Original Comedy Still Playing at Shelterbelt

“In the Jungle You Must Wait” by Jeremy Johnson
(a savage for workplace comedy–contains adult content, mature audiences only)
Thursdays-Sundays through May 10. Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2.
Employees at an insurance company are forced to find meaning in their lives when they suddenly find they must try to save one of their own. It’s about you, everyone you know, and jungles where we find each other. Slam poetry, satire, and a searing truth all find their places in this fast-paced new comedy.
Featuring Ed Cutler, Sherry Josand Fletcher, Monica Ghali, Nichole Hawkins, Caitlin Mabon, Kaitlin Maher, Chris Riley, Christopher Scott, and Shannon Smay.
Tix $10 for all on Thursdays & Sundays. Friday & Saturday, $15 adults, $12 senior, student, TAG member.
Reservations: www.shelterbelt.org, boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402-341-2757.
Shelterbelt now takes credit/debit cards at box office & bar.
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Legendary Comedy Turned Musical is Playhouse’s Season Finale

Spamalot

Lyrics by Eric Idle; Book by Eric Idle
Music by Eric Idle & John Du Prez

Show Dates:  May 29-June 28 (Wed-Sat at 7:30pm & Sundays at 2pm)

Tony-award winner for Best Musical, Spamalot is the uproarious comedy “lovingly ripped off from” Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Off-the-wall humor fills King Arthur and his companions’ quest for the Holy Grail. Their journey is side-splittingly interrupted by the Knights who say Ni, Harold the Shrubber, The Black Knight and countless other iconic characters. Whether you are a die-hard Monty Python fan or as you read this, you wonder, “What is a ‘Monty Python?’” you will no doubt love the hilarity of Spamalot.

Tickets go on sale May 12.  Tickets prices are $40 for adults and $25 for students.  Tickets can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cast Street in Omaha, NE.

sponsor: TD Ameritrade
orchestra sponsor: Paul & Oscar Giger Foundation
media sponsor: WOWT

Directed by Mark Robinson

Cast

Nick Albrecht – King Arthur
Kyle Avery – Ensemble
Marcus Benzel – Prince Herbert
Katy Boone – Ensemble
Josh Davis – Ensemble
Jason DeLong – Ensemble
Brooke Fencl – Ensemble
Colin Frye – Ensemble
Don Harris – Sir Bedevere, Dennis’ Mother, Concord
Adam Haverman – Ensemble
Adam Hogston – Sir Robin
Megan Ingram – Ensemble
Matthias Jeske – Historian, Fred, Herbert’s Father, Ni, Frenchie, Minstrel
Melissa King – Ensemble
Zach Kloppenborg – Sir Lancelot, Mayor, French Taunter, Tim the Enchanter
Aaron Lawrence – Ensemble
Connor Meuret – Ensemble
Ryan Pivonka – Sir Galahad/Dennis, Black Knight
Brian Priesman – Patsy
Samantha Quintana – Ensemble
Sydney Readman – Ensemble
Emily Tencer – Ensemble
Lindsey Ussery – Ensemble
Melanie Walters – The Lady of the Lake

Haunting Albee Drama to End Playhouse’s Howard Drew Season

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

by Edward Albee

May 8–June 7, 2015 (Wed-Sat at 7:30pm & Sundays at 2pm)

The Tony Award-winning drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is one of the greatest theatrical masterpieces of all time. As George and Martha’s marriage falls apart, their new friends, Nick and Honey, become pawns in their cruel mind games. A war of words and exercises of wits drive Edward Albee’s revolutionary play.

This production contains adult content and strong language and is intended for mature audiences.

Tickets go on sale April 28.  Tickets prices are $36 for adults and $22 for students.  Tickets can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cast Street in Omaha, NE.

media sponsor: Cox

Directed by Hilary Adams

Stage Managed by Lara Marsh

Cast

Charleen Willoughby as Martha

Brennan Thomas as George

Steve Hartman as Nick

Megan Friend as Honey

A Season of Change, Part V: The Biggest Change of All

You better sit down for this one.

Comfortable?

And off we go.

With Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? not panning out, I thought another season had come to its end.  Luckily, I had things to keep me occupied.  A potentially good opportunity for my real life had dropped into my lap and I began pursuing it, though things seemed to cool off after a promising start.  Then I got a message from Sonia Keffer saying that she hoped to see me at auditions for Sabrina Fair which she would be directing for the Bellevue Little Theatre.  Since my opportunity appeared to have evaporated, I decided to audition.

