Tag Archives: Inc.

2017 May/June Giving Calendar

May 1, 2017 by and

*May 1

Youth Emergency Services’ Golf Outing (10 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: Youth Emergency Services
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek
yesomaha.org

May 2

50th Annual Boys Town Booster Banquet (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Boys Town sports
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista
boystown.org/boosters

Countdown to Cinco de Mayo (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: OneWorld Community Health
Location: Livestock Exchange Building
oneworldomaha.org

May 3

Memories for Kids 2017 Guild Luncheon (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Memories for Kids
Location: Champions Run
memoriesforkids.org

May 4

Heartland Heroes, A Centennial Celebration (6-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Red Cross
Location: CenturyLink Center
redcross.org/neia

May 5

Leaders for Life Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Creighton University’s female student-athletes
Location: Ryan Athletic Center
gocreighton.com

Run for the Wet Noses: Talk Derby to Me (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: Mid-America Center, Council Bluffs
midlandshumanesociety.org

May 6

For the Kids Benefit: A Day at the Races, a Night on the Town (5-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Omaha Children’s Museum
Location: Omaha Children’s Museum
ocm.org

May 9

D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon (11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.)
Benefitting: Salvation Army
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha
salarmyomaha.org

May 11

Evening with Friends (6-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: CHI Health Midlands
Location: CHI Health Midlands Hospital
mychihealth.com/foundation

May 12

An Evening in the Garden (6-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Brownell Talbot School
Location: Brownell Talbot Campus
brownell.edu/giving/gala

Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale Gala (6-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista
mwoy.org/ne

On the Road to the Big Easy 2017 (5:30 p.m.-midnight)
Benefitting: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands
Location: Omaha Design Center
bgcomaha.org/bigeasy

May 13

Cabaret (6-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Hilton Omaha
childsaving.org

14th Annual Wear Yellow Ride, Fun Run & Walk (7 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Benefitting: Wear Yellow Nebraska
Location: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
supportwyn.org/WYR

2017 Omaha Heart Walk (8 a.m.)
Benefitting: American Heart Association
Location: Miller’s Landing
heartwalk.org

May 15

Ronald McDonald House in Omaha Golf Tournament (noon)
Benefitting: Ronald McDonald House Charities in Omaha
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek
rmhcomaha.org

Chip in for Children Golf Tournament (11 a.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Council Bluffs Country Club
childrenssquare.org

May 18

SAVE Program Graduation Dinner (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: SAVE
Location: Champion’s Run
saveprogram.org

Breathe and Brew Spring Yoga Series (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Lung Association
Location: Lucky Bucket Brewery
lung.org

May 19

Golf Scramble (noon-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Senior Health Foundation
Location: Shoreline Golf Course
seniorhealthfoundation.org

May 20

Great Strides (9:30 a.m.-noon)
Benefitting: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Location: Stinson Park
fightcf.cff.org

May 22

Children’s Charity Golf Classic (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
Location: Champions Run
childrensclassic.com

May 24

Omaha Gives! (midnight-11:59 p.m.)
Benefitting: more than 1,000 Omaha nonprofits
Location: online
omahagives24.org

May 25

Bland Cares Angels Among Us Golf Outing (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: Angels Among Us
Location: Tiburon Golf Club
blandcares.org

May 27

19th Annual Remembrance Walk (9-11 a.m.)
Benefitting: Grief’s Journey
Location: Miller’s Landing/Pedestrian Bridge
griefsjourney.org

June 1

Pinot, Pigs & Poets (6-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Completely KIDS
Location: Happy Hollow Club
pinotandpigs.org

June 2

Grand Slam! (6:30-11 p.m.)
Benefitting: Methodist Hospital
Location: Werner Park
methodisthospitalfoundation.org

Run for the Young (7-8:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Peak Performance
childrenssquare.org

June 3

Annual Gala (6:30-11 p.m.)
Benefitting: Joslyn Art Museum Association
Location: Joslyn Art Museum
joslyn.org

Ollie’s Dream Gala 2017 (6:30-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Ollie Webb Center
Location: Hilton Omaha
olliewebbinc.org

June 5

Central High Foundation Golf Outing (7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Central High School
Location: Field Club of Omaha
chsfomaha.org

CHI Health Golf Outing (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: CHI Health Foundation
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek
chihealth.com/foundation

June 7

CHANCE Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha
Location: CenturyLink Center
csfomaha.org

