Tag Archives: Broadway

From Omaha to Broadway

October 21, 2018 by
Photography by Sally Montana

It might be an unlikely topic for an award-winning Broadway musical, but Come From Away tells the story of a tiny town in Newfoundland that welcomed thousands of stranded airline passengers on September 11, 2001. 

“It’s pretty special. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire career,” says Q. Smith, an Omaha native who is currently starring in the production—in her adopted home of New York City, at a theater located only a few miles from where terrorists crashed passenger planes into the twin towers of the former World Trade Center.

“You know, it’s rare to do a show [about an event] you lived through,” says Smith, who was living in Queens on 9/11. She was heading to a callback audition when her roommate stopped her from getting on the subway. Seventeen years later, she’s on Broadway telling a different story from that day about Hannah, another woman who lives in Queens.

Q. Smith at home in New York City

In 2001, Smith, whose given name is Quiana, had already traveled a long way from the days of performing with her family at Salem Baptist Church in Omaha. She discovered musical theater when two other African-American girls—a detail she says is important—at Omaha North High School introduced her to show tunes. 

“Hey, what kind of music is this?” she remembers asking. 

The girls gave cassette tapes of Broadway soundtracks to Smith, and she discovered Les Misérables. She says her family got tired of hearing her sing “I Dreamed a Dream” over and over again. 

“I found out [Les Misérables] was coming on tour to Omaha, and I freaked out,” Smith says. “I remember thinking, ‘This is the best day of my life!’” 

It was the first Broadway show she experienced at the Orpheum. After seeing it, she was hooked on musical theater.

“I don’t remember the show. I just remember the feeling,” Smith says. 

In 2006 she was cast as a “swing,” an understudy who covers several roles, in a revival of Les Misérables. The first Broadway touring show she saw became her first Broadway role as a performer.

The road to that milestone wasn’t a direct or easy journey, but she was persistent and eager to learn. 

“I have strong faith, and everything happens for a reason,” Smith says, reflecting on her path to success. 

The summer before her senior year of high school, Smith was angling to get a car. Her parents insisted she work for it. Pat Metoyer, the owner of Simple Simon’s Preschool and Daycare, knew her from church and asked if Smith would be interested in teaching drama to the pre-K students at the daycare. Smith says she didn’t exactly feel qualified for the job, but she also really wanted that car. 

Teaching the children dance, drama, poetry, and sign language proved to be an empowering experience for her and for her students. It’s also where she got her stage name. The 4- and 5-year-olds couldn’t pronounce “Quiana.” They shortened her name to “Miss Q.,” and it stuck. 

The daycare serves children from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, but seeing growth in some of the underprivileged students was life-changing for Smith. 

“Let me do anything I can to save them with this power of art,” Smith thought to herself following an encounter with a grateful mother.

It was the genesis of another aspect of her career: teaching and art therapy. Nowadays, Smith not only teaches master classes and workshops for theater students, she also conducts programs in comprehensive and restorative art therapy. Inspired by her late brother, who struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, Smith dreams of providing an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system—one that engages and heals troubled youth through the power of the arts.

Following high school, Smith continued her education in the theater department at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and participated in the local theater scene. Originally, she auditioned for some of the most selective theater programs around the country, but says she wasn’t experienced enough to compete with teens who were already seasoned performers. 

“UNO actually has a great theater program,” Smith says. “I was introduced to Professor Doug Paterson, one of my favorite professors. He was always about social justice and social justice theater.” 

She says that UNO made her world a little bigger and furthered her ambition to make the world a better place, but she still wanted more specific training. Smith auditioned again for some of the country’s most prestigious theater programs. Ultimately, Ithaca College in Upstate New York was the only theater school to offer her a spot.

“It was perfect for me. For my personality and my learning,” Smith says, noting that she and another young woman were the first black female students to graduate from the college’s musical theater program. A few years later, Smith broke another casting barrier.

Following roles in regional theater, national tours, and that dream job in Les Miz, Smith became the first African-American actress cast as a lead character in Mary Poppins. She says the supporting role of the antagonist, Miss Andrew, is now regularly played by curvy women of color with natural hair. 

These days Broadway audiences can see her in Come From Away playing Hannah, a character based on an older Irish woman who lives in Queens. Smith plays the character as a black woman, but she says she was able to spend time with the real-life Hannah, who has seen the show and given it her seal of approval. Playing a living person comes with a level of responsibility that doesn’t exist with a fictional character. 

“It’s lovely. I love it. It’s really been a great challenge,” Smith says. “Something that you lived through, that you went through…it’s something else because you have to bring a full heart and mind to it instead of your jazz hands.”

Smith was performing in Arkansas when she received a call to audition for Come From Away. The musical was opening at the La Jolla Playhouse in California, often a first stop before shows head to Broadway. It took two years of regional performances, gaps in work, and lean contracts before that Broadway production finally happened. 

“This has been the best year of my life,” says Smith, who also got married this summer. “I wake up in the morning and I’m just so grateful.” 

Gratitude and humility are evident when Smith speaks about the opportunities she’s had, particularly when she reflects on the impact of her current production.

“To remember that there were these people in Newfoundland who took in complete strangers,” Smith says as she explains the significance of the story of the small Canadian town of Gander that welcomed 7,000 stranded airline passengers. “To be able to tell this story at this time means a lot to people.” 


Visit comefromaway.com for more information about the Broadway musical featuring Q. Smith. A touring production of Come From Away will play in Omaha at the Orpheum Theater on March 27-31, 2019.

Visit omahaperformingarts.org for more information about the Omaha performance. 

