A Life Captioned

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The Three Faces of Alison (From left to right: Analisa Peyton, Sasha Denenberg, and Angie Heim)

Alison Bechdel is a lesbian cartoonist drawing her life story.  As she draws, she struggles to remember something about her father.  And in her struggle she revisits her relationship with her dad through the course of her life and through the lenses of her adult eyes.  Join her on this journey through the halls of memories at the Omaha Community Playhouse in Fun Home with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and music by Jeanine Tesori based on Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel.

I salute Ms Bechdel for opening herself to the world with this deeply personal tale.  In conjunction with Kron and Tesori, these three women have managed to create something beautifully original and eminently poignant.  The story does not follow an ordinary narrative track as it weaves back and forth between the present and the past, yet it is remarkably cogent and Ms Tesori’s music makes it blossom with magic.  This story is a true slice of life that is warm and witty and also raw and heartbreaking.

Roxanne Wach brings some true directorial splendor to this piece.  It’s the most unique piece of staging I’ve ever seen in a production and also some of the best as it is so precisely suited to the story.  Characters flit on and off the stage like living thought balloons as Adult Alison keeps a measured distance away from them as they are only her memories.  Her guiding of the piece is magnificent as each of her actors give their all and immerse themselves in their characters, drawing the audience deeper into Alison’s world.

Potent performances come from Julia Ervin who plays Alison’s first love and Jennifer Gilg who plays Alison’s mother, Helen.  Ms Gilg does an extraordinary job playing a woman who seems distant from her family, but is actually broken from carrying the burden of her husband’s secret.  Ms Gilg is especially impressive when she reveals all to Alison in “Days”.  Josh Peyton does admirable work playing the entire male ensemble altering his voice, attitude, and posture to suit each character.  He also has a nice, light tenor voice which shines brightly in “Raincoat of Love”.  Ryan Laughlin and Tyson Bentley provide vital energy as two of the Bechdel children and, along with Sasha Denenberg, brought the house down in the night’s best number “Come to the Fun Home”.

Michael Trutna excels in the role of Bruce, Alison’s father.  Trutna astutely shows the difficulty of being a closeted gay man in the 60s and 70s.  His inability to come to grips with his orientation causes him to adopt some dangerous sexual practices.  Indeed, his lack of control in this aspect of his life compels him to exercise extreme control over other aspects.  His family must always look perfect.  He personally restores his home to meet exacting specifications.  He’s willing to talk about anything and everything as long as it deflects from himself showing how sad and alone he truly is.

Trutna also has a wonderful tenor voice and uses it to fullest effect in “Edges of the World” where he finally takes a hard and honest look at himself.

In the case of Sasha Denenberg, big things really do come in small packages.  The theatre barely contained this little dynamo’s talent and energy and she gives a remarkable performance as Small Alison.  She is ever so much the imaginative child who wants to play airplane with her dad and draw cartoons.  And yet she shows wisdom beyond her years as she knows she’s different from other girls with her desire to wear pants and shirts, let her hair be wild, and her fascination with women shown when she humorously belts out “Ring of Keys” when she sees “a classic butch” for the first time.

Analisa Peyton creates a delightful coming of age character with Medium Alison.  Ms Peyton wonderfully essays Alison as she makes that awkward transition from childhood to adulthood as she enters college.  Along with the struggles of making the grade and making new friends, she believably wrestles with her burgeoning sexuality until she happily comes to terms with it in “Changing My Major”.  Then she just as easily plays the nervousness of sharing this truth with her parents as well as the shock of learning the truth about her father.

Through all of this looms the presence of Adult Alison as played by Angie Heim.  Ms Heim is spellbinding as she narrates the tale, makes wry and honest observations about herself and her family, or simply stays in the background reacting to her memories.  Ms Heim does a sensational job building to Alison’s epiphany about her relationship with her dad and the peace and sorrow that epiphany brings her.  Ms Heim also has a wide vocal range as she seems to be a natural alto who easily jumps to soprano when the need arises.  Her magnificent voice gets the night’s most thought provoking number, “Telephone Wire”.

Jim Othuse has crafted a small, but simple set of the Fun Home’s music room that evokes a real sense of elegance and is further enhanced by Darin Kuehler’s props of piano and antiques.  Othuse’s lights are also very emotional.  They change with the feelings of the characters from happy pink to melancholic blue to depressed black.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes not only capture the appearance of the real Alison Bechdel with Adult Alison’s glasses, shirt, and pants, but also the clothes of yesteryear with the late sixties style clothing of the Bechdel family and the 70s style outfits of “Raincoat of Love”.  Courtney Stein provides some clever choreography especially with “Come to the Fun Home”, a song and dance routine so fun and funny that I may come back again just to watch it.  John Gibilisco and Tim Burkhart team up to craft some subtle sounds to drive the tale, especially the sound of night traffic in New York City.  Jennifer Novak Haar and her orchestra bring their A game to the score adding crucial zip and pizzazz.

The Playhouse has kicked their latest season off with a red hot production and it is well worth your while to see it.  You’ll laugh.  You might cry.  But you won’t have a bad time.  Come to the Fun Home.

Fun Home plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Sept 16.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets range from $24-$50 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 402-553-0800 or visiting www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  This show contains strong language and mature themes and is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

OCP Welcomes You to a “Fun Home”

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The Three Faces of Alison (From left to right: Analisa Peyton, Sasha Denenberg, and Angie Heim)

 

Omaha, NE–Fun Home–winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize–will be showing at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Howard Drew Theatre from Aug 17-Sept 16.

Based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home is a story of self-discovery and navigating challenging family dynamics.  When Alison’s father dies unexpectedly, she explores her past to tell the story of their tumultuous relationship.  The brilliant storytelling moves between the past and the present, while Alison relives her unique childhood playing in her family’s funeral home and her discovery of her own sexuality.