June 8

Tee It Up Fore Sight Annual Golf Tournament (10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Benefitting: Outlook Nebraska, Inc.
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course
outlooknebraska.org

June 9

Sand in the City (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: Nebraska Children’s Home Society
Location: Baxter Arena
nchs.org

June 10

Child Saving Institute Kids 4 Kids (7:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Sumter Amphitheater
childsaving.org

Vets & Pets Blackjack Run (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Benefitting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: American Legion
midlandshumanesociety.org

Centennial Gala (7-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Red Cross
Location: CenturyLink Center
redcross.org/local/nebraska

June 11

Monroe-Meyer Guild Garden Walk (9 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: Munroe-Meyer Institute
Location: 150th Street and West Dodge Road to 168th and Harrison streets
events.unmc.edu

June 12

15th Annual Hope Center for Kids Golf Classic (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Hope Center for Kids
Location: Champions Run Golf Course
hopecenterforkids.org

Third Annual Golf Tournament (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: First Responders Foundation
Location: Oak Hills Country Club
firstrespondersomaha.org/events

Hit the Links and Drive Against Disabilities Golf Tournament (11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska
Location: The Player’s Club at Deer Creek
ucpnebraska.org

June 13

Project Harmony Golf Invitational (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Project Harmony
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course
projectharmony.com

WCA Tribute to Women (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Women’s Center for Advancement
Location: Hilton Omaha
wcaomaha.org

June 14

Hops for Harmony (5:30-8:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Project Harmony
Location: Werner Park
projectharmony.com

June 16

Strike a Chord (6-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Heartland Family Service
Location: Mid-America Center
heartlandfamilyservice.org/events

June 19

Golf Fore Kids (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Child Saving Institute
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek
childsaving.org

June 21

The Longest Day, an individualized fundraiser (all day)
Benefitting: Alzheimer’s Association
Location: Donor’s choice
alz.org/thelongestday

June 24

Wheels of Courage (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: the Jennie Edmundson Foundation
Location: Quaker Steak & Lube, Council Bluffs
jehfoundation.org

June 30

ALS in the Heartland’s 2017 Golf Classic (11 a.m.-8 p.m.)
Benefitting: ALS in the Heartland
Location: Tiburon Golf Club
alsintheheartland.org


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


*Times and dates may change. Check the website, or with the event coordinator.

The Man in the Marine T-Shirt

December 27, 2014 by
Photography by Jon Pearson

Logan McDonald reported for duty as a U.S. Marine in October 2011. A month later, the then 18-year-old recruit from Mississippi was in a coma.

He had sustained a severe brain injury from viral encephalitis, which doctors believe was transmitted by a random insect bite. The brain injury resulted in cognitive, communicative, physical, and neuropsychiatric impairments. McDonald could not walk. He required assistance completing a majority of daily tasks and demonstrated severe communication deficits. He had trouble recalling information.

Thus began a three-year journey through a series of medical facilities. As McDonald crisscrossed the country bouncing from one rehab facility to another, some doctors advised the family that the young man in the Marine T-shirt was destined for a lifetime spent in assisted living facilities.

That’s when his grandmother, Anita Loper, found Quality Living, Inc., the Omaha non-profit that for two decades has raised the bar by working with individuals and families whose lives have been affected by brain injury or spinal cord injury.

“I just couldn’t picture him in some assisted living place forever,” says Loper, a retired nurse. “He’s always been such an independent person. He wouldn’t even let me wait with him when I dropped him off to report to camp. ‘I’ll be okay, Grandma,’ he said.”

McDonald is now inching his way to regaining his independence through QLI’s non-traditional, industry-changing rehabilitation programs.

By any measure, Loper says, McDonald has made remarkable progress at QLI. He now needs little if any help in tasks that once required round-the-clock assistance—showering, dressing, fixing breakfast.

“Now I come to visit and I can’t even find him because he’s out socializing with his friends here,” Loper chuckles as a broad grin spreads across McDonald’s face and his cheeks redden ever so slightly.

“That’s been our only problem with Logan,” says Taylor Kerschke, QLI’s coordinator of speech therapy services, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “He’s quite the ladies man.”

Cue a full-blown, rosiest of blushes now for the man in the Marine T-Shirt.

“Logan is a resilient young man who is completely engaged in every aspect of his rehab program,” says QLI president and CEO Patricia Kearns. “His program underlines QLI’s individualized approach to brain injury rehabilitation. Logan’s therapies are rigorous and specifically tailored to his personal goals and passions, and they are designed to ensure he will get back on a path in life that is meaningful to him.”

