May 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Battling brain drain is the subject of much discussion in business circles, but the same challenge applies to the arts and their role in the vitality of any city.

Despite the fact that Omaha boasts an unusually vibrant cultural landscape, especially for a city our size, a metro area of less than 1,000,000 people can offer only so many opportunities for professionals to thrive. Too often the only solution to advancing career dreams in the arts is to pack one’s bags for brighter lights in Chicago, New York, and L.A.

Vincent and Sarah Carlson-Brown have mentally packed their bags many times as they eye invitations and opportunities to move to bigger stages in major metros. But they have always found good reasons to just as quickly unpack their things—and it’s not just because they skipped laundry day and were digging for clean socks and undies.

Nebraska Shakespeare, not to mention the entire community, have benefitted from the fact that the couple’s luggage is gathering dust in a closet.

Sarah is the non-profit’s director of education and Vincent is artistic director.

“We had talked about Chicago, maybe Minneapolis as a good move just so we could get more work,” says Vincent. “But we think it is meaningful to create art and do what we do right here in Omaha.”

The Shakespearean power couple met as students at the University of Nebraska–Omaha and before graduation had become founding members of the Blue Barn’s Witching Hour, the late-night company known for a special brand of boundary pushing devised theatre. At about the same time they began what became a long affiliation with the outfit whose flagship offering is the annual Shakespeare on the Green series.

“That’s not to say that this has been easy,” Sarah adds. “I’ve worked for Omaha Performing Arts in the ticketing office for nine years to supplement our income. We both still take acting and other jobs here and in other cities when schedules allow.”

Despite their “office” gigs with Nebraska Shakespeare, both yearn to be in the footlights at every opportunity.

Look for Sarah in the role of Miranda and Vincent as the villainous Antonio in Shakespeare on the Green’s The Tempest. Sarah will also be an ensemble member in The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which Vincent will direct. He’s also producing and acting as fight coordinator for both productions.

“A lot of our colleagues and friends took the path of moving on in order to find work.” Vincent says, “A few of them did, but more came back home. It’s important to us to make Omaha better in any way we can. You can’t make a city better by leaving it.”

Nebraska Shakespeare on the Green will present The Tempest June 19-21 and July 1, 3, and 6. The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) June 26-29 and July 2 and 5. Both performances are free and will take place in Elmwood Park. Visit nebraskashakespeare.com for additional information.

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