Blue Barn Theatre Announces Auditions for “Frost/Nixon”

The BLUEBARN Theatre will hold auditions for Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan.  Auditions will be held on Saturday, October 10th from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Monday, October 12th from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. in their new home at 1106 S. 10th St.  (10th & Pacific) Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Callbacks (if necessary) will be determined at the auditions. Frost/Nixon will be directed by Randall T. Stevens.  Performances for Frost/Nixon run February 4 – 28, 2016 with rehearsals scheduled to begin in mid-December, 2015.

Needed for Frost/Nixon:  8 male (ages 20s-60s), 2 female (ages 20s-30s)  All ethnicities are encouraged to audition.  All roles are available. Please contact Randall T. Stevens at rstevens@bluebarn.org for specific character breakdowns.

About Frost/Nixon

Richard M. Nixon has just resigned the United States presidency in total disgrace over Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. British talk-show host David Frost has become a lowbrow laughing-stock. Determined to resurrect his career, Frost risks everything on a series of in-depth interviews in order to extract an apology from Nixon. The cagey Nixon, however, is equally bent on redeeming himself in his nation’s eyes. In the television age, image is king, and both men are desperate to outtalk and upstage each other as the cameras roll. The result is the interview that sealed a president’s legacy.

ABOUT THE BLUEBARN THEATRE

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company.  Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

A Season of Exploration, Part II: A Triumphant Return

The standing ovation.  The knowledge that we were able to move and enrich the audience with powerful storytelling.  The satisfaction of entertaining others.  What a triumphant night!

Last night was the staged reading of Civil War Voices at the Omaha Playhouse and it was a magical evening.  It was the type of night that reminds me just why I do this thing.  It also got my juices flowing again.  I suddenly want to start telling a lot more stories.  But that’s a road for the future.

Doing Civil War Voices was a very different experience.  After 20 years of acting, I am simply used to a longer, more detailed preparation experience.  Trying to find and mold a character in just 7 short rehearsals is quite a unique challenge.

Not only was Abraham Lincoln my first role in 2 ½ years, but it was also the smallest role I’ve had in nearly six years.  Not that I’m complaining.  It’s just that I had forgotten the very different difficulty of a smaller role.  With a larger role, if you’re not in the proper groove at first, you can use your dialogue to work yourself to where you need to be.  If you have a smaller role, you simply do not have that luxury.  You’ve got to hit the ground running and make your shots count.  For this show, that was more crucial than ever before because it would just be the one bite at the apple.

I think the late singer, Gene Pitney, described a great live performance the best when he said, “On a given night, when everything works.  When the lights are right.  When the sound is right.  When you’re up for the game and you’re feeling right.  Some of them are intangibles.  They’re either going to happen or they’re not going to happen.  But on the given night when they do happen, it’s just an amazing feeling.  You can feel the electricity going back and forth.  Fantastic.”  And last night was just such a night.

I had a feeling we were onto something special last night when we had to hold at the top of the show because so many people wanted to get in to watch.  Our director, Jeff Horger, had said these events normally draw about 100 people and I believe the Howard Drew holds around 250-300 people.  Additional chairs had to be brought in to create two more front rows plus seating around the sides of theatre because of the overflow.

The lower stakes of a staged reading allowed me to be in sync with an audience in a way I never had before.  I really can’t describe the feeling of feeding off the merriment of the audience during the more humorous segments of the show to the sensation of knowing you’ve got them in the palm of your hand during a particularly powerful moment.  But it’s splendid, awesome, and humbling all at the same time.

The work of the cast was just spot-on and I was very pleased with my own take on Honest Abe.  More importantly, I nailed one of the most difficult lines that I think I have ever had in all of my years of theatre.

A few paragraphs ago, I had mentioned the difficulty and importance of making your shots count in a smaller role.  I believe the most important line I had in the show occurred when Lincoln looks at the body of his dead son, Willie, and simply says, “My poor boy.  He was too good for this Earth.”  I knew what I wanted to do with the line.  But in working at home and at rehearsal, I never thought I got it just right.  But last night it came.

If I never understood the importance of listening in acting before last night, I certainly do now.  Last night, I heard the words of Elizabeth Keckley (beautifully played and sung by Camille Metoyer Moten) describing the terrible burden of grief and weariness on Lincoln’s shoulders from the pressures of the Civil War and the death of Willie as if I were hearing them for the first time.  I began falling into the proper emotional state and, remembering my lessons with Doug Blackburn, began dipping into my own wells of grief to empathize with Lincoln.  Real tears began flowing as I barely choked out the crucial line and I could feel the grip of emotion on the audience as well.  Such an amazing moment.

