Tag Archives: Omaha Community Playhouse

Dropping Bombs

August 9, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Suzanne Withem has to size you up before she decides how to tell you the name of her next play.

After all, you don’t drop an F-bomb on just anybody.

Withem has spent the better part of her life on stage and behind the scenes, and this fall she takes another big step as a big name in Omaha theater circles when she directs Stupid F@#%ing Bird at Omaha Community Playhouse.

That’s how OCP is promoting it, at least.

What does Withem say when she tells folks about her upcoming project, billed as a “sort-of adaptation” of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull?

“It depends who I’m talking to,” she says with a laugh. “In most of my artistic conversations, I say f…”

So there, she drops it. “The Queen Mother of dirty words” as A Christmas Story’s Ralphie
calls it.

Withem says it with gusto—this is adult theater, after all. Besides, there’s plenty more to Stupid F@#%ing Bird than its effing title.

There’s plenty more to Withem, too.

She first set foot on stage as a 5-year-old dressed in pink and cartwheeling across the stage in a Ballet Omaha production of The Nutcracker. By middle school she was Gertrude in Hamlet, then performed at Papillion-La Vista High School and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she earned a B.A. in theater. That’s also where her aspirations turned serious, especially after a turn as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Suzanne Withem

“That’s the first time that I got to delve into production and really feel like an artist and not like I was just someone memorizing words and blocking,” Withem says. “I felt like I really had created a character and had a clear understanding of the script.”

She’s fed her own desire ever since, teaching, acting, stage managing, and directing with a wide variety of theaters: OCP, Nebraska Shakespeare, Bellevue Little Theatre, Opera Omaha, Bridget Saint Bridget, and others.

For the past three years, she’s turned more and more to directing. This February that included direction of Bellevue Little Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing.

“As I’ve started working with more and more seasoned actors, I love hearing what they have to bring to the table, and that goes back to that collaboration thing. What I love is working with my peers,” she says.

Somewhere along the way, though, Withem grew to love something even more. Something beyond scripts, sets, and other stage stuff.

“Education is the thing I care most about,”
she says.

Which is funny, she adds, given that “I swore I would never, ever go into education.”

In other words, she’d never be like her parents.

Her mother, Diane, taught in public schools for 34 years and now is an adjunct in the UNO English department. Her father, Ron, also was a high school teacher but later became a state senator and one-time speaker of Nebraska’s Unicameral. Now he’s associate vice president for the University of Nebraska as director of its governmental relations.

It’s not that Mom and Dad expected her to follow them to the classroom. After all, they were the ones who piqued her interest in the arts.

“My mom would take me to the ballet, and the opera, and the theater. When we traveled we’d go see productions. Both have a strong appreciation for the arts. It started there,” she says.

Her first job after graduating from UNO (she was one of the few in her cohort to get a job in the field after graduation) was at the Rose Theater. She figured it would be a foot in the door opening to a great stage career. But it also involved educating others about theater.

“I got to act a little bit,” Withem says, “but they kind of tricked me. Maybe I just didn’t read the fine print.

“What ended up happening is I fell in love with teaching in a way I didn’t think I would.”

She returned to UNO and earned an M.A. in English. She taught students in the Writing Center there. She taught high school drama classes. She became artistic director for RESPECT, an organization that works to build healthy relationships through theater. And she landed a job at UNO as coordinator of its Master of Arts in Critical and Creative Thinking program.

But the theater still pulls strong. She recently had personal business cards printed after growing tired of writing her theater chops on the back of her UNO card.

“Educator, Director, Stage Manager, Writer.”

That might be a f@#%ing mouthful, but now she has something that sums up all that is Suzanne.

For now.

“What comes in front of me has pretty much been always just the right thing,” she says. “As far as where I’m going to be in five years or 10 years, I am kind of waiting to find out.”

Visit omahaplayhouse.org for information about Withem’s play.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Encounter.

