And welcome to Part II of this article. As McGregor was only a half hour south of Lansing, I decided to make a visit there in order to spend a night at Stauer House Bed & Breakfast, owned and operated by Donna & Robert Staples.
McGregor is a throwback to yesteryear. Like Lansing, everything is located on Main Street and a cornucopia of shops are available including antique shops, eateries, a rare book shop, a sweet shop, and even a local drugstore. Like a small town of yesteryear, a lot of places close up early or are not even open on the weekends.
Close to the town for a visit are the Effigy Mounds and the Spook Cave Boat Tours.
Stauer House is a Queen Anne style home which was built by architect E.W.H. Jacobs for local businessman, Peter Stauer in 1882. Stauer sold the home to another businessman, J. A. Ramage in 1904 where it remained in the Ramage family for most of the next 100 years. Though, after Ramage’s death in the 1940s, his children primarily used Stauer House as a part time summer home. In 2002, it was purchased by the Staples who lovingly restored it to its original beauty and saving it from the disrepair into which it had fallen.
I arrived in town around noon and entered through Stauer House’s back door. I was greeted by Robert and Donna and Donna led me to a unlisted fourth room known as the Captain’s Room. It is a very spacious room with a king sized bed at its center and containing from classic furniture and also containing an en suite bathroom.
After making a quick turn about the house, I took a walk around Main Street and did a rarity by stopping for lunch at Café McGregor. I continued reading Sherlock Holmes while munching on a small club sandwich with some kettle chips on the side.
After that it was back to the inn where I enjoyed doing a whole lot of nothing for the afternoon.
In the early evening, I took another walk and then spent the night writing, watching The A-Team, and enjoying a bath before retiring for the evening.
Shortly before 8am the next morning, Donna knocked on my door to let me know that breakfast was ready in the dining room. I made my way downstairs and found a series of dishes ready for selection. I took a little fruit, glasses of water and OJ, two pancakes, a piece of sausage, and a couple slices of an egg frittata.
It was definitely the quietest breakfast I’d ever had as not only was I the only guest but Donna and Robert had taken their grandchildren to school so I was completely on my own. But it was a most pleasant meal and I was especially impressed with the fresh frittata with its gooey cheese and the pancakes which were infused with cinnamon.
After that, it was a quick wrap up to this article before making the trip back to reality.
But when you feel ready to travel again, a visit to McGregor will be worth it for those who love nature, antiques, and classic Americana and a stay at Stauer House will be a comfortable one.
How good it feels to say those words again. I was badly in need of some downtime and a little research found me the relatively unaffected by COVID county of Allamakee in which lies the town of Lansing which is home to Thornton House Bed & Breakfast owned and operated by Frank Ebersold.
I enjoyed the scenic drive to Lansing, eschewing the interstate as much as I could and making a brief stop in my hometown of Fort Dodge to grab a quick bite to eat at Taco Tico before continuing to my stopping point of Mason City where I had a suite reserved at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
For my regular readers, you might remember that when I traveled to Scotland last year, I joined the Hilton Honors program in order to check into my first hotel sooner. Shortly after returning home, I also joined the IHG loyalty program. IHG owns a number of hotels, most prominently Holiday Inn, and that loyalty program has already paid dividends.
With my travel bug neutralized for most of the past 6 months, I have been taking an occasional night to myself at a Holiday Inn. Thanks to various promotions which have boosted my points and tier score, I have earned enough points for a couple of free nights, achieved Gold Elite status, and am 2 stays away from reaching Platinum status (a status that normally requires 40 nights to earn, but a special promotion is letting me do it in 5). My stay in Mason City was my first night as a Gold Elite member. As such I automatically earned 300 points as a gift just for staying and I was warmly welcomed to the hotel with a sign in the lobby.
My room was quite comfortable and spacious, but seems to be following the trend of suites being really big rooms instead of multiple rooms. A nice soft king sized bed was the centerpiece of the room and led to a full night’s sleep for the first time in a while.
The hotel did offer a breakfast consisting of cereal, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches served cafeteria style. I had a “bowl” of Apple Jacks and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich along with some OJ while I watched the news. I also invoked one of my benefits as a Gold Elite member and took a late checkout of 12:30pm so I could just check right into Thornton House when I arrived in Lansing.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and it seemed to go rather quickly due to the increased concentration needed to get to Lansing as one must navigate a series of back roads to reach the town. As I came closer to Lansing, I was stunned by the sudden transformation of the landscape into a valley as the hills grew in size and were covered by a lush forest.
I arrived in Lansing, a port town on the Mississippi River and also at the base of Mt Hosmer. The town reminded me of a much smaller version of Eureka Springs, AR due to its incredibly hilly nature.
