OCP Announces New Alternative Programming Season

Omaha, Neb.—The Omaha Community Playhouse is announcing its Alternative Programming series for the 2017-18 season. Alternative Programming includes a series of staged readings, special events and play development collaborations. All events are held at OCP.

The 2017-18 Alternative Programming schedule includes:


Book by Peter Stone, Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Based on a concept by Sherman Edwards
(1969 Tony Award winner for Best Musical)
July 17, 2017
Staged reading of a musical, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Ashley Laverty

It’s the summer of 1776 and the nation is ready to declare independence… if only our founding fathers can agree to do it! 1776 follows John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia as they attempt to convince the members of the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence from the shackles of the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence.

In an effort to provide more performance opportunities for women actors and to look at familiar works of theatre through a different lens, this staged reading will be fully cast with women playing all roles.

Book by Thomas Meehan & Mark O’Donnell
Music and Lyrics by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum
Based on the Universal Pictures film written and directed by John Waters
July 31, 2017
Staged reading of a musical, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Andrew Saladino

It’s 1954. Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism and Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore. He’s a bad boy with a good cause – truth, justice and the pursuit of rock and roll. Cry-Baby and the square rich girl, Allison, are star-crossed lovers at the center of this world. Based on the cult classic 1990 John Waters film, Cry-Baby features a delightfully demented book from the writers of Hairspray and a rockabilly score from the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne and the executive producer of “The Daily Show.”


Written by Tony Kushner
TWO DATES: August 7 and 28, 2017
Staged reading of a play, Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman

Part One: Millenium Approaches
In the first part of Tony Kushner’s epic story, set in 1980s New York City, a gay man is abandoned by his lover when he contracts the AIDS virus and a closeted Mormon lawyer’s marriage to his pill-popping wife stalls. Other characters include the infamous McCarthy-ite lawyer Roy Cohn, Ethel Rosenberg, a former drag queen who works as a nurse, and an angel.

Part Two: Perestroika
In the second part, the plague of AIDS worsens, relationships fall apart as new ones begin and unexpected friendships take form.
Contains adult content.

Written by John Ball, Adapted by Matt Pelfrey
September 18, 2017
Staged reading of a play, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Marie Amthor Schuett

It’s 1962. A hot August night lies heavy over the small town of Argo, Alabama. A dead white man is discovered and the local police arrest a black stranger named Virgil Tibbs. The police discover that their prime suspect is in fact a homicide detective from California. As it happens, Tibbs becomes the racially-tense community’s single hope in solving a brutal murder that is turning up no witnesses, no motives and no clues.
Contains adult content.

Written by Denise Chapman
October 30, 2017
Special Event, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Kevin Lawler

Come share in the experience of seeing a workshopped performance of a brand new script. This community-based play will focus on North Omaha in the 1970s and the effect of the North I-75 Freeway being built in and running through the heart of the community.

An official collaboration with the Great Plains Theatre Conference, From the Ground Up is a workshop that provides a safe and nurturing playground for artists to develop new work for the theatre. The playwright’s material will be shared with an audience while still in the developmental phase then will continue to be developed to be included in the next Great Plains Theatre Conference.

by Nassim Soleimanpour
THREE DATES: November 6, 2017; February 19, 2018 and May 14, 2018
Special event, Howard Drew Theatre

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit has been called a play. But it’s a lively, global sensation that no one is allowed to talk about. Its award-winning playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, is Iranian. His words have escaped censorship and are awaiting your audience. Slyly humorous and audaciously pointed, this ‘theater-entertainment-meets-social-experiment’ is unlike anything, and will make you question everything. This show is always performed by a single actor who has never read the script before and has no idea what it’s about. Come experience a truly unique piece of theatre, then come back to see it again with a different performer.

Written by Eve Ensler
February 17, 2018
Special Event, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Emma Rasmussen

Performed by an ensemble of young women, Emotional Creature is made up of original monologues—and irresistible songs—about and for girls. Placing their stories squarely center stage, it gives full expression to their secret voices and innermost thoughts, highlighting the diversity and commonality of the issues they face. Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, an act of empowerment for girls and an illumination for parents and for us all.
Contains adult content.

Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
March 26, 2018
Staged reading of a play, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Christopher Scott

Every estranged member of the Lafayette clan has descended upon the crumbling Arkansas homestead to settle the accounts of the newly-dead patriarch. As his three adult children sort through a lifetime of hoarded mementos and junk, they collide over clutter, debt and a contentious family history. But after a disturbing discovery surfaces among their father’s possessions, the reunion takes a turn for the explosive, unleashing a series of crackling surprises and confrontations.
Contains adult content.