2017 July/August Performances

Shakespeare On The Green: The Merry Wives of Windsor: July 1, 2, 7, and 9 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

Omaha Under the Radar: July 5-8 at multiple locations. The experimental performance festival returns for the fourth year, charging the galleries and open spaces of Joslyn with live music and dance. Other locations include KANEKO, OutrSpaces, project project, and Reverb Lounge. Times vary. Event passes $10, festival passes $40-$75, some events free.
undertheradaromaha.com

Shakespeare On The Green: King Lear: July 6 and 8 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

Juno’s Swans: Richard III: July 9 at Blue Barn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St. A part of the Connect with Shakespeare series, Juno’s Swans uses an all-female ensemble to explore Shakespeare’s characters and text through the feminine experience and outlook. 2 p.m. Admission: free. 402-345-1576.
bluebarn.org

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist: July 12-23 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This world premiere of McGuigan’s brand-new show features classic rock tunes with a big band twist, backed by a full horn section and an all-star lineup of Omaha’s finest musicians. Times vary. Tickets: $40. 402-553-0800.
ticketomaha.com

Neighbors, Lovers, and All the Others: July 14-Aug. 6 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Facing a serious bout of composer’s block, Loyal Guerre finds inspiration in an unlikely source–his handsome, talented neighbor who has no idea that he needs a set of curtains to separate his apartment from the rest of the world. Times vary. Tickets: $20 general, $15 students/seniors/TAG members. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.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


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

2017 May/June Calendar of Events

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.

2017 May/June Performances

*CatherlandThrough 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 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 WomenMay 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 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: 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


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.

Queen of the Nerds

January 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Amanda Fehlner has some opinions about superheroes wearing spandex.

“You’re about to go into battle, and what are you going to put on? A spandex suit? That’s not going to help you at all. So, I made the Rogue [costume] out of leather,” says the Omaha costume designer, explaining how she constructed a bodysuit for the X-Men character.

Fehlner says it was one of her earliest forays into the increasingly popular world of cosplay.

“First of all, cosplay is just a combination of two words. It’s costume-play. So it’s really any opportunity that you as a person get to dress up as someone that you’re not, and you get to play while you’re in that [costume] and have fun with it,” she explains.

amandafehlner3Fehlner is more than a hobbyist. She’s an associate costume designer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Skills useful for her day job benefit her hobby, while the reverse is also true. For instance, a cosplayer might work with plastic to fabricate armor—techniques that translate to theater.

Cosplayers are typically spotted in places that celebrate nerd culture, such as comic book or sci-fi conventions. Fehlner explains that cosplay is similar to attending Renaissance fairs in costume or dressing in genre-inspired outfits such as goth or steampunk, but that cosplayers tend to portray specific characters in movies, comic books, cartoons, or Japanese anime.

On Facebook, where she goes by the name “Ezmeralda Von Katz,” there are photos of Fehlner’s diverse creations including an elaborate Ursula costume from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the computer game character Carmen Sandiego. Because of her theater background, Fehlner explains that she sometimes enjoys getting into character when she’s in costume, but it isn’t required.

Her passion for constructing costumes started early. While growing up in Tabor, Iowa, she learned to sew Halloween costumes to meet her exacting specifications and participated in theater at Fremont-Mills High School.

“It started with Halloween. It was my very favorite holiday, still is my very favorite holiday, but as a kid that was my big thing,” she says.

amandafehlner2

Before heading off to study theater and anthropology at the University of South Dakota, Fehlner was cast in a Mills Masquers community theater production of  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She begged them to let her make the coat.

“Of course being in theater now, I’m sure they were like, ‘Some person just wants to do this, and we don’t have to handle it. Done, done, and done!’”  Fehlner says with a laugh.

She likes a good challenge; her latest cosplay projects include an elaborate ball gown for a character from the anime series Vampire Hunter D and a hand-stitched Sally costume from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not to mention the spring productions at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

“I’ll be working on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I’ll get to do some fun Western stuff,” Fehlner says. “Of course, our closer is Beauty and the Beast. It’s exciting and a little terrifying at the same time.”

Fortunately for the playhouse team, Fehlner says she has already been experimenting with a Beast costume thanks to her cosplay side projects.

Visit omahaplayhouse.com for more information.

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

Kimberly Faith Hickman

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kimberly Faith Hickman isn’t a Christmas Carol rookie.

kimberlyfaithhickman3Before she took the reins as the Omaha Community Playhouse’s artistic director in June, she co-directed the Playhouse’s touring production of the 2015 show, and the year prior shadowed former artistic director Carl Beck and former associate artistic director Susan Baer Collins the last year they directed the touring production.

But the mainstage production? The one that is celebrating its 41st anniversary this year? The version those of us in Omaha know and love as the Playhouse’s time-honored tradition?

No, she hasn’t directed that one yet. But not to worry. Some familiar faces are coming back this year to pass along every little production detail to Hickman and the Playhouse’s associate director, Jeff Horger.

A Christmas Carol is simply too big of an undertaking for just one director. The transitions are complex, the technical effects are advanced, and the scenic elements are complicated—one director cannot be expected to successfully manage everything.