When the night was done, we received a standing ovation and I was truly sorry that we couldn’t do the reading a few more times.  I didn’t get to know this cast that well due to the compressed nature of preparation, but I liked them and it was a true community theatre cast from seasoned veterans to first timers and all levels in between.

My proudest moment occurred after the show when an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked, “Young man, are you playing Abe when they do this show in Lincoln?”  I replied that I was not and, with a disappointed look in his face said, “I really loved what you did with the character.”  One could not ask for a finer review than that one statement.  If I was able to convince one person, then I did my job.

Last night reminded me of all the glorious thrills that theatre provides.  It was a wonderful night and I look forward to doing it again and again and again and again. . .

Until we meet again.

Blue Barn Conjures Up a Magical Night with “The Grown-Up”

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A ten year old boy discovers a magic crystal doorknob that allows him to jump forward in his own lifespan.  As he experiences the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of adulthood, he finds that he wants nothing more than to return to being a child.  This is The Grown-Up by Jordan Harrison which is the inaugural production for the Blue Barn Theatre at its new home at 10th and Pacific Streets.

The ethereal quality of this show really compels the viewer to watch it with a bit of childlike wonder to fully appreciate its magic.  I could watch this play each and every night of its run and I would come away with a different interpretation each and every time.  Is it really happening?  Is it a story?  If so, whose story?  Kai’s?  The grandfather’s?  The cabin boy’s?  Is it a metaphor?  The reality is that the answer is unimportant as the truth of the story will be what each audience member makes of it and that is the wonder and the beauty of this piece.

Susan Clement-Toberer has done a masterful job of directing this tale.  The staging is some of the finest I’ve seen in an Omaha production.  The pace is spot-on.  Most importantly, Ms Clement-Toberer has cast the play exceptionally well.  This play is the very definition of an ensemble piece, requiring each role to be precisely cast and for each member of the cast to have a specific chemistry with the others.  And, believe me, this cast fires on all cylinders with a group performance that was unerringly accurate.

Matt Karasek makes his Blue Barn debut as Actor A and primarily plays the role of Kai.  His physicality and vocal work is astonishing as Kai ages with each turn of the doorknob.  In one moment he’s a slightly obnoxious ten year old, in another he’s lamenting about his imminent arrival at middle age, finally he’s a crotchety old man bedeviled by the infirmities of old age.  Yet all the while, Karasek’s beautifully sincere delivery brings the audience along on his emotional ride as he desperately wants nothing more than to be a boy again.

I have finally discovered the one thing Megan Friend cannot do.  She cannot give a bad performance.  Ms Friend once again proves she is one of Omaha’s top rising talents with her turn as Actor D.  With a droop in her shoulders and a dash of husk to her voice, she is Kai’s grandmother, calmly stitching away while being slightly exasperated by Grandfather as he tells another of his tall tales.  Suddenly her posture is ramrod straight, her voice bright and perky, and her movements robotically precise as she becomes the secretary to a TV executive.  Her Adderall addiction clearly does not make a dent in her ADHD and, Lord, does she have an ego, though she tries to hide it.  A quick change in hairstyle and she is Paola, the kindly and attentive nurse to the aged Kai.  Ms Friend’s acting was a supreme bit of character work and a highlight of the night.

Jerry Longe’s considerable comedic skills are used to their fullest potential as Actor E.  His voice just drips with a charming insincerity when he’s a TV exec listening to Kai’s pitch for a new TV series.  Longe’s turn as an effeminate, overwrought wedding planner had the audience chuckling merrily.  He is even allowed a bit of seriousness as a mysterious caretaker of magic who may or may not be the force behind the crystal doorknob.

Katie Otten delights in her Blue Barn debut as Actor B.  She is primarily featured as Annabelle, Kai’s younger sister.  As the child version of Annabelle, Ms Otten is a hoot with her bratty nature as she repeatedly schools Kai in gin rummy and tattles on him when he tells her to shut up.  Her love for Kai increases with her maturity as she searches for Kai after he’s taken away by the doorknob.  Ms Otten makes for a delightful old lady as she struggles with her walker to give a eulogy for Kai.

Nick Albrecht excels as the enigmatic Actor F.  Albrecht not only has a rich and powerful baritone that is a storyteller’s dream, but he knows how to use it to the utmost.  Albrecht’s primary role is that of a fisherman who was once a cabin boy on a pirate ship and sets the legacy of the doorknob in motion.  Albrecht has a gift for underplaying which makes everything he touches very, very real.  One can feel the loneliness and sadness of the cabin boy when he loses a friend and father figure during a terrible storm.  Albrecht also creates some tender moments with Karasek when they share some pillow talk about Kai’s aging.