April 23, 2018
Special Event, Hawks Mainstage Theatre

A completely original piece of theatre with a twist! Omaha is home to many talented playwrights, both well-established and up-and-coming. A group of local talent will be teaming up to write an original play—one piece at a time. Where the story goes… nobody knows! Come watch a staged reading of the final project to find out what the creative minds of Omaha can concoct.
Contains adult content.

Alternative Programming events are free and open to the public with an opportunity for donations. No tickets or reservations are necessary. Some events may be intended for mature audiences. For more information on Alternative Programming, contact Jeff Horger at jhorger@omahaplayhouse.com or (402) 553-4890, ext. 158.


‘Elephant’s Graveyard’ Next for OCP’s Alternative Programming Series

Omaha, Neb. – A staged reading of Elephant’s Graveyard will be held at the Omaha Community Playhouse as part of the Alternative Programming series Monday, February 27 at 7:30 p.m. in OCP’s Howard Drew Theatre. The showing is free and open to the public with the opportunity for donation. No tickets or reservations are necessary.

Elephant’s Graveyard is an award-winning play that tells the true story of a tragic collision between a struggling circus and a tiny town in Tennessee, which resulted in the only known lynching of an elephant. Set in September of 1916, the play combines historical fact and legend, exploring the deep-seated American craving for spectacle, violence and revenge.

Event:  Staged Reading of Elephant’s Graveyard

Credits:  Written by George Brent

Director:  Christina Rohling

Stage Manager:  Becky McMahon


The Circus

Mark Thornburg as The Ringmaster

Karlee Currin as The Trainer

Megan Ingram as The Ballet Girl

Joshua Mullady as The Tour Manager

Brian Rocha as The Strongman

Gordon Krentz as The Clown

Jeff Horger as The Drummer

The Town

Malik Fortner as The Hungry Townsperson

Nick Zadina as The Marshal

Phyllis Bonds as The Muddy Townsperson

Tom Steffes as The Preacher

Matthew Hansen as The Steam Shovel Operator

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as The Young Townsperson

Michael Campbell as The Guitarist

The Railroad

Kim Clark-Kaczmarek as The Engineer

Show date: Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, 7:30 p.m.



Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE) in the Howard Drew Theatre

Tickets:  The showing is free and open to the public with the opportunity for donation.  No tickets or reservations are necessary.

For more information on OCP alternative programs, contact Jeff Horger at jhorger@omahaplayhouse.com or (402) 553-4890, ext. 164.

‘Sonder’ is Coming Before the Boards

Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to announce their upcoming Before the Boards reading of Sonder by Beaufield Berry-Fisher, directed by Emma Rasmussen on Monday, February 6 at 7pm at the theatre, 3225 California St.  Tickets are $5, which includes a free beverage.  Reservations (recommended) may be made at the theatre’s website:  www.shelterbelt.org– click Box Office or e-mail boxoffice@shelterbelt.org.

The cast features:  Natalie Hanson, TAmmyRa’ Jackson, Charleen Willoughby, Jayma Smay, Natalie Weiss, and Beth Thompson.

When the manager of a small town Wal-Mart throws himself off a building, his remaining employees must cope with the loss and changes it brings, including an anxiety-ridden manager from corporate and the large tree that has erupted through concrete and taken root in aisle 7.  Sonder is a play about intersectionality, freedom, restraint, and all of the walls in place that keep us from reaching the American Dream.

Sonder was born from a need to explore the experience of other humans, the juxtaposition of greed and humanity, and the immediacy of empathy—without actually finding any answers to anything—all set in a value Superstore,” said Berry.

Beaufield Berry-Fisher is a playwright and novelist out of Omaha, NE.  Her work has been performed and read at theatres and festivals across the country, but her heart has remained in Omaha where she’s served her city as a member of the Black Democratic Caucus, Vice President of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, board member for North Omaha Summer Arts Program and Shelterbelt Theatre, co-founder of Firebelly Repertory Theater.  She’s a freelance journalist for American Theater magazine and her first novel, Childhood Friends, is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

As Omaha’s home for new plays, Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to give the audience a chance to be a part of the page to stage experience:  hear the reading of a new play, participate in a talkback with the playwright and give written feedback—all providing invaluable information to a playwright creating a new play.

A Season Most Short

I had once planned to call this year’s story series “A Season of Renewal”, but life had other ideas as it’s actually become my shortest season in history.

