Staged Reading of ‘DragOn’ is Next for OCP’s Alternative Programming Season

Omaha, NE–Omaha Community Playhouse is hosting a staged reading of Jessica Austgen’s DragOn on Monday, April 29, 2019 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.  Alternative Programming events are free and open to the public, however free-will donations of any amount are crucial to adventurous programming.  OCP is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Synopsis

In this unique comedy, a fledgling drag queen must go through the tests and trials of legendary cosplay divas to find her swagger.  An ode to both geek and drag cultures, this refreshingly original piece gives the audience a front row seat to what happens when you combine equal parts fantasy adventure, comic book convention, and drag show.

Directed By:  Joey Galda

Cast

Katie Miller as The Doctor

Sue Mouttet as Cat Lady/Space Princess

Michael Taylor-Stewart as The Gatekeeper

Matthew Tolliver as Weather Mutant

Juan Valdovinos as Bobbi

Christopher Violett as Mother of Drag

Travis Wilcox as Amazon Warrior

Amanda Vyhnlanek as Stage Directions reader

Will You be Part of the Book of Will?

The Omaha Community Playhouse is holding auditions for the upcoming staged reading of Book of Will on Sunday, Jan 20 and Monday, Jan 21 at 7pm at OCP.  The staged reading is part of OCP’s Alternative Programming Series.

Production:  Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson

Show Date:  February 25, 2019

Theatre:  Omaha Community Playhouse (Howard Drew Theatre)

Rehearsals:  To be determined once show is cast.

Description:  Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, but without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever!  After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the First Folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives.  They’ll just have to borrow, beg, and band together to get it done.

Director:  Marie Amthor Schuett

Auditions:  7pm on Jan 20 and 21 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

Those auditioning should enter through the west “Stage Door” entrance and proceed to the check-in table.

Roles:  Ed Knight, Isaac Jaggard, Elizabeth Condell, Emilia Bassano, Lanier, Fruit Seller, Marcellus, Alice, Susannah, Shakespeare, Ralph Crane, Barman, Compositor, Francisco, Henry Condell, Richard Burbage, William Jaggard, John Heminges, Rebecca Heminges, Anne Hathaway, Ben Jonson, Barman 2, Dering, Bernardo, Marcu, Boy Hamlet, Crier, Horatio

Notes:  Actors only need to attend of of the audition dates to be considered for a role.  Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script provided at auditions.  If special accommodations are needed, please contact OCP prior to auditions.

Please Bring:  All contact information, personal schedules, and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an audition form.  To expedite the check-in process, please bring physical copy of a headshot or recent photo of yourself.  Please note, photos will not be returned.

Contact:  For more information, contact Breanna Carodine, bcarodine@omahaplyahouse.com, at 402-553-4890, ext. 164.

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 TO HOLD AUDITIONS FOR REVELATION BY SAMUEL BRETT WILLIAMS

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 PRESENTS BEFORE THE BOARDS: THE WINGS BY BEN BECK

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.

Omaha Playhouse Announces 16-17 Alternative Programming Season

OCP Announces Alternative Programming for 2016-17 Season

Omaha, Neb.—The Omaha Community Playhouse is announcing its Alternative Programming series for the 2016-17 season. Alternative Programming includes a series of staged readings, special events and play development collaborations. All events are held at OCP. The 2016-17 Alternative Programming schedule includes:

African Culture Connection 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

July 8 and 9, 2016

Special event, Hawks Mainstage
The Omaha Community Playhouse is helping to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the African Culture Connection. Free dance and drumming workshops will be presented for both adults and children. Tickets may also be purchased for two performances of a dance concert celebrating the milestone event. This is a family-friendly presentation that will be presented Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. The mission of the African Culture Connection is to provide African culture and art experiences to the public to encourage an appreciation for the richness diversity brings to all. Appropriate for all Audiences

ALL BETS ARE ON
August 22, 2016
Staged reading, Hawks Mainstage
Written by Tony Moton

All Bets Are On
is a table read of an original screenplay by Tony Moton, a former columnist at the Omaha World-Herald. The screenplay won second place in the 2003 Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards. It tells the story of the relationship between a twelve-year-old Little League baseball player and his philandering grandfather, set during the summer of 1969 in Chicago. The reading will feature Omaha legend John Beasley and well-known television actor Patricia Belcher, as well as local performers. Contains mature content.

STUPID F@#KING BIRD
September 12, 2016
Staged reading, Drew Theatre
Written by Aaron Posner

A “sort of adaptation” of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov tells the story of an aspiring young director who rampages against the art created by his mother’s generation. A nubile young actress wrestles with an aging Hollywood star for the affections of a renowned novelist. And everyone discovers just how disappointing love, art, and growing up can be. This irreverent, contemporary and very funny remix will tickle, tantalize and incite you to consider how art, love and revolution fuel your own pursuit of happiness. Contains mature content.

