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.

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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

 

The Night is Coming

Walk the Night: Spirits to Enforce

Oct. 4th-31st, 2018

The fifth installment of BLUEBARN’s acclaimed immersive theatre series is located once again at Fontenelle’s Neale Woods Nature Center.

Based on the The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Walk the Night: Spirits to Enforce invites the audience to experience the world of the play through any one of fifteen unique perspectives. The events occur in real time, throughout The Neale Woods Nature Center.  There are no set theatre seats. Guests are free to explore.  Comfortable footwear is recommended. Performances include acrobatics, dance, fight choreography, live music and possible 1-on-1 interactions.

ADA-compliant pathways are readily available.

You begin either by venturing ahead into the unknown forest, or by staying in safety with your group.  The encounters you have and decisions you make will determine how you witness the orchestration of what may well be a plot for revenge…

The Story

Prominent local leader Prospero and his child went missing, presumed dead after a terrible accident.  Local legend has it, however, that they have been in hiding, at a mansion in the woods. In the decades since, sightings of sprite-like creatures, large yeti-like beasts and strange lights have been growing.  Now, after a clandestine meeting, those thought responsible for the “accident” have themselves disappeared.

Tickets

Walk the Night runs Thursdays-Sundays @7pm, with a second show on Fridays and Saturdays @9:00pm. This year there will be two special performances October 30 and 31@ 7pm.

You’ll choose from one of four different ways to experience the first half of the show. Come again and choose a different Act 1 ticket for an entirely different show. With four main pathways, simultaneous action taking place throughout the space, and multiple decisions to make as you chart your course through the story…the best way to fully experience Walk the Night: Spirits to Enforce is to come more than once.

Single tickets are $25 General/$20 Senior/Student

Unlimited Passes available for $45 General/$40 Senior/Student.

Tickets on sale now! Click here to reserve tickets.

Walk the Night is conceived and directed by Spencer Williams, co-directed by Colleen Hudson-Pace, devised by the ensemble, and features Original music by Andrew Heringer, choreography by Stephanie Huettner, technical design by Homero Vela, costumes by Jenny Pool, and puppet design by Shannon Wade. For more information, visit www.bluebarn.org or www.towalkthenight.com

Masterful Musicians Make Magnificent Music

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Billy McGuigan and the Downliners (From left to right: Tara Vaughan, Ryan McGuigan, Matthew McGuigan, Billy McGuigan, Adam Stoltenberg, and Max Meyer)

Take a tour through the history of classic rock and roll as Billy McGuigan and his band play the hits from the 50s through the 70s in Rock Legends.  Last night Billy and his band, the Downliners, played a sold out, tour de force performance at the Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, IA.

The show was actually billed as Rock Show, but was a variation of McGuigan’s Rock Legends production.  Billy McGuigan once more demonstrated his seemingly limitless musical talent with a pulse pounding, non-stop 90 minute ride that displays an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock.  Billy and the Downliners played some of the biggest hits of the best known bands of the 50s-70s, but also included several one hit wonders and hits that simply don’t get much airplay nowadays.  Imbued with that inimitable McGuigan energy, one would swear that Billy and the band wrote all of these tunes themselves as the music seems so fresh and extemporaneous.

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Mark Irvin

The night’s entertainment opened up with Omaha singer/songwriter, Mark Irvin.  Irvin has a voice reminiscent of Bryan Adams and a stage presence similar to Roy Orbison.  It’s just a man, his guitar, and his music.  Irvin is a powerhouse talent whose warm tenor haunted the audience with original numbers such as “I Will Surrender to You”, “I Finally Got it Right”, and “Fly With Me”.  He also did an impressive cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song” that had the audience singing right along with him.  If you want to get a taste of Irvin’s talent, his music is available on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon.

Then it was time for the featured act and Billy and company hit the ground running and never let up.

