Tag Archives: Oliver

Stephanie Kurtzuba

August 8, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Stage and screen actress Stephanie Kurtzuba has graced Hollywood red carpets and Broadway billboards, but she is most comfortable at her family’s West Lanes Bowling Center in her hometown of Omaha.

The Central High School graduate’s maternal grandparents, Tony and Nellie Pirruccello, built the place at 151 N. 72nd St. Her late mother, Connie Pirruccello, had grown up there in the 1950s. Stephanie, a co-owner with her father, Ray Kurtzuba, spent countless hours at the bowling alley as a stage-struck kid. It’s now a favorite hangout for her two boys when they visit from New York City.

“I remember running up and down the concourse practicing cartwheels and using the dance floor in the lounge after school to rehearse my dance recital numbers,” recalls Stephanie, who displayed her cartwheel moves in the 2014 movie Annie. “It was a second home to me and now my children. My boys only get to visit about once a year, so when they do, they eat it up.”

Stephanie’s mom encouraged her to perform in Omaha Show Wagon. Her breakout came in Oliver at the Music Hall. She performed at the then-Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater (now The Rose) as well as the Firehouse and Upstairs dinner theaters. When the original Broadway Annie became a sensation, she sang its anthems around the house. Stephanie says, “It’s the ultimate irony” that three decades later she played Mrs. Kovacevic in the movie.

A local choreographer planted the seed that she had the chops to pursue a professional acting career. But talent only takes you so far. The rest is desire and discipline.

“It’s almost like what some people would call a calling. But it’s almost like there’s nothing else I can or want to do with my time and energies than pursue this, and that’s a real motivator.”

Her theater passion may not have gone far without tragedy befalling her biggest champion.

“If I had not lost my mother when I did, I don’t know that my choices would have been the same in terms of following my dream. We were so incredibly close, my mother and I. When everything went down with her health, it became very clear to me in a very short amount of time, tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Losing her rocked my foundation, my very being, but it taught me some really valuable lessons about carpe diem.”

Stephanie won a full-ride to Drake University but got cold feet being so far from home. She briefly attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. With her mom gone, she resolved it was now-or-never. She prepared an audition with help from The Rose’s James Larson and got accepted to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Off-Broadway and regional theater parts honed her craft.

“My goal has always been to be a working actor.”

Her credits include Broadway’s The Boy from Oz, Mary Poppins, and Billy Elliott; the feature films Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Wolf of Wall Street; and TV’s The Good Wife.

She hopes one day to perform again where it all started.

“The Emmy Gifford was so seminal in my development as a young artist. I loved it deeply. I still remember the smell of the place. It was home. It would be singularly fulfilling to be able to come back and rejoin the Omaha arts community. That would be some deeply felt, full-circle kinda stuff right there.”

Meanwhile, she’s found a new love: producing. She has several projects in the works. She’s also developing a TV series set in Omaha, which is loosely based on her life, for local Syncretic Entertainment. The pilot is due to shoot here in the fall. They look to put local talent to work. Paying it forward.

“It’s my passion project. I love it so much.” 

To learn more, visit stephaniekurtzuba.com. Omaha Magazine

StephanieKurtzuba

Clara Sue Arnsdorff

June 9, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Clara Sue Arnsdorff, 73, moved to Bellevue with her Air Force family (husband Gordon, son John, and daughter Susan) in the late ’70s, many things in what seemed like just another short-term assignment turned out to be key ingredients for a sweet life.

“The Air Force sent my husband’s whole unit here in 1977, and we have been here ever since,” Arnsdorff says. “We loved the area. Good schools, kids were settled nicely, so we stayed until my husband retired. Both kids attended Hastings College and got excellent educations. All because we moved here.”

It’s funny how helping out becomes habitual for some folks. When the Arnsdorff family was still new to Bellevue, it was the younger members who set the stage for their mom’s backstage life promoting the Bellevue Little Theatre.

BellevueLittleTheater2“I blame that on our kids. When they were 7 and 9, there was an open audition at the Bellevue Little Theater for the first of a series of family shows to be done there, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’” Arnsdorff says. “Both kids auditioned, and our daughter was chosen. I had absolutely no idea that some 35 years later I would still be so involved.”

The next year, Arnsdorff’s son John, then age 10, was cast in “Oliver,” then “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

“The list continued for some time. I guess I became a familiar face down there. When the publicity person moved on, I was asked to take over the job,” Arnsdorff recalls wistfully about the amount of time and effort that went into spreading the word in the ’80s. “Back then, all the info had to be mailed to the newspapers, radio, and TV stations, and I used our old Apple to type that up, print it, and mail it.”

It didn’t take long for Arnsdorff to become a permanent part of the Bellevue Little Theatre team.

“After a couple of years, I was asked to be on the board of directors, and I have been active there ever since,” Arnsdorff says. “I have been corresponding secretary for about the last 10 years…and I must say that the job actually involves much more than ‘corresponding.’”

As co-chair of the play and director selection committee, Arnsdorff is tasked with reading and selecting the plays and musicals to be staged at the Bellevue Little Theatre. She even invites the directors for each show.

Arnsdorff says her life in theater has taught her about patience, empathy, and understanding.

“As you get older, I think you appreciate more the everyday struggles of families and working moms. Raising kids is a full time job. I was fortunate that I was a stay-at-home mom, but that luxury is fast disappearing,” Arnsdorff says. “Volunteering has helped me to be more empathetic. It reminds me that we have to be patient with volunteers. It’s hard sometimes. Many expect volunteers to be experts at their jobs, but it doesn’t work like that. We have to share ideas, be ready to admit errors, and move on to make things better. We have to listen, but be open…that is hard.”

Visit bellevuelittletheatre.com for more info.

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