Sabrina Fair will go down as one of my personal favorite auditions.  There were two roles suitable for a gentleman of my age.  One was David Larrabee, the younger son of the powerful Larrabee family who marries and divorces at the drop of a hat.  The other was Linus Larrabee, Jr., the older son and the CEO of the family business.

Of the two roles, Linus was by far the more interesting and very anti-me.  Linus is a bit insufferable, emotionless, and completely dedicated to making a profit.  He does care for his family and is concerned about doing what’s best for them, but goes about doing it in ways that make him seem a little shady.  At least, that’s what I gleaned from the character from the little bits I read.

I had a ball with the character and just let loose.  I rank it as one of my top five reads as I was engaged, moving, and just having fun.  Sonia said words which I shall always treasure after the audition.  She said, “You really surprised me up there.  You’ve got more than a little Linus in you.”

Without aiming for it, I had accomplished another goal in theatre.  I had finally convinced a director that I was capable of playing a role that was outside my real personality.  It felt really good.  That was Sunday night.

On Monday night, nothing happened.

Then came Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, I finally heard back about my personal opportunity and the other party was still quite interested in going forward.  That provided a bit of a dilemma for me as there would not be a way for me to have my cake and eat it, too.  If I were cast and did the show, I’d lose out on the opportunity.  If I pursued the opportunity, I’d have to give up the show as my weeknights would get eaten up.  What to do? What to do?

Ultimately, my real life won out.  Theatre isn’t going anywhere and there will always be another show and I had to take a chance on the other opportunity.  Having made my decision and since casting decisions had not been announced yet, I decided I would write Sonia a quick note after work letting her know that I would have to withdraw myself from consideration.

Now I had forgotten my phone that morning which would become important later.  I ended up getting home very late that Tuesday and prepared to write a little note to Sonia.  Then I checked my phone and Sonia had left me a message.  D’oh!!

At that point it was too late to return the call, so I decided to call her the next day.  But when I checked Facebook, I saw Sonia had messaged me on there as well.  I didn’t want to leave her hanging, so I wrote her a quick note letting her know what had happened and that I would call her tomorrow.

We had a good conversation the next day and she voiced the same thoughts I had that real life had to come first and theatre would always be there.  She did say that my withdrawal had broken her heart and if you think it was because she was going to offer me the role of Linus, you’d be right.  I told her that would have been nice, but thanked her for the opportunity and told her I looked forward to working with her again.  I also offered to use my website to help promote the show if she wanted to send any press releases my way. Sonia said she’d hope I would come see the show which I certainly will do so I can put the power of the pen behind it.

On Thursday I began my little B & B sojourn and on Friday morning I made a most shocking realization.

I was not upset by having had to give up the show.

If you’re standing, I bet you’re sitting.  And if you’re sitting, I bet you exploded up from your seat.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was a little disappointed by having had to give it up, but I know me and my regular readers know how ardently I’ve pursued acting for the past 20 years.  Not that long ago, having had to give up a role, not to mention a leading role, would have devastated me.  But, relatively speaking, I actually felt pretty good about the whole thing and that’s when I understood the full extent of the miracle granted to me by Leaving Iowa.

Leaving Iowa did much, much more than irrevocably restore my confidence in myself as an actor.  It also scratched my itch good and proper.  I realized that over the past 2 years, I had only auditioned 6 times.  In years gone by, I would have auditioned that many times in just one season.  I was further stunned to realize that, with the exceptions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sabrina Fair, the shows didn’t have the heft of my heart behind them.  My acting mojo simply had not been there as Leaving Iowa had satisfied me so thoroughly.

Through this website, I had managed to stay involved in theatre without having to act.  And I had, and have, been ecstatically happy serving as theatre’s champion by giving notice to shows that might otherwise have been ignored by the local papers and writing good, solid reviews for the public.

When you add that to my growing interest in directing and wanting to shadow someone for that, I realized there was something I needed to give to myself that I had not yet done.

It’s time for a break. . .at least, that was what I thought when I originally began writing this article.

I had planned to announce that I was going to take a season’s break from the acting side of things next year, but it seems that Sabrina Fair did a little magic of its own and I can feel the creative juices stirring again.  So I don’t think I’ll be taking a break, per se, but I will slow things down a bit so I can attempt to learn a thing or two about directing.