Just as Charles Jones, the Playhouse’s artistic director who created the production, passed along his knowledge of the production to his successors, Beck and Collins will pass along their knowledge to Hickman and Horger; so as A Christmas Carol continues into its fourth decade, nothing will be lost in translation.

“There are so many details Jeff and I just don’t know,” Hickman says. While she was involved with the touring production, the mainstage involves several more actors, as well as more complex design and technical elements. “Jeff and I are using this year as an opportunity to learn from Carl and Susie what those details are.”

For years, A Christmas Carol’s directing responsibilities have been split up among more than one director. And this year will be no different. Hickman will shadow Beck, who will direct the Scrooge, ghosts, and street scenes. Horger will shadow Collins, who will direct the party scenes and other various scenes. And local director Ablan Roblin, who has directed the Cratchit scenes in the past, will take on this role again.

“From a directing standpoint, it’s a very unique approach,” says Beck. “There is no one director who takes on the entire production.”

That’s because A Christmas Carol is simply too big of an undertaking for just one director. The transitions are complex, the technical effects are advanced, and the scenic elements are complicated—one director cannot be expected to successfully manage everything. Splitting up the responsibilities helps ensure the original intent of every part of the production, from the music to the characters to the concept itself, will remain intact.

For example, the party scenes, which Collins will direct, involve several people, all of whom are responsible for specific movements. But all of the little events within the scene aren’t necessarily in the script, Collins says. So a new director would have no idea how to incorporate everything by just looking at the script.

kimberlyfaithhickman2“You can’t just give someone a bunch of notes for this,” says Collins. “They have to be in the room.”

That’s why Hickman and Horger will be in the room this year. They will be taking notes and documenting every detail each scene requires. So when members of the Omaha community come to see the Playhouse’s Christmas Carol next year and for years to come, they will see the production Jones originally created back in the 1970s—a production intended to “recreate what you want Christmas to be in your imagination,” says Collins.

“I’m honored to be a part of this tradition,” says Hickman, “I’m honored that Carl and Susie trust us to be part of this tradition, and I’m also looking forward to having the Omaha community be a part of it.”

Visit omahaplayhouse.com for more information. Omaha

Nurturing Young Artists in North Omaha

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Within one year of establishing The Union of Contemporary Art in 2011, its founder and executive director, Brigitte McQueen Shew, noticed neighborhood kids arriving unexpectedly at the arts facility on North 24th Street.

The Union didn’t have formal weekend classes at the time. But the kids didn’t mind. They would show up, knock on the door, and ask: “Can we come in to make stuff?”

Union1McQueen Shew was happy to accommodate. “We just started letting them come in and do whatever they wanted,” she says.

The informal weekend sessions grew into the weekly “Art Club” in 2013, and the program continues to grow. Now, on any given Saturday, there are local artists helping out, teaching lessons, and serving as mentors.

“It really started organically, and the majority of the kids involved in the program still walk to the building,” McQueen Shew says of the free program for youths who are between the ages of 6 and 13, living in North Omaha. Art Club takes place every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The focus of each Art Club session depends on the artist(s) leading the group. McQueen Shew says they try to have a ceramic artist instructor available, “because the kids love working with clay.”

Sometimes the artistic medium is painting or printmaking, and they have also done yoga with the kids. Meanwhile, urban agriculture is an important aspect of Art Club every week.

“We’re located in one of the largest food deserts in the state of Nebraska,” she says, referring to North Omaha’s dearth of affordable, fresh, and healthy food. “We have a garden that basically belongs to the community, but the kids are responsible for it. They help us plant, maintain it, and during the summer when they cook lunches for each other, a lot of the produce come from the garden.”

Union3
Art and North Omaha

Within the past year, McQueen Shew has been trying to connect Art Club lessons with African-American art history. Her focus emerged from a guest lecture she gave at Sacred Heart School in North Omaha.

“I started the presentation by asking, ‘Who likes art?’” McQueen Shew says. “Everyone raised their hands. Then, I asked if anyone could name a famous artist, and I got lots of ‘Picassos.’ And then, I asked them they could name a famous African-American artist, and it was like crickets.”

During the next half hour of her presentation, she showed a steady stream of African-American artwork on the projector. At the end of her talk, she asked again, “How many of you can name an African-American artist?” All hands went up.

Union2Students were excited to learn about the important cultural and artistic contributions made by African-Americans. McQueen Shew says making the connection is important.