Fun Home is a refreshingly honest and moving story that takes us on a cathartic journey of seeing our parents through grown-up eyes.

“It really does go over our expectations we sometimes have of our parents and how they can’t be superheroes,” said actress Angie Heim.  Heim’s character, Alison, leads the audience on an emotional journey told through the exchange of memories and present-day introspection.  “She goes through looking at these memories fondly, but also looking at the painful memories as well–and you get to see that through her experience on stage.”

The production is directed by Roxanne Wach, a theatre veteran who has been directing on Omaha stages for nearly fifty years.  Wach says audiences will find personal connections to the universal themes and experiences in the show.  “The story is not just Alison’s journey–it’s a quest we’re all on.”

Fun Home opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Aug 17 and runs through Sept 16.  Due to high demand, Wednesday shows have been added to this production.  Tickets are available at www.ticketomaha.com or through the OCP box office by calling 402-553-0800 or visiting 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.  For more information, please visit www.omahaplayhouse.com.

In addition to the production itself, the Omaha Community Playhouse, in conjunction with Orchestra Sponsor, UNMC, have created a number of programming events surrounding the themes of the production such as suicide prevention, topics in LGBTQIA, and a discussion of graphic novels.  Special Events are as follows:

Aug 17-19

–Dundee Book Company will be on site selling the Fun Home graphic novel and other books relating to themes in the show.

–A graphic artist will be set up in the lobby drawing character sketches of attendees.  OCP will post these sketches on the walls of the Howard Drew Theatre as well as on social media.

–UNMC will be distributing information about topics in mental health.

August 19

–“Talk Back” discussion will be held after the performance on the topic of suicide.  Dr. Amanda Randall, Director of the Grace Abbott School of Social Work at UNO, Janae Shillito, Community Relations Director of the Kim Foundation and members of the Fun Home cast will discuss mental health related topics raised in the production.

September 9

–“Talk Back” discussion will be held after the performance on the topic of graphic novels and language.  Frank Bramlett, PhD, Professor in the English Dept at UNO and TESOL Program Director, along with members of the Fun Home cast will discuss the literary world of graphic novels.

September 18

–A Science Cafe will be held at 7pm at The Slowdown to discuss mental health and suicide.  The speaker will be Jonathan Sikorski, PhD, department of Psychology at UNMC.

Production:  Fun Home (Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel)

Music By:  Jeanine Tesori

Book and Lyrics:  Lisa Kron

Show Dates:  Aug 17-Sept 16 (Wed-Sun in the Howard Drew Theatre)

Director:  Roxanne Wach

Cast

Sasha Denenberg as Small Alison

Analisa Peyton as Medium Alison

Angie Heim as Adult Alison

Michael Trutna as Bruce

Jennifer Gilg as Helen

Julia Ervin as Joan

Tyson Bentley as John

Ryan Laughlin as Christian

Josh Peyton as the Male Ensemble

 

Upcoming Auditions

CIRCLE THEATRE PRESENTS AUDITIONS FOR
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Circle Theatre will hold auditions for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” running May 4-19.

Auditions will be held March 26th and 27th at 7:00p.m.

Please bring a calendar and a list of ALL conflicts from April to May.
The show opens May 4 and runs through May 19, 2018.
Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 for two weekends.

Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script.
The Circle Theatre is committed to diverse, inclusive casting, and auditions are open to all.

Synopsis:
When the merry sprite Puck meddles with a magical love potion, young lovers lost in the woods mysteriously find themselves infatuated with the wrong person in this hilarious, fairytale fantasy that proves the course of true love never did run smooth.

Auditions will be held at Hanscom Park United Methodist Church at 4444 Frances Street.
For more information, please contact Circle Theatre at circle.theatreomaha@gmail.com

OMAHA COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE PRESENTS
THE 2018-2019 SEASON MUSICAL ADULT AUDITIONS

Saturday, May 12, 11:30 a.m. check in, 12:00 p.m. start
Sunday, May 13, 5:30 p.m. check in, 6:00 p.m. start

Omaha Community Playhouse will hold adult and youth season musical auditions for all five musicals for the 2018-2019 season in May, including auditions for Fun Home, Shrek The Musical, A Christmas Carol, The Bridges of Madison County and Ragtime. Actors interested in these shows should plan to attend. Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse, inclusive casting.

What:  2018-2019 Season Musical Adult Auditions
Who: For actors 16 years and older of all genders and ethnicities
Location: Omaha Community Playhouse | 6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132
Those auditioning should enter through the main lobby entrance and proceed to the check-in table.

Requirements:
Actors please be prepared with the following:
* Sheet music with 16 bars ready to sing (an accompanist will be provided)
* There will be a dance audition, so actors should be dressed to move (no boots, sandals, flip-flops, etc.)
* You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and schedules available to complete the form.
* A recent photo to attach to your audition form. Please note, the photos do not need to be professional and will not be returned.
* Should you not have a photo, one will be taken at the time of the audition.

Show Dates:
Fun Home
 – August 17 – September 16, 2018, (Howard Drew Theatre)
Shrek The Musical – September 14 – October 14, 2018 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)
A Christmas Carol – November 16 – December 23, 2018 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)
The Bridges of Madison County – March 1 – 24, 2019 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)
Ragtime – May 31 – June 30, 2019 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)

There will be additional auditions held at later dates throughout the season for the following non-musical productions: She Kills Monsters, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Of Mice and Men, One Man, Two Guvnors and Men on Boats, as well as Alternative Programming auditions. Those dates will be announced at a later time.

Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse, inclusive casting.

Contact:
For more information, contact Breanna Carodine, bcarodine@omahaplayhouse.com, at (402) 553-4890, ext. 110.