Tag Archives: performing arts

2017 September/October Performances

September 1, 2017 by
Photography by contributed

Babe the Sheep Pig, Sept. 8-24 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. Babe the piglet is brought to Hogget Farm, where, with some help from a dog named Fly, he discovers he has a unique talent for herding sheep. 7 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $10 for members, $20 for nonmembers. 402-345-4849.
rosetheater.org

How Very Unfairy: Into the Wicked Woods, Sept. 14-23 at Apollon, 1801 Vinton St. This dinner and show presents fairy tales in their true forms. Created to scare children into good behavior, these pre-Disney fairy tales are full of gore and terror. Tickets: $29. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. 402-884-0135.
apollonomaha.com

Big Canvas Improv, Sept. 16 at Apollon, 1801 Vinton St. An entirely improv show from family-friendly comedy troupe Big Canvas. This unique show is created from a series of improv games and scenes. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets: $5. 402-884-0135.
apollonomaha.com

Every Brilliant Thing, Sept. 21-Oct. 15 at Bluebarn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St. This solo show, performed by Bluebarn founder Hughston Walkinshaw, tells the tale of a 7 year old who attempts to cheer up his mom, who’s in the hospital, by making a list of every brilliant thing about the world. Tickets: $30 general admission; $25 students, seniors (65+), TAG members, and people in groups of 10 or more. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays. 402-345-1576.
bluebarn.org

Mamma Mia, Sept. 15-Oct. 15 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Packed with favorite ABBA songs such as “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance On Me,” it is no surprise that this musical is one of the top 10 longest-running Broadway musicals. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $42 adults, $22 students with valid ID. $10 discount for TAG members. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

G2K Cinderella, Sept. 22-Oct. 1 at Chanticleer Theater, 830 Franklin Ave., Council Bluffs. In this specially created G2K (Getting To Know) version, all the beloved songs and familiar characters are present. The script has been condensed to better suit young attention spans, and the plot has been slightly altered to highlight some important lessons. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $20 adults, $16 seniors, $10 students. 712-323-9955.
chanticleertheater.com

Madagascar, Oct. 6-22 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. Watch Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo, Melvin the giraffe, and King Julien the lemur make their way from the Central Park Zoo to the mysterious land of Madagascar. 7 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $10 members, $20 nonmembers. 402-345-4849.
rosetheater.org

“Underwater Bubble Show” at Orpheum Theater Oct. 7

The Underwater Bubble Show, Oct. 7 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. This story follows the adventures of downtrodden businessman Mr. B as he is miraculously transported to a place called Bubblelandia. This show blends drama, mime, dance, puppetry, juggling, contortion, visual effects, and more. 3 p.m. Tickets: $15 and up. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Finding Neverland, Oct. 11-15 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Learn the story behind one of the world’s most beloved tales: Peter Pan. This musical follows J.M. Barrie’s real life experience and inspiration behind the magical world of Neverland. 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $35 and up. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Stupid F@#%ing Bird, Oct. 13-Nov. 12 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. A wacky and brazen adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, written by Aaron Posner, who presents a story of art, love, and success. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $42 adults, $22 students with valid ID. $10 discount for TAG members. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

Momentum: Fosse Style, Oct. 20 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. Broadway legend Ann Reinking is coming to Omaha to stage a Bob Fosse medley. Fosse’s iconic choreography set new standards for theatrical dance, and Reinking is a principal authority on his style and work. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $22-$53. 402-345-0606.
balletnebraska.org

“Shatner’s World” at Holland Performing Arts Center Oct. 26

Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It, Oct. 26 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Walk down memory lane with William Shatner in this two-hour show where he poignantly reflects on life’s trials, romance, and some of his wildest memories from a lifetime in show business. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35 and up. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

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

Kirk Vaughn-Robinson

December 18, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

After a lifetime in the performing arts that culminated in 12 years on the road with the blockbuster Broadway touring production of The Phantom of the Opera in the roles of Lefevre and the Fire Chief, Kirk Vaughn-Robinson had come to learn more than a little bit about stagecraft.