I found the inn, parked my car, and rang the bell and was greeted by Frank who gave me a socially distant welcome and gave me a little history of the house.
Thornton House is an Italianate Victorian mansion built by Alexander McMichael, a grain shipping magnate, in 1873 during a boom period in the local lumber industry. Eventually the house passed into the hands of Dr. John H Thornton who, with his son, John W, became known as “the best medical team this side of the Mayo Clinic” and practiced out of the mansion. For the next 120 years, the house was owned by a Thornton before passing into the hands of Frank.
Frank led me to the Grand Room which would be my headquarters for the next few nights. The room consists of a bedroom and bathroom separated by a small foyer. The bathroom contains a jetted tub while the bedroom has a full sized canopy bed with original or period correct furniture and overlooked by portraits of Presidents Pierce and Lincoln.
I made a quick exploration of the house before taking a walk down Main Street where everything and I mean, EVERYTHING, is located. Gas, groceries, shops, restaurants, medical care, city hall, it’s all located there.
From there I returned to Thornton House where I puttered around for a while before heading back to Main Street and dinner at Milty’s.
I had been in the mood for a steak, but Milty’s seemed to be operating on a limited menu. Instead I enjoyed a rather ripping chicken, bacon, and ranch wrap with a side of fries. With the inner man satisfied, I went back to the inn where I spent a relaxing evening reading, organizing photos, and watching some classic game shows on BUZZR before enjoying a restful night’s sleep.
The next morning, I met Judith and Eric, who were also staying at the inn. Positioning ourselves on opposite ends of the table and we took turns serving ourselves from dishes Frank had set up in the kitchen. For myself, I enjoyed a delicious glass of triple berry juice and put together a plate consisting of a croissant, cheesy eggs (seasoned to perfection), sausage patties, and a homemade waffle which was quite light and fluffy.
Frank positioned himself on a nearby couch so we could share in some socially distant conversation which worked out surprisingly well. With a satisfying breakfast tucked in, I took a drive up Mt Hosmer to the local park where I spent a half hour walking the trails and getting a couple of good shots of the Mississippi River and town.
From there I went back to the inn for a bit before visiting the nearby town of Harper’s Ferry at Frank’s suggestion. Harper’s Ferry contains a Catholic church called Immaculate Conception which had been founded in 1848 by some Irish priests. The land is known as Wexford, named after the village where the priests had lived in Ireland and the church, itself, is reportedly a duplicate of the church in Ireland. A cemetery is also on the land and contains graves dating back to the same date as the founding of the church. A very interesting visit for lovers of history.
After that I returned to the inn to write and rest for the remainder of the afternoon.
About 5:30pm, I walked down to the Main Channel for my dinner. This is a local bar/restaurant and it would satisfy my craving for a steak as the Saturday night special happened to be a 10 oz sirloin with 3 grilled shrimp along with 2 sides. As you may have guessed, I did select that.
I had asked for a house salad which proved to be surprisingly simple as it just consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and croutons with a bit of ranch dressing. The fresh vegetables were a welcome treat and I crunched away while reading a new volume of Sherlock Holmes pastiches.
The main entrée of steak and shrimp was quite delicious and it must have been my lucky night as the chef slipped me an extra shrimp. The steak was prepared just right and a little melted butter and au jus helped to bring out its flavor. The service wasn’t the best as I was only checked on once at the end of my meal, but as I didn’t need a refill, it came out in the wash.
A little jaunt back to the hotel found me writing a bit more, selecting photos for the article, and enjoying a relaxing bath in my jetted tub. And from there I read myself to sleep.
Breakfast the next morning was similar to the previous though we had sausage links, blueberry scones, and tomato and cheese omelets added to the menu. Another satisfying meal and a long round of conversation with Frank made for a fine morning.
So if you find yourself in Lansing when you travel again, you’ll find some nice outdoor activities, a little antiquing, some history spots, and a fine inn and host at Thornton House.
Normally this would be where I sign off, but this escapade isn’t over quite yet.
Opera Omaha Announces Audition for Ensemble of Sweeney Todd
Auditions will be held at the BLUEBARN located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE. A pianist will be provided.
Thursday, Oct 1 from 5:30pm-7:30pm
Friday, Oct 2 from 5:30pm-7:30pm
Saturday, Oct 3 from 2pm-4pm
A wide variety of roles will come from the ensemble. Ensemble members must have strong, trained voices, good musicianship, and should be confident movers. There are many important solo lines for ensemble members in the show including one trio for tenors and one quintet for 5 voices.
Our Sweeney Todd ensemble will be working together as a unified and evolving presence to create various stage pictures and emotional landscapes reflecting and amplifying the story.