“It’s not really a conversation that we have in North Omaha,” she says. “Most after school programs focus on sports, which is why we really want to do this. There’s just no cultural outlet for kids living in the community. So, we work around a lot of art history ideas because I think it’s really important for the children and their families to connect themselves to the conversations.”

Art Club, and the rest of The Union’s youth outreach programming, strives to achieve The Union’s ultimate goal: to “unite artists and the community to inspire positive social change.” The youth outreach programs build on The Union’s other efforts to provide studio space and facilitate exhibitions for contemporary artists in Omaha.

Youth Outreach

The Union has gradually expanded its youth outreach over the past few years. Youth programs are free; however, most are directed at serving North Omaha residents living east of 72nd St., west of the Missouri River, south of Interstate 680, and north of Cuming Street or Northwest Radial Highway.

Over the summer, activities included a new family program on Thursday nights, various art workshops, and a summer camp for kids. The family night program could become a regular feature at The Union in the future.

For the past two years, The Union has offered “Teen Art Night” every Friday. Teen Art Night began as a collaboration with Catholic Charities for at-risk youth. The teen night is now geared towards all teens—ages 13 through 19—offering open access to The Union’s studio space, darkroom, print shop, ceramic studio, paints, drawing materials, and assorted art supplies every Friday from 5-8 p.m.

“We decided to open it up and let other teens come in, so that’s not open just for North Omaha, but also to everyone from the greater Omaha area,” McQueen Shew says. The summer family night was also open to residents of the larger metropolitan area.

Union4Changes are on the horizon for The Union. The non-profit space will relocate to the nearby Blue Lion building in the fall. The larger space will allow The Union to accommodate even more youths, instructors, and families. 

In January, The Union is planning to launch a new after-school arts program for North Omaha youth called “Union After School.” They are currently accepting participant registration for the program.

“We are also adding an element to the programs that we do with the kids when we move to the new building, and that’s theater,” McQueen Shew says, noting the hiring of Denis Chapman from Omaha Community Playhouse. “We’ll have a youth theater ensemble that will perform productions throughout the year.”

The Union’s move into the renovated Blue Lion building corresponds with a growing number of community developments in the vicinity of North 24th and 30th streets. McQueen Shew is excited to play her part in the area’s revitalization.

“There is so much happening in the community right now,” she says. “It’s a pretty amazing time.” 

Visit u-ca.org/youth-outreach for more information. FamilyGuideUnion5

Nils Haaland

August 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Stage and voice actor Nils Haaland has assembled an array of roles. He’s played Pupcake, the precocious, rambunctious, and lovable puppy companion of Strawberry Shortcake. He’s also played infamous Nebraskan serial killer Charles Starkweather.

Haaland is a founding member of the Blue Barn Theatre. He studied acting at the State University of New York (SUNY) with fellow Blue Barn founders Kevin Lawler and Hughston Walkinshaw. Sitting down at a large table at the Blue Barn, Haaland said his acting career started around age four, when he performed in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He also remembers portraying one of the children killed in the play Medea.

“I was not a very good slaughtered child,” Haaland says. “In a very somber moment, the audience sort of erupted in laughter because I was kind of fidgeting around.”

At SUNY Haaland studied under acting coach George Morrison, whose pupils include Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Edie Falco, and Stanley Tucci.

After Haaland graduated from SUNY, he lived in Staten Island with Hughston Walkinshaw. Kevin Lawler called Haaland and asked if he would be interesting in starting a theatre company in Omaha. Haaland weighed the options: starting a theatre company in a city with a noticeably cheaper cost of living, or continue to plug away in New York.

NilsHaaland2“It’s really beneficial to be there (in New York), but you’re really at the mercy of so many factors,” Haaland says.

“To be able to determine your own art … that sounded well worth the journey.”

Since the late 1980s, Haaland has acted at both the Blue Barn and the Omaha Community Playhouse. He also was a voice actor for DIC Entertainment, whose animated shows include Inspector Gadget, The Real Ghostbusters, and Strawberry Shortcake. When it came to voice auditions, Haaland said following one’s first impulses was key to landing a role.

“To try to do a horse whinny, or a mountain lion roar, or a dinosaur roar…with a British accent…who might be a little morose.”

Haaland’s work has gone beyond acting into screenwriting. He currently is working with writer Amy Biancolli, helping her develop a sitcom tentatively titled Other Peoples’ Dogs.

Haaland has also been known to come up with a name or two, such as the Blue Barn Theatre.