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

2017 May/June

May 1, 2017 by and

Passion & Obsession: From the Collection: Through May 6 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. This exhibit celebrates both the passion of the artist to create and the obsession of the connoisseurs who collect. Admission: free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art: Through May 7 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. See how American hunting and fishing culture has intersected with art. Tickets: $10 adults. Free for youth (17 and under), college students with ID, and Joslyn members. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Nature Connects: Art with Lego Bricks: Through May 15 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Inspired by nature and built from more than 450,000 Lego pieces, this indoor exhibit features 13 displays with larger-than-life sculptures. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for members and children under 6 years old. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

History of Latinos in Omaha: 1890 through Present: Through Aug. 31 at El Museo Latino, 4701 S. 25th St. Discover the history of Omaha’s Latino community, highlighted in this photography exhibit. Admission: $5 adults, $4 for college students with ID, $3.50 students (K-12) and seniors (55+), free for children under 5 with adult admission. 402-731-1137.
elmuseolatino.org

Jennifer Bockelman / Charley Friedman Exhibition: May 5-June 23 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. Bockelman (of Seward, Nebraska) produces art that includes stitched works, drawings, impotent political gestures, and performances. Friedman (of Lincoln, Nebraska) produces work ranging from installations and sculptures to photography and drawings. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Omaha Police: Answering the Call Since 1857: May 13-Sept. 24 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. The Durham’s newest community partnership tells the story of Omaha’s police force in artifacts and photos. On May 13, enjoy free museum admission and a special event, “Hanging with Heroes” (10 a.m.-1 p.m.), featuring uniformed officers, vehicles, and mounted patrol on site. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Joslyn’s “The Portrait of Dirck van Os”

European Galleries Reopening: May 20 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. The five European galleries have undergone a three-month construction period. Updates include new paint, lighting, updated labels, and interpretive materials—such as three interactive iPad stations. Admission: free. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

The Durham’s “License to Spy”

Top Secret License to Spy: May 20-Sept. 17 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Families and children are encouraged to collaborate by piecing together clues throughout more than 20 displays. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Dinosaur Safari

Dinosaur Safari Exhibit: May 27-Sept. 3 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. Families can explore natural history through hands-on activities with authentic fossils and live reptiles, as well as life-like animatronic dinosaurs. Admission: $12 adults and children (3+), $11 seniors (60+), free for members and children age 2 and under. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org

David Brooks: Continuous Service Altered Daily: June 1-Aug. 26 at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th St. Brooks presents every single part of a used 1976 John Deere 3300 combine harvester laid out in varying degrees of disassembly. Admission: free. 402-341-7130.
bemiscenter.org

Bijoux Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris: June 4-Sept. 10 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. This exhibition portrays the intersection of French fashion, art, and history while touching on social and political concerns. Nearly 70 works of jewelry and more than 100 original paintings, fashion prints, and photographs will be on display. Tickets: $10 adults. Free for children (17 and under), college students with ID, and Joslyn members. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

KINETIC: June 16-Oct. 14 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. KINETIC at KANEKO explores the art and science of movement, and the perception of motion. This collaborative exhibition season will feature stunning visual art, interactive sculpture, and experiential learning opportunities developed to strengthen the understanding of kinetics in everyday life. Admission: free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Performing Arts

Catherland: Through May 14 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. A budding author and her husband head to Red Cloud, Nebraska, to begin a simpler life, but a slew of mysterious guests prove that there’s nothing simple about small-town living. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25 general admission; $20 students, seniors (65+), and TAG members. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org

Momix

MOMIX Opus Cactus: May 4 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The internationally acclaimed dancer-illusionists troupe, directed by Moses Pendleton, presents a show for all ages. The troupe creates a visual journey into the hidden secrets of the Southwestern desert by bringing all of its creatures to life. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20-$45. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Superior DonutsMay 5-June 4 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Taking place in the historic, diverse Uptown neighborhood of Chicago and written by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts, this provocative comedy explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Times vary. Tickets: $36 adults, $22 students. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony—The Music of Star Wars: May 6 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Music from all seven episodes of Star Wars will be featured, conducted by Ernest Richardson. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$89. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Florentine Players’ 53rd Annual Melodrama: May 11-13 at Florence City Hall, 2864 State St. Written by Nebraska natives, this is a story of “Omaha’s only shipwreck” in 1965. 7 p.m. Tickets: $10 general admission; $8 seniors (65+), TAG members, or groups of 8 or more. 402-453-4280.
florencetheater.org

Omaha Symphony—Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein: May 13-14 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Conducted by Ted Sperling, a Broadway cast and the Omaha Symphony perform favorites from The Sound of Music, The King and I, Oklahoma!, and South Pacific. 7:30 p.m. May 13; 2 p.m. May 14. Tickets: $19-$79. 402-345-0606.
—ticketomaha.com

The Met: Live in HD: Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss): May 13 and 17 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St. The Met’s final performance for this season features Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Elīna Garanča as Octavian. 11:30 a.m. May 13; 6 p.m. May 17. Tickets: $10-$24. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

All the King’s Women: May 15-21 at Bellevue Little Theatre, 203 E. Mission Ave. Obsessed women who encounter Elvis Presley in everyday situations grant theatrical insight into the man rather than the rock ’n’ roll superstar. Times vary. Tickets: $20 adults, $18 seniors (60+), $10 students. 402-291-1554.
bellevuelittletheatre.com

