An Open Letter to Omaha

An Open Letter to Omaha

by Daena Schweiger

First, thank you for taking the time to read this. I debated long and hard before doing this. It may not help. It may, in the end, not be a good thing. But it comes from the heart. If I didn’t feel as I did, I would keep my thoughts to myself. And these are MY THOUGHTS. Mine alone. Want to be clear about that.

Okay. Let’s get real.

The reality is SNAP! Productions and The Shelterbelt Theatre need your help if we are to find a home in 2020. If we don’t find a home in 2020, that’s it. No more. We will have given it our best shot for two years. The longer we stay away the harder it is to come back. We had a shot at a space a year ago. A legit shot. And we lost it. Not because of anything we did or did not do. We lost it because the landlord walked away at the 11th hour. Literally.

We have searched high and low for a space that meets updated code requirements that a 25 year grandfathered status no longer affords us. Finding a space that had things that we ABSOLUTELY NEED – ADA bathrooms, HVAC system – at a rent price that was at a level we could afford is a daunting task.

We looked at gutted spaces but other building codes kept us at bay, not to mention a hefty price tag to add those absolute needs that our former space didn’t have, and didn’t require. 2019 was as depressing as 2018 when it came to finding what we needed.

Okay. Let’s get more real. *SPOILER ALERT *

We have a space. Some of you out there know about this. Despite the fact that the boards were sworn to secrecy. So, it’s not truly a spoiler. We have a space. Well, technically it’s not OURS. YET. But we have one. All we need to do is sign a Letter of Intent. It has everything we need – ADA bathrooms, HVAC systems, a PARKING LOT… everything you could want in a theatre… except… well, a theatre space in the space.

And therein lies the rub.

Renovations.

We need to renovate the space to make it a theatre. It’s move in ready. Except we need to make a theatre. And a rehearsal space. And a green-room. And the cost to do those renovations are a lot. How much? High five-figure to low six-figure depending on what we determine are high / low needs vs wants. It’s the difference between a wall separating a rehearsal space and curtains, light trees vs a light grid, wooden platforms or flex seating.

Those numbers are for a move-in ready space that will provide our patrons with a serviceable theatre space with upgraded amenities.

SIGN. THE. LEASE. You say. We do too. But the funding…

Both theatres have skin in the game. But, we need some assurances from our community that you will help with the rest. Yep, we’re working out the details for a capital campaign. We’re doing this the right way.

But, we survived for 25 years through grants, ticket sales and donations. Fundraising will take time for us. And time is something we don’t have.

We can’t sign a letter of intent unless we know how much we can put into renovations. We can’t announce the location because we don’t have a signed letter of intent. We can’t fundraise until we announce a location and sign a Letter of Intent.

You see a pattern here? A chicken-egg scenario.

So, there it is. That’s the scenario both theatres are dealing with as I type this.

Many of you have spoken to members of both theatres lamenting the loss in the community. We feel it too. 8 productions lost. No place for actors, playwrights, directors, designers to cut their teeth. No place to produce new works or produce works that mirror the changing climate in our communities.

We need sustained financial support from you to make this a reality in 2020.

We lost a space a year ago. Please help us to keep from losing what may well be our last shot.

How Can You Help?

RENT SPONSORS

Make a 5 year commitment to become a rent sponsor for one of the theatres. 5 years at whatever level you can contribute. Our suggestion is between $500 – $2,000 each year for 5 years. Why a rent sponsor? A Rent sponsor allows us to build our audience without worrying about paying the rent and build a rent account to draw from year 6 on so that we’re always working ahead of the game.

“GET US OFF THE GROUND” DONATIONS

Help us get to the point where we can effectively run a capital campaign. 20 people making a donation pledge of $5,000 or more would help us secure the renovations we need to sign the letter of intent and move us into the space so we may begin producing again. 40 people making a $2,000 pledge or more would help us secure the renovations we need. 60 people… well, you get the idea.

MATCHING GIFTS

If you belong to a company willing to provide us with a matching gift, please have them contact me.

That’s it. That’s the pitch.

I am passionate (to a fault) about these two spaces. I have been on both boards, cut my teeth doing productions at both theatres, and am feeling all the feels now that they are gone. I felt like I needed to address the elephant in the room after two years.

I have no development background. Don’t claim to. I don’t believe this will hurt our chances. I’m gambling it will help. If nothing else, at least you’ll understand that we’ve actually been trying to do SOMETHING to keep it going.

If you can help, please send me an email at daena.schweiger@gmail.com.