It’s a bit ironic that I called this series the “Season of Change” because the biggest changes were with me and, most assuredly, for the better.

Sadly, this story ends this season’s theatre tales.  But I’ll be back soon when I begin the “Season of Exploration”.

As always, until the next time.

Brave Actors Buoy Bland Script

Andrew Rally, a former TV star, accepts the most arduous role in theatre when he is offered the role of Hamlet in a Shakespeare in the Park Production in Manhattan.  The trouble is that he is intimidated by the role and has no faith in himself as a stage actor.  Luckily, Andrew lives in the apartment once owned by legendary Hamlet performer, John Barrymore, whose ghost arrives to help mentor him in the role in the comedy I Hate Hamlet opening tomorrow at the Omaha Playhouse.

Paul Rudnick’s idea had a tremendous amount of potential.  Regrettably, his script fails to make any use of that potential.  It is incredibly slow, never really gets anywhere, and is frightfully dull.  Occasionally a good one liner pops up, but this is a script that really forces a director and cast to work to get anything out of it.  Guest director, Ablan Roblin, and his troupe of artists deserve a standing ovation for milking the few precious drops of comedy out of this yawner.  Roblin especially deserves praise as he made the most out of this script by cutting as brisk a pace as possible and coaching some solid performances out of his cast.

Ben Beck gives one of the most honest performances of his career as Andrew Rally.  With a nice, simple straightforward delivery, Beck imbues Rally with warmth, honesty, and sincerity.  This is especially impressive as Rally actually has some unlikable qualities.  He got into acting solely for the fame and money and not for its artistry.  Beck’s Rally is also a bit obsessed with having sex with his virgin girlfriend, Deidre, but demonstrates his basic decency as he genuinely wants to marry her and refuses to cheat on her despite his dislike for the chaste lifestyle.  Beck also does some nice work in showing the fears and insecurities of Rally as he does not believe himself to be a good actor.  He sees himself as just a pretty face.  But in playing up that self-doubt, Beck is able to make Rally’s final choice of a career on stage vs a return to TV very believable.

Kevin Barratt’s work as John Barrymore is quite exceptional.  He does a marvelous job playing up Barrymore’s drinking, theatricality, and womanizing, but it is always so natural and real.  Especially impressive was Barratt’s delivery of a monologue in Act II where Barrymore laments escaping from the stage to sell himself out to Hollywood and the sad moment when he realized he was no longer capable of acting.  It was a heartbreaking moment and the most beautiful of the show.

Suzanne Withem delights as Deirdre McDavey, Andrew’s innocent girlfriend.  Ms Withem was amazing as her Deirdre had a heart nearly as pure as a crystal.  Ms Withem’s Deirdre is an old soul trapped in a young woman.  She has a love for the classics and dreams of saving herself for her knight in shining armor.  For all of her decency, Ms Withem was also able to slip a tiny bit of the temptress into her character as she does wonder what sex with the wrong man would be like and is ready to pounce on Andrew after his failure on opening night gets her engine running.  Ms Withem does need to be certain to hold for laughs as I lost bits of her dialogue when she would speak during the audience’s merriment.

Dave Wingert brings quite a bit of energy to the role of Gary Peter Lefkowitz.  As Andrew’s TV director friend, Lefkowitz schemes to get Andrew away from the stage and back into television.  Wingert portrays Lefkowitz with a polite snideness as he completely disdains theatre since he doesn’t understand it and loves television as one doesn’t really need to think while watching it and likes the fact that tons of money can be made from the most banal pap.  I especially liked the opportunistic nature Wingert gave Lefkowitz, particularly when he uses Andrew’s determination to play Hamlet to negotiate a better deal for the TV series he is trying to sell.

Kim Jubenville and Julie Fitzgerald Ryan shine in smaller roles.  Ms Jubenville plays Andrew’s agent, Lillian Troy.  Ms Jubenville gets everything she can out of this role and demonstrated some remarkable versatility as she transitioned from the slapstick comedy of hacking up her lungs due to a heavy smoking habit to a sweetly dramatic moment with Barrymore, whom she can see, as they rekindle an affair they had when Barrymore was alive.

Ms Fitzgerald Ryan was quite entertaining as Felicia Dantine, Andrew’s real estate broker and psychic.  Her New Yorker accent is spot on and her eccentricities are wonderful as she can literally smell supernatural activity, yet somehow cannot sense or see Barrymore.