While at SUNY, Haaland was supposed to present an acting piece to the class. He was totally unprepared. He gave an on-the spot monologue in front of the class. When he finished, the professor asked him about the piece. Haaland said it was called the “Blue Barn” play. Susan Clement-Toberer, who is now producing artistic director of the Blue Barn, was in class at the time.

“I knew he was lying,” Clement-Toberer says over the phone as she was in the middle of rehearsals for the play Heathers.

Hence, when there came a time to pull an acting miracle out of thin air, it was known as “Blue Barning” to the founding members. But Clement-Toberer said the name also reflected the general spirit and Haaland’s contributions to the Blue Barn.

“It’s kind of a way of creating a spur of the moment, organic experience,” Clement-Toberer says. Encounter

Visit bluebarn.org for more information.

Engendering Identity

June 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann, video by Jared Kennedy

An often-marginalized demographic is finding its voice. Transgender people—estimated at one-fifth of one percent of the total U.S. population—have been thrust into the national spotlight amid the political firestorm following the introduction of North Carolina’s bathroom bill, HB2. Dr. Jay Irwin helps to explain LGBTQ community discourse.                                               — Executive Editor Doug Meigs

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In 2006, while wasting time on the Internet when I should have been writing a paper for graduate school, my whole world changed. I found an online diary of a young trans man—a person who identifies as male but was assigned female at birth—talking about his own process of self-discovery. His words and story made 100 percent sense to me, as I was struggling to figure out who I was as well. I had come out as a lesbian two years prior, but something about that term didn’t click. Reading his words about his own gender discovery and transition, I finally knew who I was and what it meant. With learning the words, I found the ability to finally understand myself.

Transgender and cisgender. The terms are hot topics in the news. They offer clarity to some and confusion to others. Approximately 700,000 transgender individuals are estimated to live in the U.S. (or 0.2 percent of the population). Although a relatively small portion of the nation’s populace, the demographic is making big strides culturally.

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The way we talk about people and gender identity has shifted. In the 1970s, the focus was on gay rights, with social movements like the Gay Liberation Front and the Stonewall Riots in New York CityIn the 1980s and 1990s, the language shifted to gay and lesbian, responding to calls to make these groups more inclusive of women and their experiences. But behind the scenes, conversation around language for diverse sexuality and gender identities was already pointing out the limiting nature of the common phrase “gay and lesbian.”

Currently, the most used phrase for this topic is LGBTQ—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Occasionally you will see two Qs, highlighting both queer and individuals who are questioning, or still trying to figure out their sexuality and/or gender. You may also see LGBTQ+, pointing out that these 5 letters have left a lot of more specific identities out of the acronym. This shift can be seen in the name change of a major organization that advocates on the behalf of LGBTQ people—the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the organization that runs Creating Change, the largest LGBTQ social justice conference in the U.S., changed its name to the National LGBTQ Task Force in 2014. We can also see it locally, as the UNO student group for LGBTQ+ students just changed its name from Gender and Sexual Orientation Student Agency (GSO) to Queer and Trans Services Student Agency (QTS, pronounced “cuties”).

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For many, the fluid nature of language in this area is confusing. Even for myself, someone who teaches and researches gender and sexuality at UNO, keeping up with the changes in language takes a lot of work.

Take for example the word “queer,” a word steeped in a lot of negative connotations and usages for many folks, which is now a formal part of many acronyms currently in use. But what’s most important with the term queer is that many people in the community have reclaimed the word to embrace part of its original meaning: difference and diversity. Queer, as an identity, is a very open and wide-ranging term, often meaning non-heterosexual but with nuances for specific individuals who identify as queer. And for many young people, queer is a word that feels more comfortable to them than gay or lesbian. (It should be noted, for some individuals who identify as gay or lesbian—particularly individuals from earlier generations—the word queer can still have negative connotations, so use the word with care.)

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Today, we are witnessing a massive shift in the language used when we talk about gender. With recent media attention to transgender people, that is, people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, more and more trans people are claiming their own language and their own words, all while highlighting that gender is much more than just male or female.

There are many other terms, far too many to define here. The website for Trans Student Educational Resources published an online glossary that includes: heteroflexible, cisgender, transgender, genderqueer, polysexual, pansexual, asexual, gender fluid, demisexual, and the list goes on. See the glossary at the bottom of this article for more information.

Jessi Hitchens, director of UNO’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the official UNO office that oversees inclusion and programming for women as well as LGBTQ persons on campus, discusses her own discovery of the plethora of language options: “Growing up in a small, blue-collar, immigrant town in Illinois, I did not have language for what I was experiencing at the time. Once in college, my worldview shifted and the community language was never static or silenced for me again.”