STRANGER FROM PARADISE – From the Ground Up
October 17, 2016
Collaboration with the Great Plains Theatre Conference, Drew Theatre

Nebraska director Kevin Lawler previews his newly commissioned work for Opera Omaha, Stranger From Paradise, prior to its world premiere at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Spring 2017. Part of Opera Omaha’s new community co-production series, this opera is an exploration of the love, life and work of the prophetic artist William Blake and his wife and collaborator Catherine Blake. Lawler will provide some insight into this unique creative collaboration and the process of developing his first libretto for an opera. Featuring poetry readings along with pre-recorded musical excerpts, composed by Nebraska native Nevada Jones. An audience Q&A will follow this 45-minute program. 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. Appropriate for all Audiences.

BLOODY, BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
October 31, 2016
Staged reading, Drew Theatre
Book by Alex Timbers | Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson
is a musical which takes an exhilarating and raucous look at one of our nation’s founding fathers. The life of the seventh president of the United States is reviewed and reinvented with a punk rock score and a contemporary sensibility. Contains mature content.

WORKING
November 14, 2016
Staged reading, Drew Theatre
Adapted by Nino Faso & Stephen Schwartz with additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg  |  Songs by Craig Carnelia, James Taylor, Mary Rodgers, Micki Grant, Stephen Schwartz, Susan Birkenhead and Lin-Manuel Miranda  |  From the book by Studs Turkel

Working is a musical that paints a vivid portrait of the men and women that the world so often takes for granted – the working class. Featuring music by several musical theatre and popular music composers, this musical is an exploration of 26 people from all walks of life. Appropriate for all Audiences.

ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD
February 27, 2017
Staged reading, Drew Theatre
Written by George Brant

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.

CONSTELLATIONS
March 27, 2017
Staged reading, Drew Theatre
Written by Marie Amthor Schuett

This is an original play by award-winning Omaha playwright Marie Amthor Schuett. Two women are good friends and have been for a while. Is it possible that they might be more? How does one start that conversation? What part will their husbands play in it? Constellations is a drama about personal identity and following the heart. Contains mature 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.

Dramatic Duologue on November 9 is Next Offering for OCP’s Alternative Programming Series

A Steady Rain

Staged Reading | Howard Drew Theatre
Written by Keith Huff | Directed by Christina Rohling

Joey and Denny have been best friends since kindergarten. After working together for several years as police officers in Chicago, they are practically family. Joey helps out with Denny’s wife and kids. Denny keeps Joey away from the bottle. When a domestic disturbance call takes a turn for the worse, their friendship is put on the line as they start a harrowing journey into a dark ethical arena.

Contains mature content.

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE)

Date & Time:  Monday, November 9 at 7:30pm

The performance is free.

Cast

Nick Zadina – Denny
Aaron Sailors – Joey

“Love, Loss, and What I Wore” Auditions at Omaha Playhouse

Love, Loss and What I Wore
Hawks Mainstage

Omaha Community Playhouse – enter through stage door on west side of building

Auditions: Monday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m.

Production dates: Jan. 22-Feb. 14, 2016

Rehearsal dates: December-January 2016

Audition requirements: Cold readings from the script

Show summary: Love, Loss and What I Wore is an endearing and witty collection of stories shared by a cast of women. The fabric of their tales of life’s struggles and celebrations is woven with the common thread of the all-important outfits they wore for each occasion. This production, presented in a readers’ theatre fashion, involves the actresses on stools with music stands accompanied by outfit illustrations from the original book. Enjoy an evening of reliving poignant milestone memories and hilarious coming-of-age chronicles with this unique theatrical experience.

Contact info: Jeannine Robertson – jrobertson@omahaplayhouse.com, (402) 553-4890, ext. 164

Director: Amy Lane

A Season of Exploration, Part II: A Triumphant Return

The standing ovation.  The knowledge that we were able to move and enrich the audience with powerful storytelling.  The satisfaction of entertaining others.  What a triumphant night!

Last night was the staged reading of Civil War Voices at the Omaha Playhouse and it was a magical evening.  It was the type of night that reminds me just why I do this thing.  It also got my juices flowing again.  I suddenly want to start telling a lot more stories.  But that’s a road for the future.

Doing Civil War Voices was a very different experience.  After 20 years of acting, I am simply used to a longer, more detailed preparation experience.  Trying to find and mold a character in just 7 short rehearsals is quite a unique challenge.