Something Rotten!: May 16-21 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Set in 1595, this comedy tells the tale of two brothers desperate to write the world’s very first musical. Times vary. Tickets: $35-$95. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Rebellion Ends:  An Apollon Star Wars Story: May 18-27 at The Apollon, 1801 Vinton St. With the rebels wiped out once and for all, Emperor Palpatine announces details for the largest mandatory celebration in history to mark the anniversary of the rise of the Galactic Empire. 7:30 p.m. Admission: $35 adults, $25 students and TAG members. 402-884-0135.
apollonomaha.com

Joey Alexander

Joey Alexander Trio: May 19 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. One of today’s most talked-about jazz artists, this 12-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy and 2016 Grammy-nominee performs classic songs and original compositions. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: May 26-June 25 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. The classic tale of Belle and the Beast is back with spectacular sets and costumes. Times vary. Tickets: $42 adults, $25 students Thursday-Sunday; $32 adults, $20 students Wednesday. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony–Mahler’s Ninth Symphony: June 2-3 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. The symphony performs this rich, emotional orchestration for the first time in more than 20 years. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$70. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Peter Pan: June 2-18 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. This musical rendition features fabulous flying effects and the iconic songs “I’m Flying,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Never Never Land.” Times vary. Tickets: $22-$27 general admission, $15-$20 for members. 402-345-4869.
rosetheater.org

Rent—20th Anniversary Tour: June 3-4 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning musical from 1996 follows the lives of seven struggling artists trying to follow their dreams without selling out. Times vary. Tickets: $40-$105. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Girls Like Us: June 15-25 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This show, based off the book by the same title, showcases the work of groundbreaking singer-songwriters Carole King, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $40. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Shakespeare on the Green

Shakespeare On The Green: King Lear: June 22-25 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs or blankets, as King Lear attempts to fight against impending mortality along with the inevitable loss of his kingdom and his crown. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Shakespeare On The Green: The Merry Wives of Windsor: June 29-July 1 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Windsor is at a crossroads. All the elements that constitute the town—social strata, tradition, morality, religion, characters, the English language itself—are turned upside down. Don’t forget a picnic basket and seats. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Comedy

James Johann: May 4-7 at the Funny Bone, Village Pointe, Suite 201, 17305 Davenport St. Incorporating his high-energy style and self-deprecating sense of humor, this blue-collar comedian hits on the universal theme of failure, presenting a reflection of life as he sees it. Times vary. Tickets: $10-$12. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Jerry Seinfeld: May 11 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Praised for his ability to joke about the little things in life that relate to audiences everywhere, Seinfeld will perform his stand-up comedy for one night only. 7 p.m. Tickets: $50-$150. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

J.R. Brow: May 11-14 at Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St., Suite 201. Brow draws from his wide-ranging collection of jokes, impressions, music, and characters to cover relationships, politics, religion, current events, and pop culture. Times vary. Tickets: $12 Thursday and Sunday; $15 Friday and Saturday. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Tim Hawkins

Tim Hawkins: May 12 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. With more than 300 million video views online and over 100 sold-out concerts yearly, Hawkins hits on the dangers of marriage, homeschooling, and growing up in the Midwest. 7 p.m. Tickets: $19-$85. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Music

Charly Bliss / See Through Dresses: May 1 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Brooklyn bubble-grunge four-piece Charly Bliss performs with Omaha’s See Through Dresses. 9 p.m. Tickets: $10. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Bastille

Bastille: May 2 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The Grammy-nominated, British indie-pop band is bringing their “Wild, Wild World Tour 2017” to Omaha in support of their new album, Wild World. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35-$55. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Say Anything / Bayside: May 4 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. Say Anything has been making unclassifiable indie rock music since the members were around 14 years old. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $24 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Chris Mann

Chris Mann: May 5 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Known from his 2012 debut on The Voice, Mann sings music from the golden age of Broadway, The Great American Songbook, and more. 8 p.m. Tickets: $35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Return of Hairball: May 5 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. High energy and big hair come back to Ralston Arena for this “Bombastic Celebration of Arena Rock.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $23 advance or $33 day of show for general admission; $30 advance or $40 day of show for club seats. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com

Acid Mothers Temple / Babylon: May 5 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. A freak-out group for the 21st century, Acid Mothers Temple is a Japanese psychedelic rock band founded in 1995 and led by guitarist Kawabata Makoto. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Lazerwolfe: May 6 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. This cover band pays tribute to such artists as Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Phish, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Band, Led Zeppelin, and more. 9 p.m. Tickets: $5. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Sam Outlaw with Michaela Anne: May 6 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. An acclaimed, modern country musician from Los Angeles, singer-songwriter Outlaw refers to his style as “SoCal country.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

McCarthy Trenching: May 6 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. An Omaha folk fixture and a staple of the city’s music community, Dan McCarthy has crafted five albums of easy acoustic melodies and lyrical craft. Teamed with bassist James Maakestad, the acoustic duo has made up McCarthy Trenching since 2010. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Brothers Comatose: May 7 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. Brothers Ben and Alex Morrison front this string band that promises a high-energy show. The brothers, on guitar and banjo, respectively, are joined by Gio Benedetti on bass, Philip Brezina on fiddle, and Ryan Avellone on mandolin. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Chance the Rapper: May 10 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. Chance’s latest release, Coloring Book, was issued exclusively through Apple Music and was streamed 57.3 million times in its first week. He recently won three Grammys, including “Best New Artist” and “Best Rap Album.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $37.50-$77.50. 402-341-1500.
ticketmaster.com

Kansas: May 12 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. This staple of classic rock from Topeka, Kansas, has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. The band released their 15th album in 2016: The Prelude Implicit. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $29-$89. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com