That path for McDonald, adds Kerschke, is independence. “Logan is only 21 and has his whole life ahead of him. The aim is to have Logan live with the least amount of assistance possible and we are relentless in doing everything we can to make that happen. We want him to be able to do the things he is passionate about.”

One of those passions, Loper explains, is McDonald’s love of the outdoors.

“Big…big…bass,” are the words that McDonald struggles to find as he gestures, holding his hands far apart to indicate that he landed a whopper on a recent QLI fishing trip.

McDonald’s forays into the wilds have also been facilitated by a gift from the Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit organization founded and coordinated by the spouses of injured and wounded Marines. McDonald’s high-tech Action Trackchair, something of a cross between a traditional wheelchair and something you’d see in the Transformers movie series, allows him a once unthinkable range of mobility. QLI has since acquired their own Action Trackchair, a gift from Steve Hornady, the CEO of Nebraska-based ammunition manufacturer Hornady Manufacturing.

“My goal is to set Logan up for success for independent living. That’s why we’re here,” says Loper, who has been living in Omaha throughout McDonald’s stay at QLI. “Much of the mindset of the medical community—even in the V.A. community—is that there are few gains to be made after a year in rehab. People hit a plateau, they told us. We couldn’t accept that. We knew there had to be more. We’ve found it here at QLI.”

DSC_2375

Joe Giles

October 31, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

He’s just come back from a walk, palm trees in the background, with a 3-pound Chihuahua named Minnie Mouse. Joe Giles is no longer a Nebraska kid following an Air Force dad around the Midwest. The 30-year-old has been settled in Los Angeles for the last 10 years, working as a makeup artist for K.N.B. EFX Group, Inc. on projects like AMC’s The Walking Dead.

“I just finished working on some Walking Dead webisodes,” Giles says, “you know, those in-between-season shorts they put online.” Specifically, he works in K.N.B.’s molding department, lifecasting actors in custom makeups for that rotted look so popular for today’s zombie. He’s contributed his special-effects makeup expertise on all three completed seasons of the show, even helping to establish the original movements 
of the walkers.

“I actually did early camera tests,” he says. “They used me for some of the makeup tests, and they use some of that footage to teach the actors how to walk on camera.”

Giles considers himself rather fortunate so far in his plans to continue both acting and doing lab work. “I keep getting both sprinkled randomly as I go,” he says, mentioning his appearance as a zombie in the “Thriller” scene of the 2009 Michael Jackson film This Is It (“I was lying in this grave thinking, oh wow, I am really doing this”). And how he got to do all the hair work for the Michael Myers masks in Rob Zombie’s 2009 Halloween II. And when he got to play a demonic surgeon in Zombie’s 2012 The Lords of Salem. “It’s not every day one of your music idols is directing you,” Giles says, still obviously impressed. And of course, he’s continuing work on the fourth season of The Walking Dead that premiered this October.

He says that Howard Berger, co-founder of K.N.B., jokes that Giles is their resident ghoul. “I don’t mind being typecast though,” he says, “I love all that.”

He admits that, during his middle-school and high-school years in Omaha, “Halloween was pretty much what I lived for all year. It’s my true passion.” Annual trips to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna, Neb., were a given. At 15, Giles began volunteering at Mystery Manor, a permanent haunted house in Downtown Omaha. “That place definitely helped shape my creative life,” he says, recalling his earliest experiences with special-effects makeup and the challenges of getting the movements of a new character just right. “Wayne [Sealy, owner of Mystery Manor] pretty much gave us free rein. Doing makeup for haunted houses and acting…it teaches you to be fast on your feet, to think quickly.”

After two years of studio art at University of Nebraska-Omaha, graduating from Westmore Makeup Academy in California, plus his years of experience in the film industry, it’s just possible that Giles has refined his approach to the perfect spooky look. “You gotta find a mid-ground between just gore and something that’s interesting. For instance, last year, I was a zombie, but I kept it more forensic and skeletal,” he says.

Oh? Was this for a party?

“Well, I still go trick-or-treating. I mean, you know, I’ll hit a few houses.”

Clearly, Halloween is still his thing. In fact, that seems to be a huge reason he tries to come back to Omaha whenever the leaves change. “I miss that Midwest fall,” he says. “You don’t get that out here. I’ll even set out fall-scented air fresheners to get that feel in  L.A.” He even shows up at Mystery Manor to volunteer whenever schedules permit. “I pretty much just say, ‘Hey, Wayne, I’m here to work!’”