Not only was Abraham Lincoln my first role in 2 ½ years, but it was also the smallest role I’ve had in nearly six years.  Not that I’m complaining.  It’s just that I had forgotten the very different difficulty of a smaller role.  With a larger role, if you’re not in the proper groove at first, you can use your dialogue to work yourself to where you need to be.  If you have a smaller role, you simply do not have that luxury.  You’ve got to hit the ground running and make your shots count.  For this show, that was more crucial than ever before because it would just be the one bite at the apple.

I think the late singer, Gene Pitney, described a great live performance the best when he said, “On a given night, when everything works.  When the lights are right.  When the sound is right.  When you’re up for the game and you’re feeling right.  Some of them are intangibles.  They’re either going to happen or they’re not going to happen.  But on the given night when they do happen, it’s just an amazing feeling.  You can feel the electricity going back and forth.  Fantastic.”  And last night was just such a night.

I had a feeling we were onto something special last night when we had to hold at the top of the show because so many people wanted to get in to watch.  Our director, Jeff Horger, had said these events normally draw about 100 people and I believe the Howard Drew holds around 250-300 people.  Additional chairs had to be brought in to create two more front rows plus seating around the sides of theatre because of the overflow.

The lower stakes of a staged reading allowed me to be in sync with an audience in a way I never had before.  I really can’t describe the feeling of feeding off the merriment of the audience during the more humorous segments of the show to the sensation of knowing you’ve got them in the palm of your hand during a particularly powerful moment.  But it’s splendid, awesome, and humbling all at the same time.

The work of the cast was just spot-on and I was very pleased with my own take on Honest Abe.  More importantly, I nailed one of the most difficult lines that I think I have ever had in all of my years of theatre.

A few paragraphs ago, I had mentioned the difficulty and importance of making your shots count in a smaller role.  I believe the most important line I had in the show occurred when Lincoln looks at the body of his dead son, Willie, and simply says, “My poor boy.  He was too good for this Earth.”  I knew what I wanted to do with the line.  But in working at home and at rehearsal, I never thought I got it just right.  But last night it came.

If I never understood the importance of listening in acting before last night, I certainly do now.  Last night, I heard the words of Elizabeth Keckley (beautifully played and sung by Camille Metoyer Moten) describing the terrible burden of grief and weariness on Lincoln’s shoulders from the pressures of the Civil War and the death of Willie as if I were hearing them for the first time.  I began falling into the proper emotional state and, remembering my lessons with Doug Blackburn, began dipping into my own wells of grief to empathize with Lincoln.  Real tears began flowing as I barely choked out the crucial line and I could feel the grip of emotion on the audience as well.  Such an amazing moment.

When the night was done, we received a standing ovation and I was truly sorry that we couldn’t do the reading a few more times.  I didn’t get to know this cast that well due to the compressed nature of preparation, but I liked them and it was a true community theatre cast from seasoned veterans to first timers and all levels in between.

My proudest moment occurred after the show when an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked, “Young man, are you playing Abe when they do this show in Lincoln?”  I replied that I was not and, with a disappointed look in his face said, “I really loved what you did with the character.”  One could not ask for a finer review than that one statement.  If I was able to convince one person, then I did my job.

Last night reminded me of all the glorious thrills that theatre provides.  It was a wonderful night and I look forward to doing it again and again and again and again. . .

Until we meet again.

“Civil War Voices” to Play on Sept 28 at Omaha Community Playhouse

Staged Reading | Howard Drew Theatre
Written by James R Harris | Music by Mark Hayes | Directed by Jeff Horger

Civil War Voices is a collection of compelling and passionate true stories of real individuals who lived through the Civil War, often using the actual words they left behind in diaries, letters and other writings. This is a creative presentation of the history of the Civil War with chilling stories of battle and death, injustices and hope for the future, all intertwined with songs of that time period. Appropriate for all audiences.

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE)

Date & Time:  Monday, September 28 at 7:30pm

The performance is free.

Cast

Lauren Anderson: Second Master, Confederate Woman
Chris Elston: Abraham Lincoln
Peggy A Holloway: Fire-Eater #1, St. Louis Woman
Stacy Hopkins: Narrator’s Father, Cook
Megan Ingram: Harriet Perry
Frank Insolera Jr.: Sgt. George Buck
Angela Jenson-Fey: Cornelia Harris
Emma Johnson: Governor Washburn, General Lee, Celebrant #2
Zach Kloppenborg: Theo Perry
Julie Livingston: Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Old Mistress, Confederate Medic
Emily Mokrycki: Mary Todd Lincoln
Camille Metoyer Moten: Elizabeth Keckley
Bridget Mueting: Stage Directions
Brian Priesman: Narrator/Joe Harris
Tony Schik: First Master, Union General, Confederate Officer
Ryann Woods: Keckley’s Mother, General Hunt, Celebrant #1
Mark Thornburg: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Ironically Titled “Slabs” Bursts with Life & Sensitivity

Funerals and memorial services are funny things because they are not for the dead.  They are for the living.  It gives people a chance to say good-bye (or good riddance depending on the relationship), to share stories and memories, and to make peace.  These ideas drive Slabs, an original play written by local actress, Kaitlyn McClincy, and presented as a staged reading on Monday and Tuesday at the Shelterbelt Theatre.