Let me reiterate – while I once served as a board member for Shelterbelt, and am at present a board member for SNAP! Productions, I am not speaking as a board member. I am speaking as a playwright, an actor, a stage director, a lighting designer, and a box office volunteer. These theatres lasted for 25 years before losing their space through no fault of their own. We need these two theatres to survive. And we need your help, and the help of others you may know, to help get us up and running so we can move forward for the next 25 years.

Thank you.

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.

Shelterbelt Boldly Goes Where No Man has Gone Before

SHELTERBELT THEATRE PRESENTS THREE TO BEAM UP BY DON X. NGUYEN,
Dates:  APRIL 20-MAY 13, 2018
Somewhere in the Gamma Quadrant, a distress signal calls…
Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to present Three to Beam Up by Don X. Nguyen at 3225 California Street, April 20-May 13, 2018.  The play is directed by Roxanne Wach.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm except for one matinee performance at 2pm on May 13.  Tickets are $12 for Thursday performances and $20 Thurs-Sun.  Ticket prices for students, seniors (65+), and TAG members are $15.  Tickets are on sale at www.shelterbelt.org (click box office) or boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402-341-2757.  The April 21 performance includes a post-show talkback with the playwright, director, and cast.
Sam Wisher returns home to Riverside, IA at the urgent request of his sister.  There, he discovers Jules and their father, John, have built a holodeck and John has locked himself inside for 2 weeks.  Jules and Sam must rescue their father before they lose him forever.  Three to Beam Up is the story of a man who believes he is the Captain of a Federation Starship and the children that fight to keep his feet firmly planted on Earth.
Don’t miss the world premiere of this play by former Omahan, Don X. Nguyen.  Originally performed as part of the 1999 Shelterbelt season, Nguyen has completely rewritten the original play as part of the Shelterbelt’s 25th season.  “I wrote this play about sixteen years ago when I was running the Shelterbelt Theatre.  I came up with this crazy idea of a father who thinks he’s a captain of a starship and started to explore that further and it quickly turned into a play about my family and the fact that, growing up, my parents worked all the time.  I’d hardly see them and that kind of pushed me to interrogate this notion of absent parents and the children who are left behind.”
“I remembered the original production and suggested it to our reading committee.  I thought it would be fun to bring it back, but give Don a chance to revisit it.  It’s been exciting exploring this new script and seeing how Don’s work has evolved.  The play has such a great mix of family drama, comedy, and Star Trek,” said Roxanne Wach, director.
“The script didn’t really age well,” continued Nguyen.  “It’s the very first full length play I’d ever written so there were a ton of rookie mistakes.  I knew it wouldn’t work in its current form.  This upcoming production at the Belt gave me a chance to do a page one rewrite of the script and really delve into the emotional connections of my characters.  One priority for me was to strengthen all my female characters and I’m really happy with where they ended up in this new version.”
The Shelterbelt production comes on the heels of the world premiere of Nguyen’s play, Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, performed Off-Broadway at The Playwrights Realm in New York City.
“It’s very exciting to be able to come back to Omaha and, particularly, the Shelterbelt.  I haven’t stepped foot inside the theatre since I moved to New York City twelve and a half years ago,” said Nguyen.
The cast features Pam Chase, Nathan Dunham, Kevin Goshorn, John Haverkamp, Matt Karasek, Willa Rauch, Meganne Horrocks Storm, AJ Stoscher, and Brennan Thomas.  Mary Beth Slater stage manages with set design by Ben Adams, costume design by Erienne Wredt, lighting design by Laura Arias, sound design and original music by Shannon Smay, assistant lighting designer is Taelore Stearns, and props/set dressing by Roxanne and Dan Wach.
In the gallery:  Carl Dumicich, mixed media
Shelterbelt Theatre is Omaha’s home for new plays.  Three to Beam Up is part of Shelterbelt’s 25th season, Original Lives Here, featuring scripts celebrating our local playwrights, past and present.  Shelterbelt Theatre is a 2015 and 2016 recipient of the international 50/50 Applause Award by the International Centre for Women Playwrights which honors theatres that produce a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights. (www.womenplaywrights.org)

Shelterbelt’s Before the Boards Presents ‘Lost Bicycle Support Group’

Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to present a Before the Boards reading series performance of Lost Bicycle Support Group by Colleen Kilcoyne, directed by Emma Rasmussen.  The reading will be Monday, February 5 at 7pm at the theatre’s location at 3225 California St.  Tickets are $5 which includes a free beverage.  Reservations are highly recommended as the reading series productions usually sell out and they can be made at www.shelterbelt.org (click Box Office) or e-mail boxoffice@shelterbelt.org.