Tim Kasher with Allison Weiss: May 12 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Omaha’s own Kasher has pushed musical boundaries with his bands Cursive and The Good Life, as well as through his solo work. He has produced 17 albums and EPs over the course of 20 years. His third solo album, No Resolution, released March 3. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Elevate with DJs Ben Jones & Lowercase Trés: May 12 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Bringing underground house music to Omaha by DJs who know how to rave, for real. 9 p.m. No cover. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Flogging Molly: May 14 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S 13th St. Los Angeles-based Celtic punk band Flogging Molly comes to Omaha for one night only to promote their first record release in six years, Life is Good. 8 p.m. Tickets $33. 402-346-9802.
sokolunderground.com

Oddisee: May 17 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. Oddisee is influenced by soul and rap. His “Beneath the Surface” Tour 2017 will also feature Good Company and Olivier St. Louis. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15 advance, $17 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Hope Country / Will and Jane: May 19 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. This folk singer/songwriter features heartfelt songs about life. 9 p.m. Tickets: $8 advance, $10 day of show. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

The Shins: May 20 at Stir Concert Cove, 1 Harrah’s Boulevard in Council Bluffs. This indie-rock band comes to Council Bluffs to promote their new album Heartworms. Their 2007 album Wincing the Night Away peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and earned the group a Grammy nomination. 8 p.m. Tickets: $37-$98. 800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

The Dear Hunter: May 20 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. The Dear Hunter will be showcasing their most recent album Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional. 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $23 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Benson Soul Society: May 20 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Once a month, Andrew Monson, Eric “EZ” Ziegler, and Roger Lewis bring their all-vinyl soul dance party to Reverb. 9 p.m. No cover. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

SoMo: May 24 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St. SoMo, made famous for his wildly popular YouTube covers gaining him instant success, is touring the U.S. for a second time. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets: $22-$60. 402-346-9802.
sokolunderground.com

Robby Wicks Band / Time Giant: May 26 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Hailing from the Rocky Mountains, the Robby Wicks Band brings an array of talent, skill, and originality. 9 p.m. Tickets: $7. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Memorial Day Massive Block Party After Party: May 27 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. After the outdoor concert concludes, Reverb will feature a dope local lineup of artists and the EZ B stage design. 11 p.m. No cover. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Centerpiece EP Release / Lonely Estates / Wingman: June 3 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Indie-rock band with Will Conner, Paul Knapp, Jay Nesmith, Dave McInnis, and Jon Ochsnder. 9 p.m. Tickets: $7. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Norah Jones: June 5 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The nine-time Grammy-winner who has sold over 45 million albums worldwide will be supporting her newest album Not Too Late, on her “Day Breaks World Tour.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $57-$73. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Daniel O’Donnell

Daniel O’Donnell: June 7 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. O’Donnell’s music has been described as a mix between country and Irish folk. He made history this year by charting at least one new album every year since 1988. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $49.25-$69.25. 402-345-0606.
ticketmaster.com

Brantley Gilbert: June 9 at Stir Concert Cove, One Harrah’s Boulevard in Council Bluffs. Country music star Brantley Gilbert’s latest tour, “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” comes to Council Bluffs. Gilbert, winner of CMA’s 2013 Triple Play Award, has reached No. 1 on the U.S. country charts for the album of the same name. 8 p.m. Tickets: TBD. 800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

New Kids on the Block with Boys II Men and Paula Abdul: June 11 at CenturyLinkCenter, 455 N. 10th St. On the road for the first time since 2013—this “Total Package Tour” is the biggest lineup yet from these ’80s and ’90s hit-makers. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $29.95-$199.95. 800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

Brandy Clark and Charlie Worsham: June 18 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Brandy Clark has received six Grammy nominations over the past four years for co-writing hits for Miranda Lambert and Kasey Musgraves. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Electric Six: June 21 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Rock music infused with elements of garage, disco, punk, new wave, and metal. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Blue October: June 24 at The Waiting Room (outdoors), 6212 Maple St. Topping multiple charts and shattering many records is something Blue October is used to. With their eighth studio album Home now out, they plan to do it all over again. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Family & More

Farmers Markets
Gardening season is open in Omaha, and those desiring to eat fresh produce without digging in the dirt themselves will find plenty of options around the area. Along with produce, shoppers will find artisan cheeses, farm-raised meats, freshly baked breads, assorted treats, and even craft items.

  • Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays starting May 7.
  • Benson (4343 N. 52nd St.): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays starting May 6.
  • Council Bluffs (Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs): 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursdays starting May 4.
  • Gifford Park (33rd and California streets): 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Fridays starting June 3.
  • Florence Mill (9102 N. 30th St.): 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays starting June 4.
  • Old Market (11th and Jackson streets): 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays starting May 6.
  • Papillion (Washington St. and Lincoln Road): 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays starting May 31.
  • Village Pointe (168th and Dodge streets): 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays starting May 6.