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Billy McGuigan

Billy McGuigan drove the night with his trademark wit and indefatigable energy.  He and his potent tenor went through an impressive range of high octane songs from “Bye, Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers to “Good Lovin’” by the Rascals to the first rock song, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”.  How he does this without wearing out, I’ll never know, but he did give himself a bit of a breather with a small set of slower songs capped with a particularly touching rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

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Tara Vaughan

It’s as much fun to watch Tara Vaughan perform as it is to listen to her sing.  Performance wise, she reminds me of Bob Marley in the sense that, like him, she is totally immersed in the music.  She doesn’t just play the keyboards with her fingers, she plays with her whole body, heart, and soul.  And that sultry alto had me looking for a cold drink after some of her numbers.  Notable turns from her came with Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love”, a rocking rendition of the Gene Pitney penned Crystals hit, “He’s a Rebel”, and a dazzling take on “A Little Piece of My Heart” that would have made Janis Joplin proud.

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Ryan & Matthew McGuigan

Ryan & Matthew McGuigan nailed it in their time in the spotlight.  Ryan paid homage to John Lennon and the Beatles with his takes on “I Feel Fine” and the Lennon solo in “This Boy”.  Matthew got a chance to show some impressive versatility as he did The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” before segueing into Elvis soundalike Terry Stafford’s one hit wonder, “Suspicions”.

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Adam Stoltenberg & Max Meyer

Solid support was provided in the forms of Max Meyer and Adam Stoltenberg.  Meyer provided a series of superb solos on lead guitar while Stoltenberg’s drum work set a crucial backbeat.  Both also got a moment to sing when they each took some verses in The Band’s “The Weight” which was sung by the entire band.

When people hear the name Billy McGuigan, some think Buddy Holly while others may think the Beatles.  When I hear the name, I think he’s one of the best musicians Omaha has ever produced.  Normally, this is the point where I encourage you to get a ticket.  Sadly this was a one night only concert, but fear not.  You have another chance to catch Bily and company in action when Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist opens at the Omaha Playhouse on August 1.  The show runs through August 12 with performances running Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Contact OCP at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com for tickets.

But take my advice, when Rock Legends performs again, don’t miss it.  It’s awesome!

Dare to Walk the Night

The BLUEBARN Theatre is seeking actors, ensemble and interactive crew for its 5th annual, immersive theatre experienceWalk the Night: Spirits to Enforce, based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Auditions will be held at the BLUEBARN located at 1106 S. 10th St.  (10th & Pacific Streets)

Saturday, August 4th from 11a.m-2p.m.

Sunday, August 5th from 12-2 p.m.

Walk the Night will run October 4th – October 31st, 2018 at Fontenelle Forest’s Neale Woods Center.

Preparatory Meetings Begin in August. Rehearsals begin in September.

The Walk the Night company is open to performers and crew 16 and older.

We prize diverse, counter-intuitive casting, and will adjust roles to suit the ensemble.

Please prepare any combination of the following:

A 90 second monologue of your choice, classic or modern

A 90 second retelling of a unique experience you’ve had, in your own words

A demonstration of a particular skill, hobby, or talent

Audition may include movement and the reading of sides.

Walk the Night is an interactive, continuous 75-90 min event. Those auditioning should have the required stamina and willingness to engage the audience as scene partners. Movement and puppetry experience, dance and music skills, singing ability and other skillsets are most welcome, though not required.

For more information, to request a character breakdown, or to sign up for an audition session, please contact Barry at bcarman@bluebarn.org.

ABOUT Spirits to Enforce

Prospero escaped an attempt on his life–by his own family. He and his child took refuge in an abandoned estate in the woods north of the city, letting the rest of the world think they were dead.  In the years since, Prospero discovered an ancient tome that seems to have granted him arcane abilities. Now, by a twist of fate, Prospero’s usurpers have found their way into his trap.

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.

Blue Barn Announces First Auditions for “America in Pieces” Season

The BLUEBARN Theatre is pleased to announce open auditions for Circle Mirror Transformation.

Auditions will be held at the BLUEBARN located at 1106 S. 10th St.  (10th & Pacific Streets.)

Sunday, August 5th from 4-6 p.m. & Monday, August 6th from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  Callbacks will be scheduled if necessary

Circle Mirror Transformation runs September 27th through October 21st, 2018.  Rehearsals begin August 27th, 2018

Company members needed:

LAUREN (16)Open Ethnicity, Female. The youngest in the class. Wants to play Maria in West Side Story. Takes things seriously. Chronically dissatisfied. A bit endearing.  