But few scenes were as amateurishly staged as the one that played out in his hotel room almost every night in the latter years of his musical theatre career.

“I had this wobbly collapsible table I bought for $20 at Walgreens, a rickety foldable chair, a simple clamp light, and a lazy susan,” says the Muncie, Ind., native who later grew up on a horse farm in Florida. “It was just all so totally absurd.”

Outside of his Broadway gig, the triple threat singer-actor-dancer had performed with the Cincinnati Opera, Dayton Opera, Sorg & Whitewater Opera companies, and the Cincinnati Pops, all after attending the famed American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.

But Kirk Vaughn-Robinson was now learning a new artform. Carting his curious ensemble of new “props” from town to town, he was teaching himself to become a sculptor.

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“It’s only fitting that I have established my first studio here in Council Bluffs,” Vaughn-Robinson says from the surprisingly spacious 1,100-square-foot space in the Harvester Artspace Lofts that has been his live/work home for over a year, “because my sculpting career began when Phantom was here in 2008. I executed my first work here.”

Things moved fast, he says, once he mustered the courage to show his work and the owner of the very first gallery he visited signed the novice sculptor on the spot.

Now venturing increasingly into abstract castings, Vaughn-Robinson is perhaps best known for his exquisitely crafted figurative bronzes of men, horses, mermen and, yes, even dorsal fin-sporting “merhorses.”

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Exhibiting a visual language of sensual romanticism, he renders classic ideals of beauty in timeless archetypes that speak to themes that are at once natural and organic, theatrical, and dramatic.

Vaughn-Robinson continues performing in a more localized, scaled-down slate of opera and musical appearances. He recently played the role of Pish-Tush in the Opera Omaha production of The Mikado and was nominated for an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for his work in The Sound of Music at The Rose.

Vaughn-Robinson won’t rule out the idea of returning to a big touring production, but for now is happy to sculpt away in Council Bluffs as his gallery representation and commission business grows.

His two worlds—the stage and the studio—offer a stark contrast in workplace experiences.

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“Just as being a part of a huge touring company is a decidedly social affair,” he explains, “sculpting is instead very solitary. It is a meditative time for me. My most common experience in all those hotel rooms over the years was that I would be lost in my work and, thinking that maybe a half hour had gone by, I’d suddenly realize that dawn was breaking. It is a spiritual experience for me, and I like to think that this is reflected in my bronzes.”

Artists for Inclusion

February 24, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Iggy Sumnik is a noted artist. Bryan Allison is a young man with intellectual disabilities. Their worlds may seem galaxies apart, but the two have more in common than one might suspect. Both share a love of art, and both would appear to live by the same simple philosophy.

“I like to approach each new day as if I were going for a walk,” says Sumnik, a ceramic artist who worked for three years as a studio assistant under the internationally acclaimed Jun Kaneko. “I sense that Bryan and I might be a little alike in that regard. We keep our eyes and ears open during our walk through the day, and maybe we stumble onto something that is a little bit different. Maybe we even learn something new. I expect to learn something from Bryan today. I hope he feels the same way.”

Sumnik was introduced to Allison through a collaboration between local nonprofit organizations WhyArts and VODEC. WhyArts works to ensure that visual and performing arts experiences are open to people of all ages and abilities throughout the metro area. VODEC (see the related story on page 117) provides vocational, residential, and day services for persons with intellectual disabilities in Nebraska and Iowa.

Sumnik unpacks the tools of his profession—a massive block of malleable “potential” and a jumble of clay-working implements—as he explains to Allison and nine of his VODEC friends what would unfold over the next hour or so.

20131213_bs_8014“I didn’t come in with any particular project in mind for you,” he explains. “I’m just here to be an extra set of hands, so I want to see your creativity today—your ideas, not mine.”“Our ideas,” the perpetually smiling Allison replies. “I’m going to make an island. Hawaii. I’m going to be an artist!”