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s Weekend: May 5-7 at CenturyLinkCenter, 455 N. 10th St. Shareholders in the company created by Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett can learn about their year’s earnings at this annual meeting, which brings thousands of people to Omaha from around the world. The weekend events include the “Invest in Yourself” 5K run on May 7, a bridge tournament, shopping at various stores associated with Berkshire Hathaway, and much more.
berkshirehathaway.com

Cinco de Mayo parade: May 6 along 24th St. from D to L streets. This dazzling parade—one of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the Midwest—features floats, marching bands, and more. Rain or shine. 9 a.m. Admission: free. info@cincodemayoomaha.com.
cincodemayoomaha.com

Renaissance Festival of Nebraska

Renaissance Festival of Nebraska: May 6-7, 13-14 at Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch, 11001 S. 48th St. Step back in time to the days of knights in shining armor with full contact sword play and equestrian jousting, six unique performance locations, 100+ costumed characters, and free make-and-take crafts for kids. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission: $13 adults, $8 children (12 and under). 402-331-5500.
renfestnebraska.com

SECOND Annual Food Truck Rodeo Spring Edition: May 20 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. The second annual Omaha Food Truck Rodeo will be held all day Saturday, giving attendees the entire day to sample the fine foods from local food trucks. There will be 15-20 food trucks, along with a DJ, beer garden, multiple outdoor bars, and outdoor seating on Military Avenue in Benson. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Free. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Celebrate CB: May 12-20 in Council Bluffs (various locations). Hop across the river for a full week of festivities. Opening night includes a free concert by Taxi Driver. The last day includes a parade followed by a day of music, kids’ activities, and a carnival. Friday’s big event, Barbecue in the Bluffs, has been chosen as one of 50 events for the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s Great American Cookout, which will inform and entertain people who enjoy learning more about barbecuing and grilling on all levels. 712-396-2494.
celebratecb.com

Vintage Market Days of Omaha: May 12-14 at Chance Ridge Event Center, 506 Skyline Road. This upscale, vintage-inspired market hosts more than 100 vendors with original art, antiques, handmade treasures, jewelry, and clothing. The event also includes live music and food trucks. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday/Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $10 Friday (early buying event); $5 Saturday/Sunday; free for children 12 and under. Tickets good for re-entry all weekend. 918-955-6215.
omaha.vintagemarketdays.com

Florence Days: May 13-14 in downtown Florence, 30th St. between State St. and I-680 N. This area, once its own town, was annexed by Omaha 100 years ago but still retains its own small-town feeling. Events held in conjunction with this festival include a parade, art displays, talks at the historic Florence Mill, a melodrama, and more. 402-451-4737.
historicflorence.org

An Evening with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: May 15 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. During his lecture, the award-winning astrophysicist will answer questions from the audience and talk about topics in his new book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which will also be given to each audience member. 7 p.m. Tickets: $65-$225. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Helicopter Day at SAC.

Helicopter Day: May 27 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 West Park Highway. Visitors can watch while helicopters fly over the horizon and land right in front of them. Inside the museum, visitors can participate in a drone workshop and family-friendly activities. 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $11 senior citizens, active/retired/veteran military; $6 children (4-12); free for children (3 and under). 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Memorial Day Weekend: May 27-29 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. The zoo will offer special entertainment, including bounce houses, airbrush tattoos, and animal presentations. The first 800 people to walk through the gates will receive a free patriotic gift. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $19.95 adults (ages 12 and older), $13.95 children (ages 3-11), free for members and children 2 and under. $1 discount for seniors (age 65 and older) or active military members and their children. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Taste of Omaha

Taste of Omaha: June 2-4 at the Omaha riverfront. Omaha’s annual outdoor summer food event showcases outstanding restaurants, live entertainment, and family fun. Activities will take place daily at the Heartland of America Park, Lewis & Clark Landing, and River’s Edge Park. Times vary. Admission: free, but tickets must be purchased for food and carnival rides. 402-346-5412.
showofficeonline.com

Countryside Village Art Fair: June 3-4 at Countryside Village Shopping Center, 8722 Countryside Plaza. This fair showcases a mix of styles, perspectives, and media. The artwork selection inspires casual visitors to start art collections, and connoisseurs to add to existing collections. Established in 1969, the Countryside Village Art Fair is a cornerstone of the art world in Omaha. Admission: free. 402-391-2200.
countryside-village.com

Annual Veterans Appreciation Rally: June 4 at the North Omaha Airport, 11919 N. 72nd St. This family-friendly event features classic cars, motorcycles, and airplanes on display to honor veterans. Activities include raffles and skydiving shows. Airplanes begin flying at noon, weather permitting. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: free, but a $5 donation is requested. 402-714-4269.
facebook.com/heroesoftheheartlandfoundation

Omaha’s Ninth Annual Largest Pizza Review: June 6 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Pizza will be available from around 15 different restaurants for pizza lovers to sample and vote for their favorites. Judging will be conducted by Food & Spirits Magazine’s panel of judges, also featuring live music. A portion of proceeds go to scholarships for culinary students at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metro Community College. 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

St. Lucia Italian Festival: June 8-11 at Lewis & Clark Landing, 515 N. Riverfront Drive. Omaha’s Italian community celebrates Italian culture with this annual festival. Events include a bocce ball tournament, cannoli-eating contest, entertainment by the Santa Lucia festival band and others, and plenty of food. Admission: free, but tickets required for food and carnival rides. 5 p.m.-11 p.m. June 8, 5 p.m.-midnight June 9, noon-midnight June 10, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. June 11. 402-342-6632
santaluciafestival.com

Omaha Beer Fest: June 9-10 at Horsemen’s Park, 6303 Q St. Hundreds of American craft beers, 80 breweries, live music, a homebrewer expo, VIP lounge, food vendors, contests, and more. Rain or shine. 5 p.m.-9 p.m. June 9 and 2 p.m.-7 p.m. June 10. Admission: general admission $35 in advance, $45 at the door; VIP $55 in advance, $65 at the door. Designated drivers pay $10 at the door. 402-731-2900.
omahabeerfest.com

Junkstock: June 9-11 at Sycamore Farms, 1150 River Road Dr. This three-day festival features vintage finds, unique antiques, and artisan food and goods. Help celebrate the fifth year of Junkstock, featuring more than 150 vendors and 15 food trucks, along with a variety of bands playing on the Junkstock Stage throughout the weekend. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $8 online, $10 at the gate, $20 for weekend pass, free for children (12 and under). 402-765-8651.
junkstock.com