Jim Othuse’s set is of tremendous quality and perfectly duplicates the Jacobean furnishings of Barrymore’s apartment and his lighting design is quite ingenious with its use of candlelight and lightning.

The hard work, dedication, and talent of the actors and directors go a long way in overpowering the weaknesses of the script and I believe I Hate Hamlet will provide some lighthearted enjoyment to its audiences.

I Hate Hamlet runs from April 17-May 10 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  Tickets prices are $36 for adults and $22 for students.  Tickets can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cast Street in Omaha, NE.  The show does contain a little strong language and some adult situations.  Parental discretion is advised.

Welcome to the Jungle

IN THE JUNGLE YOU MUST WAIT by Jeremy Johnson
Directed by Elizabeth Thompson
Assistant Directed by Jayma Smay

Employees at an insurance company are forced to find meaning in their lives when they suddenly find they must try to save one of their own. It’s about you, everyone you know and the jungles where we find each other. Slam poetry, satire, and a searing truth all find their places in this fast-paced new comedy. *Contains adult content. Mature audiences only

Featuring: Ed Cutler • Sherry Josand Fletcher
Monica Ghali • Nichole Hawkins • Caitlin Mabon
Kaitlin Maher • Chris Riley • Christopher Scott
Shannon Smay

RESERVATIONS: boxoffice@shelterbelt.org •
www.shelterbelt.org • 402.341.2757

The Shelterbelt is located at 3225 California St.

Set and Lighting Design: Josh Mullady
Costumes: Lora Kaup
Producers: Cristina Byrne, Noah Diaz
Stage Manager: Jayma Smay
Sound: Shannon Smay
Properties: Cristina Byrne
Projections: Roxanne Wach, Cristina Byrne, Dan Wach

In the Gallery: Eddith Buis, ink drawings “From The Office”

April 17 – May 10, 2015
• Sat., April 18: Post-show talkback with Jeremy Johnson
• Sun., April 26 • 6pm • sug. $5:
Louder Than A Bomb Coach Showcase I
• Sun. May 3 • 6pm • sug. $5:
Louder Than A Bomb Coach Showcase II

Thursday performances: 8pm • $10
Friday/Saturday performances: 8pm
$15 for general public • $12 for students/seniors/TAG
Sunday performances: 2pm • $10
Lobby opens 1 hour before show. House opens 30 minutes before show.

Blue Barn Theatre Takes Final Bow in Current Location with Classic American Drama

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Show Dates:  May 7-June 7

Show Times:  Thurs-Sat and Sunday, May 30 at 7:30pm.  Sunday, May 17 and Sunday, June 7 at 6pm.

We all grow up…we all fall in love…most of us have families and grow old. And we all die. That’s our story. Today when the definition of worldliness seems to be miles traveled, Our Town reminds us how rich the life around us is if we just stop and listen.

Ticket prices are $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), TAG Members, and groups of 10 or more.  Tickets can be obtained at www.bluebarn.org or contact the Box Office at 402-345-1576.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 614 S 11th St in Omaha, NE.  This will be the final show in Blue Barn’s current space.  Next fall, it moves into its own home at 10th and Pacific.

Director:  Susan Clement

Cast

Stage Manager – Nils Haaland
Emily Webb – Kelsi Weston
George Gibbs – Eddie McGonigal

Dr. Gibbs – Mike Markey
Mrs. Gibbs – Moira Mangiameli
Rebecca Gibbs – Emma Chvala
Mr. Webb – Ron Chvala
Mrs. Webb – Julie Huff
Wally Webb – Kian Roblin

Joe Crowell/Si Crowell – Quincy Ellefson
Howie Newsome – Steve Broszka
Professor Willard – JJ Davis
Simon Stimson – Dennis Collins
Mrs. Soames – Susie Baer Collins
Constable Warren – Mike Farrell
Baseball Players – Jon Roberson, Ben Thorpe, Carl Bieber
Sam Craig – Steve Miller
Joe Stoddard – Dan Luethke
Woman in Balcony – Judy Radcliff
Lady in the Box – Jennifer Gilg
Man Among Dead/Farmer McCarty – Mark Kocsis
Townspeople – Amy Ellefson, Annika Ellefson
Belligerent Man – Ablan Roblin