The cast features:  Leah Cardenas, Raydell Cordell III, Mallory Freilich, Matt Karasek, Ashley Lavert, Moira Mangiameli, Regina Palmer, and Nick Zadina.

In Lost Bicycle Support Group, a sexual assault survivor moves forward with bicycles, bugs, and extended metaphors.

‘Across Rhodes’ to Have World Premiere at Shelterbelt Theatre

Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to present Across Rhodes by Amy Elizabeth Schweid.  The show will run at the theatre’s location at 3225 California St from January 26-February 18, 2018.  The play with song is directed by Elizabeth Thompson with music direction by Jamison Figueroa.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm (Feb 18 performance will be a 2pm matinee).  Ticket prices are $12 for Thurs and $20 for Fri-Sun ($15 for students, seniors (65+), and TAG members).  Tickets are on sale at www.shelterbelt.org (click Box Office) or boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402-341-2757.  The January 27 performance includes a post-show talkback with playwright, director, and cast.

Don’t miss the world premiere of this play with music!  In a small, lonely town sits Rhodes Bar, the only place with live music for miles.  Joss, a grave, young musician trailed by the phantom of her past, winds up at Rhodes and gets entranced and inspired again by Sarah, a hauntingly beautiful girl who can no longer share her music.  A story of life, death, and the fear of sharing who you are with the world.

“This piece all started with a song–“Keep Your Head Down”.  It was the first song I had written in a very long time that felt unique. . .different. . .it felt like my voice was coming through,” said playwright/songwriter, Amy Schweid.

“Amy has written characters that feel like home.  People who are scared, insecure, protective, creative, curious, jealous, fierce, but most of all searching.  Searching for who they are and what they contribute to this crazy game of life (or death).” said Elizabeth Thompson, Shelterbelt Artistic Director and director of the production.

“I didn’t realize just how personal this piece was until very recently.  I think I got so close to the details that I hadn’t stepped out to look at the big picture.  But this process has reconnected me with the overlying messages,” said Schweid.  “I believe it’s important to look at everything we create and everything we experience as a message to ourselves.”

Thompson continues, “The growth this book has had over the past few years is a testament to the kind of collaborative artist Amy truly is.  She knows what she wants, but is open to input and has incorporated much of that input into what you will see on stage.  After auditions, we even changed the gender of one of the characters and the dynamics of the relationships in the play.”

The cast features:  Craig Bond, Thomas Gjere, Meganne Horrocks Storm, Katie Miller, and Jayma Smay.  Set design by Ben Adams.  Lighting Design by Joshua Mullady.  Sound Design by Shannon Smay.  Costumes and Prop coordination by Beth Thompson and Amy Schweid.

In the gallery:  Kati Stanzi–acrylics

 

It’s Alive!!!!!!

Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to present Resurrection:  The Best of ShelterSkelter at 3225 California Street, October 6-29, 2017.  The show is directed by Kaitlyn McClincy, Jayma Smay, and Elizabeth Thompson.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 9pm and Sunday at 6pm (except for Oct 29 at 2pm).  Tickets are $12 for Thursday shows and $20 Fri-Sun ($15 for students, seniors (65+), and TAG members).  Tickets are on sale at www.shelterbelt.org (click box office) or boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402-341-2757.

Our audience asked for it and Shelterbelt brought ShelterSkelter back to life–the eerie, the funny, the dark and spooky!  We opened the Skelter crypt and dug up some of our favorite blasts from the past, featuring some of your favorite playwrights.  Come in costume!  We’ll post pix on our Facebook page and each week’s winner (most likes) will advance to the finals.  Top finalist wins 2 Shelterbelt season tickets!  Whatever you do, don’t miss this limited edition Skelter in honor of our 25th Anniversary season.  We don’t know when it’ll appear again in this dimension!

ShelterSkelter, Shelterbelt’s celebration of all things Halloween, began in 1996 and continued for 18 seasons before going on hiatus.  Each year, scripts were sent from near and far, and a lengthy process began.  “In 2014, we took a break from Shelterskelter to focus more on our local playwrights and full-length plays,” said Executive Director, Roxanne Wach.  “As a part of our 25th anniversary season, we’ve resurrected ShelterSkelter.”

This incarnation of ShelterSkelter includes some of the best plays from past seasons, featuring work by Rob Baker, Joe Basque, Ben Beck, Molly Campbell, Julia Hinson, Jeremy Johnson, Daena Schweiger, Scott Working, and Aaron Zavitz.