Of course, cool weather, autumn colors, and haunted houses aren’t the only draws to come home. He and his twin sister, Brandi Lusk, celebrated their 30th birthday together last April.

They spent a cozy night with their family at the Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa.

Greenbelly

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Trying to find somewhere to meet up with your girlfriends during your lunch hour that will have delicious, healthy fast food? Perhaps you should try the Coconut Chicken, Grilled Chicken Bruschetta, or Asian Peanut Crusted Chicken at Greenbelly. You might think we’re talking about some hearty entrées, but these are actually salads!

Greenbelly originally began as The Cooking Club, Inc., a catering company whose sole purpose was to share their love of fine metropolitan cuisine. But today, Greenbelly is the host of some of the healthiest, most mouthwatering salads in Omaha, as well as an eco-friendly restaurant environment.04 January 2013- Greenbelly Restaurant is photographed for Her Magazine.Manager Stacey Eckley explains that Greenbelly’s eco-friendly environment means that all of the silverware, cups, containers, etc. are all made from plants—like corn and potatoes—which makes them 100 percent environmentally safe. As for the food, Eckley says, “We try to get food as organic as possible, and as local as we can. For example, our tomatoes are from hot houses in O’Neill, Neb. What we’re trying to do is provide a healthy fast food.”

Some of the most popular meals at Greenbelly are their salads, but they also have whole-wheat or white Ciabatta paninis, whole-wheat wraps, and grilled pizzas rolled in olive oil. Eckley says their most popular pizza is the Greek, which has Gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, feta, kalamata olives, Greek dressing, and Tzatziki (white cucumber) sauce.04 January 2013- Greenbelly Restaurant is photographed for Her Magazine.

With seating for over 100 at their new location on 114th & Dodge, Eckley says Greenbelly’s ever-growing clientele includes people from all walks of life. “Some days, you’ll see a construction worker, and the next you’ll see a vice president of a bank. Also, we’re close to Nebraska Dance, so we get a lot of young dancers, as well as their moms, coming in after their classes to get healthy salads.”

As they say at Greenbelly, “Great food makes a great company.”

Greenbelly
210 N. 114th St.
402-334-1300
thegreenbelly.com

Mary Wadja

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mary Wajda enjoys the hunt for fun fashions and accessories in unexpected places. Harbor Farm Chick Market, Voila! and House of J are some of her local go-to shops for whimsical, affordable pieces.

“I have an eclectic style,” says the 25-year veteran in advertising and media, now with Morningfire, Inc. “I’m fortunate that I work in an industry that allows me to express my personal style.”

“I love classic pieces—a great leather coat, a structured jacket, pearls—and mixing them with something feminine or unexpected—lace, sparkle, and anything girlie! And I love, love, love jeans! LA Idol is my favorite brand.”

“I have an eclectic style…I love classic pieces…And I love, love, love jeans!”

The mother of two teen girls, Wajda jokes, “I had my daughters late in life, so I try to dress so I look young and not like their grandma, yet age-appropriate. I don’t want to be a 51-year-old woman trying to look 25…I would take 45! And I refuse to wear old ladies’ shoes. I love my heels!”

A long-time cancer survivor, Wajda has always made caring for her health a priority. The former USVBA volleyball player (“My husband [Rich Wajda] and I met playing volleyball.”) used to be a dedicated runner, but has moved on to less-jarring cardio and weights. “I try to work out three to four times a week…I take Strike, strictly strength, spinning, and total conditioning classes at Lifetime Fitness whenever my schedule allows. Push-ups and sit-ups are a daily must, too,” she adds.

Wajda attributes her good health in part to drinking 100oz. of water daily, taking vitamins and supplements, and using skin products with retin A, sunscreen, and moisturizer. “I try to avoid the sun…and never sleep in my makeup.”

All your work has paid off, Mary Wajda. You look fabulous!

Ervin & Smith

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Executives at Omaha advertising-public relations firm Ervin & Smith say the company’s recent growth and recognition as a top place to work and prosper are by-products of its considered emphasis on staff development.

2012 has seen the firm named one of Omaha’s Best Places to Work by Baird Holm LLP and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and as the Best Place for the Advancement of Women by Baird Holm and the Institute for Career Advancement Needs. Additionally, Ervin & Smith made this year’s Inc. magazine list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies after a 54 percent rise in revenue and significant staff increases from 2008 through 2011.