Picking up from our last tale, Lost Boy Found In Whole Foods continued its critical success into that year’s Playhouse Awards.  All of my actors were nominated for acting prizes which certainly made me proud with my first dip into the directing side of things.  We ended up taking home 4 prizes (Best Featured Actor, Best Supporting Actor & Actress, and Best Cameo by an Actress).

Success followed us to that year’s TAG Awards where Lara Marsh took home the Best Director prize in a three way tie.  I’ve laid claim to the left big toe of the statuette.

Broadway World Awards were next on the list where we ended up taking Best Actor, Director, Supporting Actress & Actor, and Best Set Design (Large Theatre).  I truly was blessed to have been involved with such an astounding production.

But for my own little endeavors as a performer, it was a long wait for my next audition.  In fact, my first audition for the season took place only a month ago.  It had been a year and a half since my last audition, the longest amount of time that had ever passed between attempts.

I auditioned for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at the Omaha Playhouse under the direction of Jeff Horger.  The film version is one of my favorite westerns and it’s a powerful story of a man standing on principle against the law of the gun.

For those of you familiar with the film, the play is quite a bit different than you may expect.  The play more closely resembles the short story with which the film took quite a few liberties.  Characters have different names.  Some characters in the film aren’t present in the play.  The language is a bit stronger.  Valance is considerably more intelligent.  The play is also quite a bit talkier.

My choices were pretty limited.  Originally I had been interested in the roles of Ransome Foster (played by Jimmy Stewart under the name Ransome Stoddard in the film) and Dutton Peabody, the newspaperman (played by Edmund O’Brien in the film).  There isn’t a Peabody character in the play so that went out.  That left me with either Foster or the Marshal.  Valance didn’t enter my mind as I don’t have the look of a stone cold killer.  Foster was even a long shot as most of the characters in the show were supposed to be in their mid twenties.  While I still look younger than I am in the face, my hairline and hair color more readily reveal the truth that I am about to turn 40 in a few months.

From the start, I felt there was something off about this read.  From a technical standpoint, I was pretty solid.  But the spark of my heart simply wasn’t there.  It just felt like I was going through the motions.  For the first time in years, I walked out of an audition without the glimmer of hope that I had a chance and that ended up being the case.  Given that most of the primary cast is in their mid twenties, I take some solace in the fact that even a top flight audition might not have netted me a role.

I actually had my last audition for the season earlier this week.  I received an invitation from Christina Belford-Rohling to audition for Elephant’s Graveyard, the next reader’s theatre production of the Playhouse’s Alternative Programming series.  The play is based on the true story of the lynching of a circus elephant.

I came to the audition and was pleased to see quite a few faces, many of them new to me.  I’ve noted that the reader’s theatre productions tend to bring out quite a few people since there is a lot more flexibility in the casting.

Aside from the brief synopsis, I knew nothing about the play so I was open to any character.  When I read the character, I felt a pull towards the Ringmaster, Clown, and Preacher.

Let me tell you something.  Monday’s audition was the best type of audition.  I read the monologue for the clown and the beats just fell into place.  I walked into the room and nailed the read.  The spark was there and I was truly enjoying myself.

When I finished, Christina said, “Truly excellent.  I want you to try something for me.”

Then she brought out a music stand and had me place the monologue on it.  She then asked me to actually mime juggling and do the last half of the monologue and really make her feel like I loved that elephant at the end.  I had actually envisioned the juggling when I originally read the monologue so this worked out well.

I started juggling and the physicality of it made my read a little more nonchalant.  And I switched up the juggling as I spoke, moving from two hands to one back to two, tossing it under my leg, and catching it behind my back.  I caught my imaginary balls and delivered the love line which could have been taken a smidge farther.

Christina said, “Really excellent.  I don’t think I need to see anymore if that’s all right with you.”  I had no problems with that and went home, content with a good read.

Let me tell you something.  Monday’s audition was the worst type of audition.  Despite an excellent read, I failed to make the cut.  But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the reward is always in the read.  If you read well, you won.  The casting really doesn’t matter.  It’s just the icing on the cake.

Until the next season.

OCP Holding Auditions for ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’ and ‘Superior Donuts’

The Omaha Community Playhouse will be holding auditions for their next Alternative Programming production as well as the season finale for the Howard Drew Theatre.