14Hitchens, who identifies as a polysexual, cisgender woman, acutely understands the power in language. She describes her identities in the following way: “I have been sexually and romantically attracted to many different genders. I am currently in a 14-year monogamous relationship with a straight, cis man but that does not mean my polysexual identity is any less real.” She goes on to clarify what she means when she says “cis”—“I am a cis woman which for me means my gender assignment at birth and my gender identity and gender expression are all in alignment.”

Jeff Horger, associate artistic director at the Omaha Community Playhouse, identifies as a straight man. He states that perhaps we’ve put the cart before the horse. “I think that the acronym LGBTQ has been inappropriately mainstreamed.” In his view, while people inside the community may be aware of the meaning, a number of folks are unaware and thus unable to understand the complexity of it all. For Horger, without a wide public education first, the acronym isn’t as powerful as it could be.

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Despite Horger’s views on a wider usage of the term LGBTQ, he does appreciate the fact that the acronym is trying to highlight the complexity that is gender identity and sexual orientation. “People [used to be] homosexual or heterosexual. We were very comfortable looking at the world in a binary fashion, but once we started looking at ourselves, we realized that we’re a lot more complicated than that. A complicated world requires a complicated description and a complicated acronym.”

When asked about the potential confusion, Hitchens approaches the answer in an attempt to educate. “Well, if Shakespeare kept to only the currently imagined words, we would be missing such wonderful, beautiful, and influential texts. Language is an art and culture. As we evolve, we need to encourage people to use words that make sense to them in an effort to better connect to each other.”

For many in the LGBTQ community, the words that we put to our identities are an attempt at gaining power of our identities, our lives, and a way to speak out loud our truths. We want others to understand this. We want people to ask, “I don’t understand that term. Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?”

What people learn and how they interact can build bridges.

Visit transstudent.org for more information.

Glossary

LGBTQ gender identity terms excerpted from the website of Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER):

AFAB/AMAB: Acronym for “assigned (female/male) at birth.” A term preferred to biological female/male, born female/male, and other terms considered defamatory and inaccurate.

Agender: An umbrella term encompassing many different genders of people who commonly describe themselves as gender-neutral.

Aromantic: A lack of romantic attraction towards others, and someone identifying with this orientation.

Asexual: The lack of sexual attraction, and someone identifying with this orientation.

Bigender: Those who identify as two genders.

Bisexual: An umbrella term for people who experience sexual and/or emotional attraction to more than one gender.

Cisgender/cis: Someone who exclusively identifies as their sex assigned at birth.

Demisexual: A sexual orientation in which one does not feel sexual attraction without a strong emotional bond. As an umbrella term, sometimes associated with “aromantic” and “asexual.”

Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc.

Gender Fluid: A changing or “fluid” gender identity.

Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither, or both.

Genderqueer: A person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.

Heteroflexible: Sexual orientation or situational behavior characterized by minimal homosexual activity in an otherwise primarily heterosexual orientation.

LGBTQQIAPP+: Short for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, aromantic, pansexual, polysexual” (sometimes abbreviated to LGBT or LGBTQ+).

Monosexual: An umbrella term for orientations directed towards one gender.

Multisexual: An umbrella term for orientations directed towards multiple genders.

Nonbinary: Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man. Not all binary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary.

Pansexual: Capable of being attracted to many/any genders. This term is being used more and more frequently.

Polysexual: Sexual attraction to more than one gender. Bisexuality and pansexuality are forms of polysexuality.

Queer: A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations. The term has a complicated history as a reclaimed slur.

Sexual Orientation: A person’s physical romantic, emotional aesthetic and/or other form of attraction to others.

Transgender/trans: A term encompassing many gender identities for those who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth.

Transition: A person’s process of developing and assuming a gender expression to match their gender identity. This includes coming out to one’s family, friends, and/or coworkers; changing one’s name and/or gender on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly surgery.

Transsexual: A depreciated term (often pejorative) similar to transgender in that it indicates a difference between one’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth.

Two Spirit: An umbrella term indexing various indigenous gender identities in North America.

*Correction: The July/August 2016 print edition incorrectly identified QTS as Queer and Trans Spectrum Student Agency.

To read more about the recent transgender bathroom controversy, see the current issue of Omaha Magazinehttp://omahamagazine.com/2016/06/tracking-the-controversy/

To read more about Dr. Jay Irwin, see his profile in Omaha Magazine‘s January/February issue: http://omahamagazine.com/2016/01/trans-logic/

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