Omaha Summer Arts Festival: June 9-11 along Farnam St. from 10th to 15th streets. The festival features 135 of the nation’s finest visual artists, a stage with continuous musical performances, a hands-on children’s fair, and a wide variety of food vendors. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. June 9 and 10, and 11a.m.-5 p.m. June 11. Admission: free. 402-345-5401.
summerarts.org

Sand in the City

Sand in the City: June 9-11 at Baxter Arena, 2425 S. 67th St. On Friday, 12 corporate teams will compete to build extravagant sand sculptures. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can vote for their favorite sculpture, build their own sandcastle, play in the kids’ zone, and hear live entertainment. All proceeds benefit the Nebraska Children’s Home Society. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 9, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 10, and 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. June 11. Admission: free. 402-451-0787.
sandinthecityomaha.com

College World Series Opening Day: June 16 at TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey St. Before the series starts, come to the park for a day full of events, including team autograph sessions, practices, Olympic-style opening ceremonies, a concert, and fireworks. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-554-4422
cwsomaha.com

College World Series: June 17-27/28 at TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey St. One of Omaha’s biggest traditions returns for the 67th time. Baseball fans of all ages can enjoy Fan Fest, a NCAA-sanctioned festival that includes giveaways, interactive games, and special appearances. Times and ticket prices vary. 402-554-4422
cwsomaha.com

Bank of the West Celebrates America 2017: June 30 at Memorial Park, 6605 Underwood Ave. Bring blankets or chairs and relax in the park while celebrating with thousands of others at the 27th annual pre-Fourth of July tradition—featuring a concert and fireworks show. This year’s headlining act is Kool and the Gang. Admission: free. 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
celebratesamerica.com


This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

We welcome you to submit events to our print calendar. Please email event details and a 300 ppi photograph three months in advance to: editintern@omahamagazine.com


*Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Roni Shelley Perez

October 13, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I never told my parents about having a fake sex scene. I just let them watch the show.”

-Roni Shelley Perez

Roni Shelley Perez wonders whether she should have warned her Catholic parents about a certain scene in the recent Blue Barn Theatre production of Heathers: The Musical.

“I never told my parents about having a fake sex scene. I just let them watch the show,” she says with a laugh.

Her parents, Ranilo and Selena Perez, never mentioned that scene to her, but Roni says they liked the play. They weren’t the only ones. Heathers received rave reviews and a lot of local recognition, including award nominations for Perez. It’s an impressive achievement for a 20-year-old who entered college only a few years ago with limited musical theater experience.

Perez is now a junior at UNO studying music with a theater minor. She burst onto the Omaha theater scene in 2015 when she played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Omaha Community Playhouse. That debut earned her the Elaine Jabenis Cameo Award and a nomination for an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award.

roni-shelley-perez2However, performing the lead role of Veronica in Heathers was the watershed moment in her
budding career.

“I wanted it so bad. So bad. That was definitely a breakthrough role for me,” she says. “I ran here (to UNO) every morning and sang just to get that role down.”

Perez says that working in the Blue Barn’s new space on 10th Street was “inspirational” and that she was determined to live up to her artistic surroundings. “Well, the venue was going to be beautiful. I felt like the performance should be, too,” she says.

A musician since she started studying guitar at the age of eight, Perez entered college planning to major in music composition or music technology. She was involved in theater at Marian High School, but thought it was a vocation better suited to others. Her parents, who own a physical therapy practice in Omaha, were skeptical about the viability of a music career and suggested actuarial science or engineering as practical occupations.

“Music scared them because they’re immigrants from the Philippines that had their mind on an American dream to get money, and now I’m going backwards,” says Perez with self-deprecating humor.

A Goodrich scholarship covers her tuition, and being free of student debt will certainly help Perez, who plans to eventually relocate to New York City to pursue a theater career.

In addition to her tour-de-force performance in Heathers, Perez thinks that her second-place finish in a national singing competition this summer went a long way toward convincing her parents that she is on the right path.

She is also not resting on her laurels. After studying at New York University in the summer of 2015, Perez returned to New York City this past summer for an intensive audition workshop with The Open Jar Institute. Upon returning to Omaha, she was rehearsing a play called Love and Information at Do Space, and she is slated to appear in Hand to God! at Shelterbelt Theatre, which runs Nov. 18 through Dec. 11. Oh, and she also has a part-time job.

Omaha has produced several notable Broadway performers in recent decades. With her buoyant personality, stellar voice, and work ethic, it is not hard to imagine that Perez could be the next.

Visit snapproductions.com for more information.

Encounter

ron-shelley-perez-1

Forever in Black

January 4, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Whether it’s your first time inside the glittering Orpheum Theater or your fiftieth visit to the sleek Holland Performing Arts Center, attending a live performance is an exciting event. The lobby fills with eager patrons and the buzz of conversation as a floor captain directs a couple to the gift shop while their tutu-clad daughter hops up and down with anticipation. A man in elegant evening wear checks out a hearing device from a volunteer while a couple in cowboy boots hover at their assigned door, which is—finally!—opened by a smiling usher. Each of these patrons has been made to feel welcome by an official Ambassador for Omaha Performing Arts [OPA].

For its March 2013 return run of The Lion King’s 32 sold-out performances, 383 Ambassadors volunteered a total of 6,804 hours. This past August, Disney Theatrical Productions presented a rare award, a handcrafted lioness mask honoring the outstanding achievement of The Lion King’s success in Omaha. Ambassadors were a central element in the success of that and any run at either the Orpheum or the Holland.