The agency, which employs more than 50 staffers, was founded in 1983 serving primarily financial services clients. While the financial services segment remains strong with clients like TD Ameritrade and Weitz Funds, the firm’s also made splashes with campaigns for such clients as Catholic Charities of Omaha, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Immanuel Senior Living. Ervin & Smith does business out of its own building at 16934 Frances Street.

“We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards.” – Heidi Mausbach, vice president for Client Relations

Vice President for Client Relations Heidi Mausbach says one reason the company thrives is it hires people congruent with its mission.

“When we’re hiring, we’re very insistent on people meeting the core values of creativity, resourcefulness, accountability, passion, collaboration, inspiration, and loyalty. It’s resulted in a culture of very like-minded, smart professionals. Everyone here works really well together.”

She says core agency practices support professional advancement.

“We do a lot of leadership luncheons. Managers do one-on-one coaching to provide employees growth opportunities and immediate feedback. We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards—We really believe that helps fuel not only your passion for work but for things you’re passionate about outside work.”

Heidi Musbach, Vice President, Client Relations, has been with the company for 12 years.

Heidi Mausbach, Vice President for Client Relations

Mausbach says the economic downturn led Ervin & Smith to hone in on itself.

“Rather than focusing on what our clients were doing and worrying about what was going on in the economy, we said, ‘Let’s focus on what we can control—ourselves.’”

Through this introspective process, she says, Ervin & Smith identified its greatest assets as “smart professionals always pushing to the next level and never settling,” adding, “As a result, we’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do. By focusing on our people, we’re retaining and attracting top talent, and when you have the best talent, you attract like-minded clients.”

Co-founder and Executive Chairman Doug Smith has made the agency a haven for women moving into senior management. Sharon Carleton began as a copywriter there and today is President and CEO. Mausbach’s followed a similar career trajectory.

“I started as Doug and Sharon’s assistant,” Mausbach says, “and they gave me a lot of opportunities, they allowed me take some risks, and as a result, I was able to work my way up. Doug has always looked for people who are experts in what they do and can get results. That’s always been our philosophy. And that’s been my experience growing up in the agency. If you can prove and show performance, it doesn’t really matter your gender, your age, or any of that.”

“We’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do.” – Mausbach

Carleton says, “We’ve never had a women’s initiative. Instead, we’ve always put in place programs we think will help all our employees. Employees have ideas for the company or a client, and we’re allowed to implement them. Over time, those individual ideas and opportunities have added up to a very supportive environment that both women and men appreciate.”

The firm’s Ms. Smith division has gained cachet as marketing-to-women specialists who consult with clients nationwide.

Carleton says Doug Smith nurtures this women-rising-to-the-top culture.

“Our culture has grown naturally from the foundation built by Doug Smith 30 years ago. I’ve been lucky to have him as my employer, mentor, and friend throughout my career. His generosity and encouragement keeps us positive and focused, pushing all of us to manage thoughtfully and strive for continuous improvement.”

For more information about the company, visit ervinandsmith.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Courtney Stein

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If all the world’s a stage, then 25-year-old actress, dancer, and choreographer Courtney Stein is definitely a player.

While performing in the musical Once On This Island at the tender age of 5, Stein, who was born and raised in Omaha, says she got “the itch” for theatre. “I grew up in the Ralston Community Theatre, taking part in numerous summer musicals throughout my adolescence,” she adds.

After she graduated from Ralston High School, Stein headed out to southern California for a year to join the Young Americans, a touring performance and music education outreach program. She then returned to Omaha to study vocal music education at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Shortly thereafter, she went to New York University, where she created her own program of study in various culture, dance, theatre, and music, but then returned home once more to graduate from UNO in 2010 with an individualized degree in interdisciplinary studies—specifically, anthropology with a focus on music, dance, and theatre.

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Today, Stein earns her living as a freelance choreographer and dance instructor, and she also teaches yoga, tai chi, and tap dancing at Bellevue Senior Center. Beyond her freelance work, Stein is involved with several nonprofit organizations, including WhyArts? and Arts for All, Inc. “I teach at a multitude of elementary schools in the metro, through both the Artery’s Dancing Classroom program and through the Omaha Community Playhouse’s educational outreach program. I [also] choreograph several area high school musicals and show choirs, as well,” she says.

But just teaching performance wasn’t enough for Stein; she wanted an outlet to continue the passion for performance her 5-year-old self had felt so long ago. That’s when she looked into the community theatre scene in her hometown.

“We don’t act for the money, we don’t sing for our supper, and we don’t dance for a dime.”