From senior centers and middle schools to the Completely KIDS campus and vocational facilities like VODEC, WhyArts offers a broad slate of programs backed by a small army of talented artists from the arenas of the visual arts, theater, dance, music, poetry, storytelling, and beyond.

The roster of WhyArts artists reads something like a Who’s Who of the creative community. Jill Anderson is the popular chanteuse, recording artist, and Actors’ Equity performer. Roxanne Nielsen makes magic as a frequent choreographer of Omaha Community Playhouse productions. Ballet legend Robin Welch was featured in the last issue of Omaha Magazine. Add spoken word impresario Felicia Webster and Circle Theater co-founder Doug Marr, to name but a few, and it’s a line-up that represents the very best—and most caring—of a city’s imagination pool. “These are more than just talented professionals with long resumes who happen to do workshops,” says WhyArts director Carolyn Anderson. “They are advocates of the arts, but they are also passionate advocates for inclusion.”

Originally known as Very Special Arts Nebraska when the group formed in 1990, the WhyArts model is one that recognizes the simplest of ideas—that creative expression is a foundational attribute of the human condition.

“The underserved populations we reach generally do not have access to the arts,” Anderson continues, “but creativity is innate in us all, regardless of age or ability. What we do is to help people discover that creativity. We don’t try to ‘teach’ art. We experience it right along with them—and on their terms, just like you see Iggy doing here today. Everything we do is carefully tailored to the needs and abilities of the people we serve, but we do it in a way that respects the individual and encourages the artistic expression that is waiting to be released in each and every one of us.”

It’s a formula that also works well for organizations like VODEC.

“The WhyArts mission of inclusion mirrors our own in a perfect way,” says Daryn Richardson, VODEC’s services development   director. “Both of our organizations build bridges to the community with as many organizations and with as many people as we can. That’s the goal of every program we develop.”

Making art in a group, Sumnik adds, is a two-way street. “I try to be nothing more than an enabler for their imaginations,” he says, “but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found inspiration for my own work through people like Bryan.”

Sumnik’s artists have now completed a menagerie of clay creations that will be fired by WhyArts before being returned to their makers. Allison’s fanciful island paradise features a larger-than-life giraffe towering over a lava-spewing volcano.

“We’re getting ready to photograph my art for a magazine!” says Allison, now the center of attention throughout VODEC’s humming-with-activity work floor. “I’m going to be an artist!”

“Going to be?” Sumnik replies. “You’re already there, my man. You’re already there.”

 

Opera Omaha Guild

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In 1958, a volunteer organization called the Omaha Civic Opera Society took the stage, creating and fostering an opera-loving community in Omaha. After tremendous support, the organization became fully professional in 1970, making Opera Omaha the only professional opera company in Nebraska. As Opera Omaha has expanded its seasons of mainstage productions and increased musical events throughout the community, the company has found constant encouragement in the dedicated, fully volunteer-based Opera Omaha Guild, originally called Omaha Angels when it began in 1967.

The Guild stands behind Opera Omaha each year, raising funds to support its productions, creating outreach opportunities, and educating the community about opera through memberships and events.

“Omaha has a strong fine arts community, and it is so very important that opera continues to play a prominent role,” says Jillian Tuck, current president of the Opera Omaha Guild.

Tuck moved back to Omaha from Fort Worth, Texas, a few years ago and found that she wanted to support the arts in her former community. “I had been involved with a Fort Worth Opera volunteer group, so I decided to seek a similar opportunity here in Omaha.” Luckily for Tuck, the Opera Omaha Guild had just what she was looking for—a passion for opera and activities and social events that were accessible.

“Omaha has a strong fine arts community, and it is so very important that opera continues to play a prominent role.” – Jillian Tuck, president of Opera Omaha Guild

As president of the Guild, Tuck presides over the Guild meetings, appoints committee chairpersons, and serves as an ex-officio member of all Guild committees. “The Opera Omaha Guild is a working board with committee chairs and volunteers bringing the effort, organization, and energy behind all of the events. They are the reason for our success.”