Must be willing to work in a wide range of movement from pedestrian/gestural to more athletic and precise. No formal dance experience necessary.
Ensemble must also be able to demonstrate a strong concentration, intensity, and the ability to play “characters”.
–Please prepare one song of your choosing that shows off your vocal range. This selection should be in English. Please bring a copy of the sheet music for the accompanist. The panel reserves the right to only hear a portion of your selection.
–In addition to your song, please prepare the excerpt provided by Opera Omaha for your appropriate vocal part.
–Sopranos (G3-D6), NB Soprano 1s MUST have a strong, high voice to C# and D6.
–Baritones (F#2-Db5) NB This can be a high baritone OR a lower tenor.
–All ethnicities are encouraged to audition.
–Ensemble will receive the music in advance along with supplementary study tools. You are expected to have a good working knowledge of the music BEFORE the first music rehearsal. Reading music is required.
–Please dress for movement during the audition.
Please note the following before auditioning.
–The first music rehearsal is March 16, 2021 and the final performance is April 18, 2021.
–Ensemble will not be excused in advance from the final room run on April 6 or any rehearsal thereafter or any performance. Last minute changes will be taken into consideration.
–Late arrivals and early departures from rehearsals must be approved in advance, but are highly discouraged.
–Each conflict will be handled on an individual basis.
–Current COVID-19 safety protocols for performers will be followed and provided to registered auditionees prior to the audition.
To schedule an audition, please contact Stephanie Shattuck at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reserve your audition slot by Friday, September 25.
Omaha, NE.– Don’t Stop Me Now! A Celebration of Rock Musicals will open Friday, August 28 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will be held outdoors in the Storz Parking Lot at OCP. Performances will run Wednesdays through Sundays through September 20. The outdoor venue allows social distancing and other safety precautions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bid farewell to summer with one final outdoor extravaganza at OCP! Don’t Stop Me Now: A Celebration of Rock Musicals is a drive-in style concert featuring songs from acclaimed rock ‘n’ roll musicals, including Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rock of Ages, Beautiful, Hair, Dreamgirls and more! Sing and dance along with your favorite musical hits from the your private socially-distanced parking area, or tune in to hear the show from OCP’s radio station inside your car! Featuring Billy McGuigan’s Rave On Productions band and six powerhouse vocalists, Don’t Stop Me Now is the end-of-summer spectacular you won’t want to miss.
To ensure audience safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be a cashless event requiring a reservation. Cars will be parked in a checkerboard pattern for social distancing. Audience members can choose to bring portable chairs and sit outdoors on the driver’s side of the vehicle they came in, but please mingle only with those who came in your vehicle. No concessions will be sold. No smoking or alcoholic beverages will be permitted. Bathrooms in the Playhouse main lobby will be available, with COVID sanitation and social distancing observed. Early arrival is recommended to allow extra time for parking. Parking spaces will be assigned as cars arrive. Please, no lining up to park until 60 minutes before showtime. Tickets are on sale now starting at $35, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.
Please contact Becky at email@example.com to make an appointment for a Zoom audition.
By George Brant
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman
Auditions are Tuesday August 18, 2020 from 6:00pm-9:00pm via Zoom appointment only. Sides will be emailed to actors after an appointment is made. The sole character of Grounded is a female pilot. Actors who identify as cisgender women, transgender women and nonbinary women are encouraged to audition.
An ace fighter pilot finds herself grounded when an unexpected pregnancy cuts her career in the sky short. Reassigned to military drone operation, the former F-15 pilot patrols Afghanistan by day – from a windowless trailer outside of Las Vegas – and returns to her family at night. But as professional pressure mounts, the lines between the desert where she lives and the desert where she hunts high-profile terrorists begins to blur.
Production Dates: September 25 – October 18, 2020
Rehearsals begin August 23, 2020 (based on actor availability)
I Am My Own Wife
By Doug Wright
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman
Auditions are Saturday September 19, 2020 from 2:00-5:00pm via Zoom by appointment only. Sides will be emailed to actors after an appointment is made. The primary character of I Am My Own Wife is Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transgender woman who survives oppressive regimes. Actors who identify as transgender women, nonbinary and feminine of center are greatly encouraged to audition and will be given preference. Cisgender men can also audition.
The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning true story about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East Berlin transgender woman who survived two of the most repressive totalitarian regimes in history – the Nazis and the Communists – while openly flouting gender norms. Born to a brutal Nazi father, Charlotte went on to become a highly celebrated antiques collector and curator of her own museum. An incredible tale – with one actor playing 35 different roles – filled with intrigue, danger and conspiracy that examines the balance between morality and survival.