“Omaha is special,” she says. “It is home to so many artists—starving and otherwise, who are lucky enough to share their passion in a welcoming environment…We are privileged to have such wonderfully diverse yet mutually supportive theaters.”

One such theater is the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theatre in the nation. The theater opened in the 1920s after a group of Omahans—including Alan McDonald, architect of the Joslyn Art Museum, who later became president of the Playhouse—wanted stage performances to return to a community increasingly dominated by the rising popularity of films. In April 1925, the Playhouse’s very first play, The Enchanted Cottage, opened and was directed by Greg Foley, starring Dodie Brando, mother of actor Marlon Brando. The theater later saw the acting debuts of Henry Fonda (father of actress Jane Fonda), Marlon Brando, Dorothy McGuire, and Julie Wilson. For Stein, having the chance to stand on the stage where these legends once stood was an aspiration.20121031_bs_1664-Edit copy

“The first show I auditioned for at the Playhouse was Urinetown, and I actually wasn’t cast.” But Stein was stubborn and auditioned for the Playhouse’s next big musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, in 2007, where she was cast as a tap-dancing stenographer. During that role, Stein believes she must have done something the directors liked because she was then cast in the next show, A Christmas Carol, as fun-loving and energetic party girl Lucy.

Though she’s played Lucy for the past five years, this November and December, Stein plays Millie. “[Millie] is married to Scrooge’s nephew, Fred,” Stein explains of her character. “This is the first year since I have been a part of the Carol that I will not be Lucy, [who] is the slightly crazy, very energetic younger sister of Millie.”

Stein is slowly building a solid performance reputation with the Playhouse, as she has been involved in at least two musicals/plays each year. Her list thus far includes:

  • Thoroughly Modern Millie (as stenographer), 2007
  • A Christmas Carol (as Lucy), 2007-2012
  • The Cocoanuts (as Polly Potter), 2008
  • Batboy (as Ruthie/Ned), 2009
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (as chorus member), 2009
  • All Shook Up (as Lorraine), 2010
  • Fiddler on the Roof (as Chava), 2010
  • Footloose (as Wendy Jo), 2010
  • Nunsense (as Sister Mary Leo), 2011
  • Hairspray (as Amber Von Tussle), 2012

This past year, Stein was even nominated for the Omaha Theatre Arts Guild’s awards for her supporting actress role as Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray. Though it was exciting, Stein says she was somewhat shocked about the nomination. “I’ve played several sweet, ingénue-type roles and never received as much recognition. But I was cast as Amber in Hairspray, a horribly mean-spirited—albeit charming and funny—young girl and WHAM! I’m nominated for a TAG award and an OCP award!” she laughs. “Perhaps I’m not as innocent as I thought!”

Though she has been nominated for several other awards for her performances in Fiddler on the Roof, All Shook Up, and The Cocoanuts and received the Charles Jones Director’s Award from the Playhouse in 2010, Stein feels humbled by awards and tries not to put too much stock into them, as the performance is her true honor.

During her time with the Playhouse, Stein has developed a new ambition beyond just acting, singing, and dancing in the shows—she also wants to work behind the scenes as a choreographer.

Stein as Amber Von Tussle in the Omaha Community Playhouse's production of Hairspray.

Stein as Amber Von Tussle in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of Hairspray.

Last year’s Carol was the first year that Stein was asked to co-choreograph the play with Michelle Garrity. “[We] used a divide-and-conquer strategy to teaching the choreography. The show is such an institution at the Playhouse, and the choreography has remained true to the original, so it was intimidating to say the least.” And this past summer, Stein helped choreograph Hairspray with Kathy Wheeldon. “It was a wonderful experience to see some of my own original choreography onstage at such a prominent theater,” she adds, hoping she’ll have more opportunities to have her choreography in Playhouse shows.

Although it may seem like a career in performance is difficult to get with all of the fierce competition, Stein feels like community theatre doesn’t work that way. “We don’t act for the money, we don’t sing for our supper, and we don’t dance for a dime. In fact, we sacrifice time, energy, and sanity for one reason—an undying passion to tell a story, to convey a message, to leave the world a little different than before. We want to reach an audience.

“In the whirlwind of everyday chaos, theatre provides an outlet for release, a platform for expression, and a vehicle for social commentary. I believe that arts education is essential to the growth of a well-rounded human being and community.”

A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 16 through Dec. 23 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St.) and will be followed by Yesterday and Today, which runs from Dec. 7-31, and Deathtrap, which runs from Jan.18 through Feb. 10. For more information, visit omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.