I truly do not believe there is a role that Nils Haaland cannot play to perfection.  As Actor C, he plays roles that are as diverse as possible.  He starts the play as a somewhat doddering old grandfather weaving fantastic tales for Kai.  In the blink of an eye, he becomes the first mate of the pirate ship and patiently trains the young cabin boy and takes him under his wing as a surrogate son.  Then he’s Kai’s fiancée, gleefully engaging in banter with him on their wedding day.

This is one of those shows where all of the elements come together to create something truly special.  Not only do the directing and acting hit the marks, but Martin Scott Marchitto’s simple set of boxes and tables with a few everyday objects hanging from the ceiling open the mind to imagination.  Carol Wisner’s lighting not only enhances the story, but is some of the best I’ve seen in a production.  Martin Magnuson’s sound design brings the audience deeper and deeper into the tale, especially with his storm sound effects.

The Grown-Up invites the audience to use their imagination and I would highly recommend to not overthink on what you are watching otherwise you will miss out on its true beauty.

The Grown-Up runs at the Blue Barn Theatre through October 18.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thurs-Sat and 6pm on Sundays.  Please note there is no performance on September 27.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 from 10am-4pm Mon-Fri or visit their website at www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

“Civil War Voices” to Play on Sept 28 at Omaha Community Playhouse

Staged Reading | Howard Drew Theatre
Written by James R Harris | Music by Mark Hayes | Directed by Jeff Horger

Civil War Voices is a collection of compelling and passionate true stories of real individuals who lived through the Civil War, often using the actual words they left behind in diaries, letters and other writings. This is a creative presentation of the history of the Civil War with chilling stories of battle and death, injustices and hope for the future, all intertwined with songs of that time period. Appropriate for all audiences.

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE)

Date & Time:  Monday, September 28 at 7:30pm

The performance is free.

Cast

Lauren Anderson: Second Master, Confederate Woman
Chris Elston: Abraham Lincoln
Peggy A Holloway: Fire-Eater #1, St. Louis Woman
Stacy Hopkins: Narrator’s Father, Cook
Megan Ingram: Harriet Perry
Frank Insolera Jr.: Sgt. George Buck
Angela Jenson-Fey: Cornelia Harris
Emma Johnson: Governor Washburn, General Lee, Celebrant #2
Zach Kloppenborg: Theo Perry
Julie Livingston: Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Old Mistress, Confederate Medic
Emily Mokrycki: Mary Todd Lincoln
Camille Metoyer Moten: Elizabeth Keckley
Bridget Mueting: Stage Directions
Brian Priesman: Narrator/Joe Harris
Tony Schik: First Master, Union General, Confederate Officer
Ryann Woods: Keckley’s Mother, General Hunt, Celebrant #1
Mark Thornburg: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Magnificent “Man of La Mancha” Reaches the Unreachable Star

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“Facts are the enemy of truth.”—Miguel de Cervantes

This line is the crux of the deepest and most philosophical musical ever written.  When minor nobleman, Don Miguel de Cervantes, find himself in prison awaiting the Spanish Inquisition, he is put on trial by his fellow prisoners.  To protect his manuscript, Cervantes pleads guilty and presents the tale of his mad knight, Don Quixote, as his defense.  This is Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion and is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Hilary Adams’ direction is outstanding, flawless, and inventive.  This includes subtle little touches such as having prisoners moving around the dungeon and sharing conversation before the play even begins to the pinpoint accuracy of the beats to the effortless scene changes.  Ms Adams has also coached stellar performances from a dynamic and talented cast which was more than up to the challenge of this epic musical.

Cork Ramer is sensational in the grueling triple role of Miguel Cervantes/Don Quixote/Alonso Quijana.  Ramer’s awesome physical presence draws eyes to him, but it’s his powerful interpretation that will keep eyes riveted to his performance.  Ramer glides smoothly from the witty and well-spoken Cervantes to the staunchly noble Don Quixote to the kindly, but sickly, Alonso Quijana with body language that is just as appropriate.  As Cervantes, he exudes a smooth confidence.  As Quixote, honor and decency.  As Quijana, a withering weakness of the body.  His transition from Quixote to Quijana was one of the most heartbreaking moments of the night as Ramer’s body seemed to collapse in on itself as he transformed from the proud knight to the gravely ill old man.