Ms McClincy’s script shows a remarkable amount of promise.  It is a well told story (even the stage directions are a nice bit of prose), is well paced, features some strongly developed characters, and has a brilliant twist in the plot.  Throw in some powerful direction and a cast of talented storytellers and you have all the necessary elements for a fine night of theatre.

Noah Diaz, a relative newcomer to directing, has an instinct for direction that seasoned veterans would envy .  He coached some marvelous performances from his cast, set a nice, steady pace, and displayed an intimate understanding of the beats of the script.

Brent Spencer gave a haunting performance as Walter Clarke, the mortician of his small town.  Walter takes his work very seriously.  He is a stickler for rules and procedures, but he also has a great respect for the dead.  Spencer does excellent work in communicating both the firmness and the sensitivity of Walter.  At one moment, Walter will come down on his subordinates for not following protocol, but in the next he will show tender loving care towards the dead by insisting on replacing a beat up suit with a nice one, demanding that the dead be referred to by their names instead of slabs (the medical school nickname for cadavers), or comforting grieving family members of the departed.

Spencer also gives a nice little bit of social awkwardness to Walter.  He is clearly more comfortable around the dead than the living and often makes weak jokes and puns on death.  Walter is also a workaholic who doesn’t have enough time to spend with his family.  This becomes most apparent in the show’s final monologue as Walter grieves over a corpse that has personal significance to him.  Spencer handles the scene beautifully and several members of the audience shed tears during his speech.

Cathy Hirsch and Jonathan Purcell shine as Nancy Dawson, the funeral home’s office manager, and Henry Rollins, Walter’s apprentice.  Ms Hirsch and Mr. Purcell had a spot on chemistry with each other that was essential for the attraction between the two characters.  The two performers had some of the best scenes of the night with their humorous and witty banter.

As Nancy, Ms Hirsch is the more animated and snarky of the two.  Whether she was lamenting a date that was not to be, telling Henry she had a crush on him to see if he was actively listening, or setting a basketball behind the driver’s seat of the hearse to make Henry think a severed head was rolling around, Ms Hirsch made Nancy the life’s blood of the funeral home with her love of living and her sense of humor.

As Henry, Purcell was the yang to Hirsch’s yin.  Henry was a bit more aloof than Nancy and somewhat misanthropic.  He dropped out of med school due to his dislike of dealing with patients.  Instead, Henry entered mortuary sciences due to its formulaic nature and lack of contact with living people.  But Henry also has a wry, even dark, sense of humor evidenced by a practical joke where Henry made Nancy think a corpse had returned to life. Purcell’s knack for comedy served him well as he ably handled the funny dialogue as well as demonstrated his difficulty in dealing with the living when he has an argument with a rude client (played by Ben Thorp).

Matthew Pyle’s turn as Hank Cartwright is tragic and heavy.  The play opens with the death of his son and Hank embodies the sadder side of death.  Pyle’s Hank is so stricken with grief that he is almost numb.  He’s angry at his son for not being a safer driver, angry at the drunk driver who killed his boy, angry at his son’s girlfriend for asking for a ride home that night, and probably angry at himself for not being the husband his wife needs at this sad time.  Hank doesn’t say much, but Pyle is able to say plenty in the silence with skillful reactions and revealing expressions.

Judy Radcliff has a memorable part as Mrs. Withem, who embodies the happier side of death.  Her husband has recently passed and while she is sad, she chooses to remember the good times.  Ms Radcliff’s Mrs. Withem is a talkative sort who is also prone to making bad jokes about death.  Her charm is infectious and talking about the death of her husband and the little things they did to make each other happy is crucial to helping Pyle’s Hank begin to work through his own crushing grief.

Other strong performances came from Connie Lee who played Emily Cartwright, the grieving wife of Hank, Jim McKain, as a pastor with his own doubts, and Lauren Krupski who did an admirable job with the prosey stage directions.  The only flaw, such as it was, in the performances was that some of the actors needed to speak louder and project more.

Although Ms McClincy has written a very solid script, I did see some room for edits.  An extended joke about a clogged toilet seemed unnecessary for the story and an arc focusing on an ungrateful son needed some more development and a more satisfying conclusion.  With that being said, the script does have an immense amount of potential and I would encourage the Shelterbelt to make this a full scale production in the near future, especially with the caliber of direction and acting displayed in the staged reading.