Elephant’s Graveyard

Audition Dates: Monday, January 9 at 7:00 PM and Tuesday, January 10 at 7:00 PM

Performance Date: Monday, February 27, 2017
Performs in: Howard Drew Theatre
Director: Christina Rohling

Synopsis: Elephant’s Graveyard is an award-winning play that tells the true story of a tragic collision between a struggling circus and a tiny town in Tennessee, which resulted in the only known lynching of an elephant. Set in September of 1916, the play combines historical fact and legend, exploring the deep-seated American craving for spectacle, violence and revenge. Contains mature content.

Character Descriptions: Elephant’s Graveyard is an ensemble piece with a cast of 12 people from their 20’s to 60’s plus one 10-16 year old youth to play various townsfolk and circus members.  All ethnicities are encouraged to audition.

What to Bring:

• You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and personal schedules handy in order to complete the form.

For additional questions, please contact Jeff Horger ext. 158.

Superior Donuts
Production Dates: May 5-June 4, 2017
Performs in: Howard Drew Theatre
Director: Susan Baer Collins

Synopsis: Superior Donuts, by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts (Bug, August: Osage County), takes place in the historic Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, where Arthur Przybyszewski runs the donut shop that has been in his family for 60 years. Franco Wicks, a young black man and Arthur’s only employee, wants to update the shop with healthy choices and music, but Arthur remains set in his ways and reminisces about his Polish immigrant father. This provocative comedy, set in the heart of one of Chicago’s most diverse communities, explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship.  Contains strong language and adult themes.

Audition Dates: Monday, February 20 at 7:00 PM and Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Audition Notes: The characters Max Tarasov and Kiril Ivakin will speak with Russian accents in the show, however, accents are optional at auditions.

Character Descriptions:
MAX TARASOV – Male, 49 yrs old, Russian

OFFICER RANDY OSTEEN – Female, 49 yrs old, Irish-American

OFFICER JAMES BAILEY – Male, 43 yrs old, African-American

LADY BOYLE – Female, 72 yrs old, Irish-American

ARTHUR PRZYBYSZEWSKI – Male, 59 yrs old, Polish-American

FRANCO WICKS – Male, 21 yrs old, African-American

LUTHER FLYNN – Male, 45 yrs old, Irish/Italian-American

KEVIN MAGEE – Male, 28 yrs old, Irish-American

KIRIL IVAKIN – Male, 35 yrs old, Russian

What to Bring:
• You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and personal schedules handy in order to complete the form.

To expedite the check in process – please bring a recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

The Stories Actors Tell

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a show?  What kinds of conversations do cast and crew have?  What is the nature of their relationships?  Ben Beck’s play, The Wings, presents some possible answers in a staged reading that took place at the Shelterbelt Theatre tonight.

Beck has written an exceptionally strong script and I’m very excited to see how much stronger it can become with another rewrite or two.  Beck’s theatrical background is certainly prevalent in the script as he well captures personalities one genuinely does find in theatre, but one need not be an actor to appreciate Beck’s scripts.  These personalities exist in all walks of life.

Beck also has written some very compelling stories.  The various vignettes will make you laugh and they will make you shed a tear or two.  My only recommendations for his script would be to reduce the specificity of some of his stage directions and experiment with some different combinations of his characters.  In particular, I think a scene between the Veteran and the Director could make for a wonderful tale.

The direction of Susie Baer-Collins is absolutely incredible.  Her sense of the play’s beats is right on the money and her staging went well beyond what I would have expected for reader’s theatre.  With the movement and scene changes, this was really a play where the actors just didn’t have to memorize their lines.  Ms Baer-Collins has also culled a number of great performances from a cast that was simply stacked with talent.

I could spend pages discussing the individual performances of this cast, but to save time, I will simply say there isn’t a weak link in this cast.  Jonathan Purcell generates some laughs as the Actor who needs to be led by the hand through each individual beat.  Leanne Hill Carlson gives multilayered performances within a multilayered performance as the self-absorbed Actress who is beginning to tire of her boyfriend.  Liz Kendall Weisser is extraordinarily tactful, but firm as the Stage Manager.  Megan Friend is sweet and a bit pitiable as the Understudy who is fairly new to the business.  Delaney Driscoll is an interesting blend of stuck-up and sensitive as the Leading Lady.

Greg Harries gives a standout performance which is made all the more impressive by the fact that he was just reading the stage directions.  Beck’s vivid directions gave Harries the chance to be a sort of omnipotent presence offering his own commentary on what is going on.  I also thoroughly enjoyed Harries’ movement choices, especially when he prevents the Boyfriend from starting a practice audition over from the start.  Should Beck keep his stage directions as they are, I would honestly recommend casting an actor to read them as I thought it added quite a bit to his play.