Tuck loves opera and says that being in the Guild has allowed her to share that love with other people every day. Recently, she had the opportunity to talk about her passion at the Guild’s Cotillion graduation dinner. The Cotillion—French for “formal ball”—is one of the Guild’s fundraisers and provides the opportunity for Omaha sixth-graders to learn the art of formal dining, mature communication, and ballroom dancing through several classes and a final graduation dance.

Because the Cotillion supports Opera Omaha, Tuck knew she could reach out to a younger generation about opera. “Speaking to adults about opera can be challenging because they often have preconceived notions, [but] speaking to 300+ sixth-graders and their parents was something I found inspirational.” In her five-minute speech, Tuck felt she was able to open the door to an art that most of the children had never experienced. “I believe that opera truly is for everyone to enjoy throughout a lifetime, and creating young opera fans through the sharing of my own love for opera is something I will always cherish.”

Funnily enough, it was the Cotillion that got President-elect Lisa Hagstrom involved with the Guild. “I was in the first Cotillion class that Opera Omaha conducted in 1985,” she explains. “I had been looking for volunteer opportunities within the arts community and had attended a couple fundraising events for Opera Omaha. [Since then], I have been involved with the Guild as a board member for 10 or 11 years.”

“The great thing is that nearly 100 percent of all money raised [at Spirits of the Opera] goes back to Opera Omaha.” – Lisa Hagstrom, president-elect of Opera Omaha Guild

Hagstrom helps with several of the Guild’s events, including the Cotillion; the annual Opera Omaha Gala, which was held in February this year to celebrate the partnership of Opera Omaha and artist Jun Kaneko for the production The Magic Flute, one of Mozart’s most famous operas; and the currently on-hiatus Burgers & Bordeaux chef competition event.

The Guild’s most notable event, however, is the award-winning Spirits of the Opera fundraiser, which replaced an event called Wine Seller. “Wine tastings became a very popular fundraising idea for many groups, so we thought a cocktail tasting would be something different,” explains Hagstrom. “The first year of [Spirits of the Opera], we matched cocktails with operas, and attendees tasted eight different cocktails. It was a fun event, but it was lacking ‘something,’ and we just didn’t know what that was.”

Fortunately, the president of the executive board for Opera Omaha at that time, Jim Winner, found exactly what that “something” was while he was eating at Dixie Quicks, a Southern comfort food restaurant in Council Bluffs. One of the well-known Dixie Quicks servers, Bruce “Buffy” Bufkin, suggested to Winner that the Guild include a drag show as entertainment at the event.

Today, Spirits of the Opera is a drag show set to opera with the performers singing popular arias and other opera selections of their choice. The event is held at local hot-spot The Max, which is known as the best gay dance club in Omaha. The Max donates its space for the event, and all of the performers donate their time and talents. “It is an amazing experience,” says Tuck. “It blends the classical arias of well-known operas with some of the region’s most talented female impersonators.” In addition to the drag show, the event has the themed cocktails, silent and live auction opportunities, a raffle, and food from local restaurants, including Dixie Quicks.

Drag performers from the 2012 Spirits of the Opera event.

Drag performers from the 2012 Spirits of the Opera event.

“The great thing is that nearly 100 percent of all money raised goes back to Opera Omaha,” adds Hagstrom, who went out to Philadelphia last June to receive the Most Unique Fundraising Event award for Spirits of the Opera, presented by Opera Volunteers International.

As the Guild looks forward to this year’s Spirits of the Opera in May and further into 2013, Tuck says their goals remain the same. “[We just want] to support Opera Omaha and provide opportunities to educate the community about the importance and joy of opera.”

This year’s Spirits of the Opera will be held May 4 at The Max (1417 Jackson St.). For more information about the event or about the Opera Omaha Guild, visit operaomaha.org or call 402-346-7372.