THERESA (35) – Open Ethnicity, Female. Recently moved from NYC to Vermont after ending a toxic relationship. An actor who is also studying acupressure. Energetic, genuine. At a bit of a crossroads.

SCHULTZ  (48) –  Open Ethnicity, Male. A carpenter. Schultz finds himself unhappily alone after his recent divorce from his wife of many years. A bit eager.

MARTY (55) – Open Ethnicity, Female. Co-executive director of the community center. Teaches the drama class, and others in jewelry and pottery. Longs to move to Mexico. Nearly confident. A bit lost.

JAMES (60) Open Ethnicity, Male. Married to Marty, with an estranged daughter from a previous marriage. A good sport. A bit ineffectual.  

Auditions will consist of prepared sides, and cold readings from the script. Maybe some games.

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 

About Circle Mirror Transformation

Students in a community-center acting class find their lives transformed, their souls reflected, and the patterns of their lives revealed in this extraordinary celebration of ordinary life. As they discover each other through storytelling and deceptively simple games, hearts are won and lost, destinies shaped, and tiny triumphs and tragedies take on epic proportions.

 

The BLUEBARN Theatre is pleased to announce open auditions for I and You.

Auditions will be held at the BLUEBARN located at 1106 S. 10th St.  (10th & Pacific Streets.)

Sunday, August 5th from 2-4 p.m.  Monday, August 6th from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  Callbacks will be scheduled if necessary

I and You runs January 31st through February 24th, 2019.  Rehearsals begin January 7th, 2019

Company members needed:

Two actors (15-25), Open Ethnicity* to play

ANTHONY (17) – He is neat, poised, mature for his age. African-American. He’s an “a” student, a team player, a nice guy. He’s not really great around girls. He takes his homework very seriously. When he likes something (jazz music) he is all in. Throughout the whole play he looks at Caroline like he’s trying to figure her out. Like he really needs to know who she is.

CAROLINE (17) She is in comfy clothing, she does not expect company, she is sick but mainly just looks a little weak and frumpy. She doesn’t go out. She is cynical, over it, does not let a stray “feeling” near the surface. White.

*Casting Note

The race of each character can be altered. The only essentiality is that the characters not be the same race.

Auditions will consist of prepared sides, and cold readings from the script.

A prepared excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself is most welcome, though not required.

To request a copy of the script, sides, or to schedule an audition contact Barry at: bcarman@bluebarn.org

ABOUT I and You:

One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline’s door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and an urgent assignment from their English teacher. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, they unlock a much deeper mystery that has brought them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.

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.

Shelterbelt & SNAP! Seeking New Home

SHELTERBELT THEATRE AND SNAP! PRODUCTIONS ANNOUNCE CLOSING OF CURRENT LOCATION IN AUGUST
Shelterbelt Theatre and SNAP! Productions are sad to announce that our home of 25 years (18 years for SNAP!) has sold. THE DAIRY MAID-RIGHT by Ellen Struve (July 13-August 5) will be the final production in the 3225 California St. location, ending our tenure in August.
Both theatres are actively looking at options for continuing performances, but no seasons have been announced at this time. The search for a dedicated theatre space to house both theatre companies will continue.
Both theatre companies are hoping a new location will include:
• *5000-10,000 total square feet – which includes a large open space with no poles (approx. 50’ x 30’)
• We’d like to accommodate a stage with flexible seating, a rehearsal space (approx. 25’ x 25’), a lobby/bar/gallery area with ADA restrooms, on-site storage area, a scenic shop, dressing rooms with restroom
• HVAC installed
• ADA compliant bathrooms and entrance
• 12-14’ ceilings
• *Off-street parking
*Square footage and parking are negotiable.
As entirely artist-driven entities, the theatres have survived through the passion and commitment of this community.  A vital part of the theatre ecology, Shelterbelt and SNAP! are often the first non-academic theatre experience for actors, directors, designers, writers and crew members. The opportunity to gain stage experience and develop skills is vital to the health of all Omaha theatres. Experienced, professional theatre artists continue to work at these theatres, as the intimacy of storefront theater inspires risk-taking, creative work.
If you have any leads on locations, please contact Roxanne Wach at executive@shelterbelt.org.