One of the black-clad volunteers, Sue Mouttet, was recognized for working 94 events during the 2012-13 season. Think of the math on that. That’s the equivalent of Mouttet spending one out of every four days of the year dressed in one of her black Ambassador’s outfits.

Sue Mouttet in the calm before the storm at the Orpheum Theater

Sue Mouttet in the calm before the storm at the Orpheum Theater

“I became an Ambassador in 2005, the year the Holland opened,” says Mouttet. “I enjoy every assignment I get because I love the public contact.” Many people think of Ambassadors simply as ushers, but their duties are as varied as Omaha Performing Arts’ line-up of performances. One of the jobs of female Ambassadors is directing intermission traffic through the rest rooms during lobby-packed intermissions. “It may sound funny, but it can make a big difference in one’s [a patron’s] experience,” Mouttet says. [Editor’s Tip: For much shorter restroom lines at the Orpheum, take the short flight of stairs down from the lobby and use the lower-level facilities.]

Mouttet has a special understanding of theater—she is an actor who’s played several area stages. This background helps her better explain the nuances of the evening to ticketholders. Why can’t we be seated early? The doors must wait while cast and crew make their last-minute checks so you will enjoy a killer, perfectly staged performance.

Joni Fuchs, OPA’s Front of House Manager, oversees 450 volunteer Ambassadors. She was hired for the position two years ago but had been an Ambassador since 2006. Like many in her small army of volunteers, she came at the suggestion of friends and joined a mixed group of people who share a love for performing arts and helping others. Many are retired, but others come from jobs in business, education, and trade. The minimum age is 18; the oldest Ambassador is 90. And each one is greatly appreciated. “They provide an invaluable service to Omaha,” says Fuchs. “They are the face of Omaha Performing Arts.”

Ambassadors like Mouttet take their responsibilities and commitments seriously, but they also enjoy such perks as seeing OPA’s array of outstanding Broadway, music, and dance performances at two stellar venues. Ambassadors may watch performances during periods when they’re not otherwise needed, and they also earn points that they can exchange for free tickets.

“No matter what we do,” Mouttet says of her varied and many duties, “we serve one patron at a time and we go, go, go!”

Red-Redder-Reddest

September 26, 2013 by
Photography by Omaha Community Playhouse

Just as in a certain M. Night Shyamalan “I see dead people” film, the color red is used almost as code in the Omaha Community Playhouse blockbuster production of the much-anticipated Les Misérables.

Early scenes are an ocean of jute-hued tatters in the musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel—the one about the most famous loaf of bread in all of literature—before a riotous red-redder-reddest bloom of rebellion explodes amid flaming vermillion muzzle flashes against the backdrop of a crimson flag soaked in the blood of martyrs as the curtain comes crashing down on the first act.

It’s enough to leave you breathless, but you won’t have to wait for the penultimate scene before intermission to be awestruck. Timothy Shew has played the can’t-catch-a-break ex-con lead as Jean Valjean 1,600 times, most of them on Broadway, and he knows every nuance of his character. Shew soars in such memorable numbers as “Bring Him Home,” “What Have I Done?”, and “Who Am I?”

Savvy theatregoers may have wondered if casting the seasoned veteran against mere community theatre mortals may have set up a catch-22 situation, where the contrast between talents was simply too great. Hold on a sec. Guilty of employing a non sequitur just now. After all, savvy Omaha theatregoers will not be the least surprised to learn that an Omaha Community Playhouse ensemble can hold their own and so much more on this, the city’s greatest of stages.

To punctuate the point of “top-to-bottom” professionalism, let’s start at…well, not exactly the bottom but a smallish role.

If stealing scenes were a felony, Megan McGuire would be doing a life stretch in Sing Sing Prison. She plays the bosomy, bawdy innkeeper’s wife. When paired against her polar opposite, the reedy and angular—and (sigh) seldom seen—Cork Ramer, their hilariously show-stopping antics of avarice and skullduggery become worth the price of a ticket alone.

Speaking of show-stoppers in this epic that spans three decades of early 19th century Paris, word on the street is that—just as this reviewer found on opening night—one of the loudest ovations in a show chock full of them is directed at Abigael Stewart, whose jilted character, Eponine, resolves herself to a life of being “On My Own.”

Stewart, when joined by Jennifer Tritz’s piercing soprano (the charming adult Cosette) and Joseph O’Connor’s lush tenor (the dashing guerrilla warrior, Marius) you’re in for a romantic, melt-in-your-seat moment, even as you come to realize that “A Heart Full of Love” carries a dread sense of foreboding for one member of this most lilting of romantic triangles.

Other favorites include Joseph Dignoti as Inspector Javert, the tenacious cop with a stomach-rumbling baritone, who obsesses about the aforementioned loaf of bread before making the most dramatic of exits (gravity, the river Seine).

This monumental effort is sure to be remembered as the most fitting of swan songs for outgoing Omaha Community Playhouse legends, associate artistic director Susan Baer Collins, who directs Les Miz, and artistic director Carl Beck, who this time works as assistant director. But it doesn’t mean that this production is not without a couple of curiosities. The turntable installed for this show works to great éclat in many scenes, especially the famous barricade battle. Am I alone in thinking that, in others, it seems to perhaps try a bit too hard in the sense of “We’ve built this darn thing, now how the heck can we use it?”

My biggest pet peeve (my, reviewers can be picky!) centers on that iconic red flag. Perhaps I had set my expectations too high in hoping that the banner would be fashioned from acres of fabric, and that it would consume the entire fiery stage when unfurled, but the scale of the one waved here is just a bit…underwhelming.