Production Dates: October 30-November 15, 2020
Rehearsals begin September 27, 2020 (based on actor availability)
OCP ANNOUNCES REVAMPED 2020/21 SEASON LINEUP, SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse has announced a new, revamped 2020/21 season lineup with special precautions in place to protect audiences, volunteers and staff from COVID-19.
A SEASON REIMAGINED
This year, COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, and the performing arts—including live theatre—were hit hard. From London’s West End to Broadway, New York, to right here in Omaha, stages around the world have gone dark.
At OCP, we have worked tirelessly to invent new ways to keep performing art alive during this crisis. From streaming productions online to moving shows outdoors, we have adapted and innovated to keep art in our community.
While we’ve been imagining new ways to stay connected, we’ve also been reimagining what a safe in-theatre experience could look like in the era of COVID. We believe we’ve created a plan that places the health of our community first while creating a safe environment for live theatre to thrive. It begins with our reimagined 2020/21 season lineup.
Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience*
Oct. 2 – Nov. 1
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
I Am My Own Wife
Oct. 30 – Nov. 15
Howard Drew Theatre
A Christmas Carol*
Nov. 13 – Dec. 23
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Title To Be Announced
Nov. 27 – Dec. 23
Howard Drew Theatre
The Last 5 Years
Jan. 15 – Feb. 7
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
The Candy Project Presents: Guttenberg! The Musical!*
Feb. 12 –March 14
Howard Drew Theatre
Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express
Feb. 26 – March 21
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
In The Heights
April 16 – May 9
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
May 7 – 30
Howard Drew Theatre
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka
May 28 – June 27
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
*Special engagement; Not a regular season production
We reimagined our season lineup.
We added concert-style drive-in shows to take advantage of our outdoor space as long as possible.
We removed shows with large cast sizes from our fall and winter time slots. In their place, we have added four wonderful productions with two performers or fewer. The new shows are compelling, entertaining and—most importantly—safe. The small cast sizes will allow our actors to safely rehearse and perform, create plenty of room for our backstage crew to social distance and help protect our patrons by reducing the overall number of people present in the theatre.
Fan favorite Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience will move to the larger Hawks Mainstage theatre and open in October. The larger stage will allow the band to socially distance and the larger theatre will safely accommodate the show’s many fans.
The holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol will live on for 2020 in a unique and imaginative small cast format.
Finally, we shuffled four titles from our original lineup to the end of the season. While these shows do feature more cast members, we are hopeful that these productions will be safe to carry out by next Spring. These four shows were selected based on existing ticket sales (via subscriptions), director availability, and royalties logistics.
We reimagined our performance spaces.
Patrons attending a show in either theatre will be socially distanced from other guests with all groups at least 6 feet apart.
In the Howard Drew theatre, a plexiglass barrier will be installed around the perimeter of the stage to provide separation between guests and performers.
Productions will not incorporate any physical audience participation.
We reimagined our safety precautions.
All audience, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks. Masks will be available free of charge and must be worn properly in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Audience members will be required to self-screen for a fever and symptoms of illness prior to arriving at OCP. Those with fever or other symptoms may exchange their ticket at no cost.
New arrival and dismissal procedures will help encourage social distancing, including staggered vehicle loading/unloading, assigned will call pick up times and row-by-row dismissal after a show.
Lobbies, reception areas and lines will be arranged and marked to encourage social distancing.
Plexiglass barriers will be installed in the box office windows with cash-free payments encouraged, touchless credit card transactions offered and touch-free ticket pickup available.
Common areas and performance halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis with both cleanser and electrostatic technology.
All restrooms will be outfitted with touchless fixtures and will be sanitized daily and throughout performances.
We will no longer hold post-show meet and greets with the actors in the lobby.
Concessions and drinks will not be available and public water fountains will be closed.
For a full list of safety precautions, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse website at omahaplayhouse.com
OCP will continue to evaluate our processes and procedures to ensure we are constantly creating the safest environment possible for our patrons, artists, volunteers and staff. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our website.
The Omaha Community Playhouse has served our community for nearly 100 years. We are confident that with a little (re)imagination, the art will always live on. We hope you enjoy our reimagined 2020/21 season, and we can’t wait to have you back at OCP!
Information for Subscribers:
Subscribers may select any regular season production from the new lineup above to replace any canceled productions from their original subscription package.
To select a new show for your package, call the OCP Box Office during the Subscriber Presale to reserve tickets to the new show of your choice.
New Subscriber Presale dates for all shows will be announced on a rolling basis throughout the season via email and the OCP website.
For additional information, please contact the OCP Box Office by phone at (402) 553-0800. For Box Office hours please visit the OCP website at omahaplayhouse.com