Steve Hartman’s performance as the Boyfriend was, hands down, the funniest of the night.  He’s a whiney sad sack who is envious of his girlfriend’s theatrical success.  He also happens to absolutely suck as a performer.  His practice audition as Richard from Henry VI, Part 3 is so ludicrously awful that it is a scene-chewing delight.

Jerry Longe steps away from comedy to provide a tragic, yet hopeful, performance as the Veteran.  Longe’s Veteran was a once talented actor whose love for the bottle has blasted a good career.  It is implied that his casting in the play’s unnamed show was a last chance to salvage a dying career and it is failing.  His alcoholism is wrecking his memory and ruining shows.  The tears Longe sheds after being dressed down by the Stage Manager make for the strongest moment in The Wings.  Yet there is hope for the Veteran.  While his career may be dwindling, he does have hope for friendship, possibly even love, as he bolsters the spirits of the Understudy in another pivotal scene.

Thomas Becker ties the play’s two ends together with a beautifully underplayed performance as the Director.  At the play’s start, he seems like a bit of a bully and possibly not that good of a director as he verbally roughs up the Actor and seems unable to give a cogent note.  His deliberate avoidance of the word “honesty” provides a wonderful framing device for the end of the show when he is finally being honest with himself for the first time in a while as we learn why he is a bit of a brute.

In the end, I think The Wings has nearly limitless potential as a full scale production.  It is a neat little slice of life production with heart, intelligence, and tragedy.  I would very much recommend that the Shelterbelt give this play a chance to reach its full potential in the very near future.

Shelterbelt to Hold Auditions & Staged Reading


Shelterbelt Theatre will hold auditions for the apocalyptic comedy, Revelation, by Samuel Brett Willams on July 12 and 13 at 7pm at the theatre, 3225 California Street. Roles are available for 1 man and 1 woman in their 20-30s and 1 man and 1 woman of any age who play multiple characters. Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. The show is directed by Beth Thompson and runs October 7-30. Rehearsals will begin around August 22. For more information: www.shelterbelt.org. To read the script or for questions: artistic@shelterbelt.org


Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to announce their upcoming Before the Boards reading of The Wings by Ben Beck, directed by Susan Baer Collins on Monday, July 18 at 7pm at the theatre, 3225 California St. Tickets are $5, which includes a free beverage. Reservations (recommended) may be made at the theatre’s website: http://www.shelterbelt.org – click Box Office or email boxoffice@shelterbelt.org.

The cast features: Thomas Becker, Jonathan Purcell, Leanne Hill Carlson, Steve Hartman, Liz Kendall Weisser, Jerry Longe, Megan Friend, Delaney Driscoll and Greg Harries.

The stage may be dark, but the stories are never over… The Wings takes the audience backstage to witness the lives and relationships that exist behind the curtain.

“I love how Ben’s play, The Wings, borrows its structure from Schnitzler’s classic play La Ronde, in which characters move from one two-person scene to the next until all the characters are revealed. He’s put a contemporary swing on this classic, circular structure for his examination of human relationships in the theatre,” said director Susan Baer Collins. “It feels like a piece of music to me: a combination of classical and jazz forms, sort of a “Theatre Fugue in Key Minor.” As a result, this reading hopes to honor Ben’s work, and illustrate this circular “musical chairs” game that one plays in the process of a theatrical life.”

Beck has been writing for the stage for several years. He received an Omaha Entertainment Award for Best Premiere of a New Original Script for his play, Crash! Boom! Pow!. He earned a Theatre Arts Guild Award for Best One Act for his play, Chekhov’s Gun, which was part of Shelterbelt’s Shelterskelter series. He has written for Witching Hour pro-ductions, the Stir series with First Christian Church, and the Douglas County Historical Society. Also a performer, Ben most recently appeared in Frost/Nixon at Blue Barn Theatre, Where Madness Lies for Walk the Night Productions, and I Hate Hamlet at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Collins, who also happens to be the playwright’s mother, continues, “Ben and I haven’t done a project together since he was 22, and we’re having a great time. Plus, I’m thrilled to work with this truly stellar group of actors who all said yes when we asked! What could be better than that?”

As Omaha’s home for new plays, Shelterbelt is pleased to give the audience a chance to be a part of the page to stage experience: hear the reading of a new play, participate in a talkback with the playwright and give written feedback – all providing invaluable information to a playwright creating a new play.

Shelterbelt Theatre is Omaha’s home for new plays.