Ramer is also blessed with a rich and supple deep baritone voice that was capable of an astonishing musical and emotional range.  Ramer was an absolute joy to listen to whether he was heroically singing about finding great glory (I, Don Quixote) or singing about and to his perfect lady (Dulcinea) or proudly reaching tenor quality notes in the play’s signature song, The Impossible Dream.

Noel Larrieu, who plays Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza, has, without question, the most natural delivery style I have ever heard.  Every word and syllable that came out of his mouth was completely extemporaneous and Larrieu underplayed Panza so beautifully that it made his proverbs and observations infinitely funnier.

Larrieu was just as spot on with the singing.  His sweet tenor voice shyly telling Aldonza why he squires for Quixote (I Really Like Him) or trying to galvanize the dying Quijana (A Little Gossip).

Jennifer Gilg gives a strong, multilayered performance as Aldonza/Dulcinea.  She does a fine job of evolving from the sullen, hopeless whore to the fair and honorable lady as her eyes are slowly opened by Don Quixote’s philosophy.  However, I thought her Aldonza needed to start at a much lower level to make the evolution to Dulcinea more marked.  Ms Gilg assuredly had the right intentions in mind, but just needs to take it a bit further and be even coarser and bitterer to begin the show.

Ms Gilg’s performance was strengthened by her gorgeous soprano voice.  She also displayed a strong talent for being able to act through a song as she found the precise emotional points of each number whether she was listlessly singing about her life as a whore (It’s All the Same) or trying to get Quixote to look at her the way she perceived herself (Aldonza) or accepting herself the way Quixote saw her (Dulcinea Reprise).

Steve Krambeck excelled himself with the finest performance of his career as The Duke/Dr. Sanson Carrasco/Barber.  The triple role permitted Krambeck to demonstrate some incredible versatility.  As the Duke, he is a cynical, odious prisoner who is bound and determined to see life as it is and requests to prosecute Cervantes due to his dislike of Cervantes’ idealism and his own hatred of “stupidity, especially when it masquerades as virtue.”  As Dr. Carrasco, he is arrogant and selfish, but motivated by good, if misguided, intentions.  He truly does want to help restore Alonso Quijana to sanity, but wants to do it because he doesn’t relish having a lunatic for an in-law.  However, his flamboyant Barber is the showstopper as his energetic and wimpy interpretation had the audience splitting their sides.  Krambeck also makes for a pretty convincing horse.

John Morrissey is cast perfectly as the Governor/Innkeeper.  As the Governor, he rules the dungeon and presides over the trials with an attitude that he is one to be respected.  As the Innkeeper, he is humble, a bit befuddled, and hilarious as he readily accedes to Don Quixote’s fantasies.  He also has a nice lower tenor singing voice that hits all the right moments after he dubs and renames Quixote The Knight of the Woeful Countenance.

The ensemble also deserves praise for always being in the moment which lent vitality to the show.  Special acknowledgement goes to John E Jones for his portrayal of an exuberant, somewhat dim prisoner who transforms into the kindly and pious Padre and to Ryan Pflug, Andrew Stone, John Ryan, and Adam Hogston for their portrayals of the rowdy and raucous muleteers.

Jim Othuse’s dungeon/inn set is a masterful bit of stage craftsmanship, but it is his lighting design that truly makes it all worthwhile as the simple light changes is what transforms the set from dungeon to inn and back again.  Georgiann Regan’s costumes are pitch perfect from the rags of the prisoners to the cheap armor of Don Quixote.  Jim Boggess and his orchestra deliver once more with a seamless musical performance.

There were a few flaws present in the evening’s performance.  Several lines and lyrics were mixed up and a few actors needed to project more strongly.  A huge fight scene also could use some tidying as it was a bit on the clunky side.

Man of La Mancha gives the audience much more than an enjoyable night of theatre.  It also gives them the gift of hope and the courage to see life as it should be.  How much better would this world be if we all pursued the good in life instead of accepting things as they are?  To paraphrase Cervantes, “God help us.  We should all be men of La Mancha”.

Man of La Mancha plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Oct 18.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students on Wednesday and $40 for adults and $25 for students Thurs-Sun.  Contact the Box Office at 402-553-0800 or visit their website at www.omahaplayhouse.com. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

“Man of La Mancha” Opens Omaha Playhouse’s Main Stage Season

MAN OF LA MANCHA
Written by Dale Wasserman, Music by Mitch Leigh, Lyrics by Joe Darion

Sept. 18 – Oct. 18, 2015
Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

Summary:
Winner of five Tony Awards, Man of La Mancha is a tale of hope and inspiration. When Miguel Cervantes is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition, he is able to keep only one possession: a manuscript of a play he has written. As Cervantes sets the stage with his words in a bleak prison cell, he transports the inmates to another world — the world of Don Quixote. The inmates become characters in his story as he sings about “The Impossible Dream” in this moving demonstration of the power of imagination.

