a cinnamon roll that just melted in my mouth. Braced for the long trip, I wrapped up this article and said my good-byes.

If you ever find yourself in Ouray, rest assured you’ll find plenty to do. It’s a popular tourist site with activities for all seasons (famed for ice climbing and skiing in the winter). And if you want some real hospitality, make sure to visit Black Bear Manor. Tom and Cyndi will treat you right and you’ll enjoy comfortable rooms and food that will knock your socks off.

Until the next time. . .happy travels.

Press On

What happens when a subpar playwright teams up with an inept songwriter to write a show about a historical figure about whom no history is known?  You get the musical nobody was waiting for.  It’s Gutenberg!  The Musical!  and it’s currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse under the auspices of The Candy Project.

I’ve long said that you have to be really great at something in order to pretend to be really bad at it and Anthony King and Scott Brown prove that belief with a rollicking, laugh yourself hoarse comedy.  This show takes the idea of the story within a story and turns it on its head with what I’ll call a summary in a frame.

The framing device for the show is that Doug and Bud are testing their new musical about Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, in front of an audience with Broadway producers in hopes to get their show on the Great White Way.  To that end they give a reading of their show complete with songs and it’s the tops in lows.  One wonders what is more appalling:  their grasp of history, their knowledge of dialects (German characters speak with British, or Texan in one case, accents), or their complete inability to write, even accidentally, one quality word or song lyric. 

Kaitlyn McClincy’s direction conjures some real magic in this production.  Her eye for a gag is splendid and she has some beauts such as one of her performers being blasted in the face with water from a spray bottle to emulate a storm or another having a wrestling match with a tarp.  She keeps the pace snappy and has molded two top of the line performances with her pair of thespians.

This show really needs a dynamic duo as there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two of them that makes it next door to impossible to separate the performances.  Luckily this show has just such a duo in the forms of two of Omaha’s finest comedic talents:  Steve Krambeck and Dan Chevalier.

Their chemistry and timing are things of beauty and their energy is staggering as the show is the equivalent of running a sprint.  Krambeck and Chevalier’s Doug and Bud really come off like old friends who truly love the theatre, but just lack any particular talent in that area, though Bud can at least write a melody.

Both men get multiple chances to shine as they morph into the myriad characters of their show with some personal favorites being Krambeck’s portrayal of the slightly arrogant title character and the abused Young Monk who believes his love has the power to transform Monk (the show’s villain) into a better person. Chevalier’s Texan Monk and his Anti-Semitic Flower Girl are also massive rib ticklers.

Their “real” selves are also the source for plenty of amusement as Doug clearly has some unrequited feelings towards Bud and Bud is a lonely virgin which reflects in some of his song lyrics.

Both actors are also gifted tenor singers who nail their numbers especially with Chevalier’s renditions of “Haunted German Wood” which tells the origin story of Monk’s evil and was my personal favorite song and “Monk With Me” where he tries to corrupt Gutenberg into giving up his dreams of a literate society.  Likewise Krambeck soars with Act I’s rocking finale “Tomorrow Is Tonight” and my other favorite song, “Might As Well (Go To Hell)” which somehow finds the humor in the unsavory topic of suicide.

Tim Vallier’s musical direction is right on the mark as he understands the humor and beats of the songs and they are excellently performed by Sara Collins on piano.

In many ways, this show is theatre in its purest form.  No costumes (except for a series of ball caps).  No set.  No lights.  No sound.  Just two storytellers and a pianist giving the wonderful gift of laughter in a show guaranteed to chase the blues away.

Gutenberg!  The Musical! runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through June 27. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at the OCP Box Office or by calling 402-553-0800 or visiting www.omahaplayhouse.com. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.