The cast features Craig Bond, Katy Boone, Kevin Goshorn, Eric Grant-Leanna, Whitney Hansen, Meganne Horrocks Storm, Matt Karasek, Debbie Krambeck, and Sarah Smeltzer.  Stage Manager is Taylor Vann.  Assistant Stage Manager/Board Operator is Lisa Marie Hathaway.  Lighting design is by Joshua Mullady, with sound design by Shannon Smay, and costumes by Bridget Mueting.

Jeffrey Ballard, collage prints, and Jonathan Wilhoft, skeletal photography, are the featured artists in the gallery.

Shelterbelt Theatre is Omaha’s home for new plays.  This frightful evening opens Shelterbelt’s 25th Season, Original Lives Here, featuring scripts celebrating our local playwrights past and present.  Shelterbelt Theatre is a 2015 and 2016 recipient of the international 50/50 Applause Award by the International Centre for Women Playwrights, which honors theatres that produce a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights. (www.womenplaywrights.org)

Shelterbelt to Premiere ‘Neighbors, Lovers and All the Others’

Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to present the premiere of Neighbors, Lovers and All the Others by Marie Amthor Schuett at 3225 California Street from July 14 to August 6, 2017.  The show is directed by Elizabeth Thompson.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm (except for August 6 which will be at 2pm).  Ticket prices are $12 for Thursday shows, $20 for Fri-Sun shows ($15 for students, seniors 65+, TAG members).  Tickets are on sale at www.shelterbelt.org (click box office) or boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402-341-2757.  On Saturday, July 15, the theatre will host a post-show talkback with playwright, Marie Amthor Schuett, and other members of the cast and creative team.

Loyal lives a life of blue kimonos, Judy Garland, and Pavarotti.  Facing a serious bout of composer’s block, he finds inspiration in an unlikely source–his handsome neighbor–who seriously needs curtains.  When lives intertwine, Loyal finds there is more to his neighbor than the window into his world originally revealed.

The cast features Randall T. Stevens, Connie Lee, Katie Nguyen, and Brandon Williams.  Creative staff includes Jayma Smay (Stage Manager), Kevin Goshorn (Assistant Director), Joshua Mullady (Set & Lighting Design), Lora Kaup (Costume Design), Shannon Smay (Sound Design), and Robyn Helwig (Props).

“This play was inspired by the music of the brilliant singer/songwriter, Rufus Wainwright, my lifelong crush on Judy Garland, the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams, and a summer I spent in the Rocky Mountains a few years ago.  It was the epitome of the Gatsbian–self-indulgent, luxurious, and free.  I wanted to capture the essence of that summer and experience in a play,” Schuett explained.

She continues, “Neighbors is a very different piece for me.  I posed this play as a personal challenge to myself once I realized it had the potential to be different from my other work.  What would happen if I altered the play’s physics of time and space to tell the story in a different way?”

“Who doesn’t want a few hours of jazz, opera, romance, drama, lots of laughs, and spritzers on a warm summer’s evening?” adds Thompson.  “I am excited for people to se Marie’s versatility in this piece.”

Shelterbelt produced Amthor Schuett’s award-winning play, The Other Sewing Circle, in January 2015 to sold out houses.  “For fans of Marie’s work, get ready to see a sexier side of her storytelling.  One of Marie’s many talents as a playwright is her ability to establish believable, and juicy, relationships between her characters rather quickly so as an audience we are able to comfortably go on this ride from the start,” Thompson continues.

Thompson, who is also Shelterbelt’s Artistic Director, helped choose the script for production.  “It has to begin with the story; is it something that we want to see?  What does this story have to say or contribute that feels fresh and different?  Do I like or relate to the characters?  Neighbors held all of this for me and as we have begun working on it so many other little gems have popped out and been fleshed out by the design and acting team.”

Schuett agrees, “Randall, Connie, Brandon, and Katie are a fearless bunch who bring everything they have to the table every rehearsal.  It’s hard not to fall completely in love with them as these characters.”

Jaim Hackbart is the featured artist in the gallery.

Shelterbelt Theatre is Omaha’s home for new plays.  The play concludes Shelterbelt’s 24th season, By Local/Buy Local, featuring scripts celebrating our local playwrights.  Shelterbelt Theatre is a 2015 and 2016 recipient of the International 50/50 Applause Award by the International Centre For Women Playwrights, which honors theatres that produce a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights.  (www.womenplaywrights.org)