Curtain Times:
7:30pm – Wednesday – Saturday
2pm – Sunday

Ticket Prices:
Wednesday: $30 for adults, $20 for students
Thursday-Sunday: $40 for adults, $25 for students

Twilight (half-priced) tickets will be sold each performance day beginning at noon, cash or check only at the Box Office window. Seating is subject to availability. Mention you are a TAG member for a $10 discount; membership card must be shown when picking up your ticket.

Box Office:
(402) 553-0800

Directed by Hilary Adams

Cast

Cork Ramer: Miguel de Cervantes/ Alsono Quijana / Don Quixote
Noel Larrieu: Sancho Panza/ The Manservant
Patrick Wolfe: Captain of the Inquisition
John Morrissey: Prisoner called The Governor/ The Innkeeper
Steve Krambeck: Prisoner called The Duke/ Dr. Carrasco/ Knight of Mirrors/ Barber/ Horse
Jennifer Gilg: Prisoner/ Aldonza
Lori Lynn Ahrends: Prisoner/ Maria
Sydney Readman: Prisoner/ Fermina/ Dancer
John E. Jones: Prisoner/ The Padre
Samantha Quintana: Prisoner/ Antonia
Judy Radcliffe: Prisoner/ Housekeeper
Julia Ervin: Prisoner/ Horse
John Ryan: Prisoner/ Onstage Guitarist/ Tenorio
Ryan Pflug: Prisoner/ Juan/ Pedro
Jason DeLong: Prisoner/ Paco
Adam Hogston : Prisoner/ Anselmo
Andrew Stone: Prisoner/ Jose

“The Grown-Up” Raises the Curtain on Blue Barn’s New Home

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The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to present the regional premiere of The Grown-Up by Jordan Harrison. This will be the inaugural production in the BLUEBARN’s new home at 1106 S. 10th Street.

BLUEBARN Producing Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer directs, with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Carol Wisner, costume design by Jill Anderson, sound design by Martin Magnuson, and properties design by Amy Reiner.

Shows run Sept 24-Oct 18; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday October 4th, 11th, and 18th at 6 p.m. Single tickets for The Grown-Up are $30 for adults; and $25 for students, seniors 65+, TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.

About The Grown-Up

The Grown-Up is BLUEBARN’s Humana Festival Pick and tells the story of Kai, a ten-year-old boy at his grandfather’s knee listening to a story of a magic doorknob. Jump 15 years and he is a young television writer. Jump in time again, and he and his future husband attend their wedding reception. Has Kai run into powerful magic or has he just realized the breakneck speed of an ordinary life and what he might have missed? A funny and honest tale about living in the moment.

About the playwright, Jordan Harrison

Jordan Harrison’s play, Marjorie Prime (2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist), had its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum and will have its New York premiere this fall at Playwrights Horizons. Harrison’s Humana Festival premieres include Maple and Vine, The Grown-Up, Act a Lady, Kid-Simple, and Fit for Feet. His other plays include Doris to Darlene (Playwrights Horizons), Amazons and their Men(Clubbed Thumb), Finn in the Underworld (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Futura (Portland Center Stage), and The Museum Play. His children’s musical, The Flea and the Professor, commissioned and produced by the Arden Theatre, won the Barrymore Award for Best Production. Harrison is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a graduate of the Brown University M.F.A. program, Harrison is an alumnus of New Dramatists. Harrison currently writes for the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black.

About the stars of The Grown-Up

The Grown-Up will highlight some of Omaha’ brightest talent including BLUEBARN founding member and award-winning actor Nils Haaland (Our Town, 33 Variations, BLUEBARN Theatre.) Veteran actor Jerry Longe (American Buffalo, Red, BLUEBARN Theatre) also joins the cast. Longe is best known for his perennial performance as Scrooge in the Omaha Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol. Rounding out the cast are Megan Friend (Bad Jews, BLUEBARN Theatre), Nick Albrecht (Spamalot, Omaha Community Playhouse), Matt Karasek (Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, BLUEBARN Theatre), and Katie Otten in her BLUEBARN debut.

ABOUT THE BLUEBARN THEATRE

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.