No, I didn’t just use the word “underwhelming” in a review of such a wondrous achievement as the Omaha Community Playhouse production of Les Miz, did I? Nothing, even the grating idiosyncrasies of a finicky critic can detract from the magnificence that is Les Misérables.

Les Misérables runs through Oct. 27 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. For tickets and additional information, visit omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.

David Williams, the recently named managing editor of Omaha Publications, has written hundreds of performing arts reviews for a number of area publications and formerly served on the board of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

Joan Squires

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Joan Squires was living a cozy life in Arizona where she was president and CEO of the Phoenix Symphony. But when Omaha Performing Arts leaders called 10 years ago, she couldn‘t resist the challenge.

OPA wanted her help in operating two theaters in Omaha—the venerable Orpheum and the yet-to-be-built Holland Performing Arts Center. Who could pass up the chance to operate a theater built in 1927 that was undergoing a $10 million renovation? And who wouldn’t want to participate in the building of a $102 million performing arts center in Downtown Omaha?

Squires saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “There was a committed board and key leadership. Also at that time, no one in Omaha was bringing in shows.”

OPA’s new president arrived in 2002 to find a staff of one and a lone computer housed in the offices of Heritage Services; the philanthropic foundation was OPA’s fundraiser. The Holland Performing Arts Center was only a sketch on an architect‘s drawing board. The Orpheum Theater was still owned by the City of Omaha. And few people knew much about OPA. “One of our greatest challenges was branding the institution,” Squires says. “We had to go from not in existence to fully operational in three years.”

Her first action was to help set goals: 1) Assume management of the Orpheum from the city, 2) Prepare a strategic plan for the development of the organizational and administrative structure for OPA, and 3) Participate in construction of the Holland.

“In 2004, we opened Ticket Omaha [a local ticketing service for the arts]. Tickets were on sale six months before the Holland’s first performance in 2005,” Squires says.20130102_bs_8722 copy

A Decade Later

Today, the OPA president has a staff of 90 full- and part-time employees and 500 volunteers. She oversees the 175,000-square-foot Holland Performing Arts Center and the renovated 2,600-seat Orpheum Theater that reopened in 2002. And Omaha Performing Arts now is the largest nonprofit arts organization in Nebraska.

Seventy-five percent of funding is now from earned revenue and 25 percent is from contributions.

Rankings in two industry publications in 2011 gave Omaha bragging rights. The Orpheum was ranked No.1 in Midwest ticket sales by Venues Today and No. 16 worldwide by Pollstar. The Holland was ranked in the top 10 nationally by Venues Today, an impressive ranking for a performing arts center that didn’t exist six years earlier.

“There were those that said Omaha could not support the facility,” remembers John Gottschalk, OPA chairman since its formation in 2000. Squires has oversight of a $18 million operation. “And in six years she has never missed her budget. Never.”

Squires’ success in luring top talent has brought a financial benefit to the area, attracting visitors, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue. A 2011 survey by University of Nebraska economists concluded that the two theaters had a cumulative economic impact on Douglas County of $128.49 million over five years and a $98.31 million impact on Nebraska.

The widely praised acoustics of the Holland bring out the best of the Omaha Symphony. Broadway shows now seek out the Orpheum. Performances have included Wicked, Jersey Boys and Disney’s® Lion King, which returns in March.

Check Squires’ iPhone and you’ll find an eclectic collection of music. But Broadway tunes rule. “From childhood on, I’ve loved Broadway musicals,” she says.

OPA’s mission includes presenting educational programs for all ages, from student matinees to master classes to workshops taught by professionals.

“An addition at the Holland designed for teaching dance classes was added about three years ago,” says OPA Vice Chairman Richard Holland. The performing arts center was named for him and his late wife, Mary.

10 January 2013- Joan Squires office is photographed for B2B Magazine.

Photo in Squires’ office of her with Debbie Reynolds (left) and Warren Buffett.

Squires has her finger on the pulse on Broadway theatre life and currently serves as a voting member for Broadway’s Tony Awards®. Active in Broadway League committees, she is a member of the Performing Arts Center Consortium and of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. She is an advisor for the Broadway Dreams Foundation.

The Life of Joan Squires

Joan was born and raised in Shippensburg, Pa., where her father ran a family business. Her twin brother, John, is the fourth generation in the business. Joan received her undergraduate degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., and became a music teacher for three years. She loved her students, but teaching wasn’t her life’s mission.

She moved into arts management, earning a master’s degree in both business and music arts administration from the University of Michigan. She served as an intern for the National Endowment for the Arts and participated in a yearlong fellowship under the sponsorship of the League of American Orchestras.

Squires has worked in arts management for more than 25 years. Previous positions were with the Milwaukee, Utah, and Houston symphonies. She has received many honors including the Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor and the YWCA’s Woman of Vision. In 2012, she received a Governor’s Arts Award from the Nebraska Arts Council.

Squires has a short commute to work. She lives in a downtown condo about halfway between the two theaters that she oversees. Her husband, Tom Fay, was a vice president of the Arizona State University Foundation before they moved to Omaha. A native New Yorker, he played the oboe for 17 years with the Pittsburgh Symphony and held a second career in arts management and academic fundraising.

Fay and Squires have been married 22 years. She has three stepchildren and three grandchildren. Her husband has been supportive of her demanding career, says Squires. “He said he had his career, and it was now my turn.”

Squires said despite all the long hours she logs at work, it’s all worth it. “At the end of the day, standing in the back of the theater and watching the audience react, I think I have the best job in town.”