Tag Archives: the backline

Causing a Kerfuffle

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ashley Laverty got bit by the acting bug at the tender age of 6, when she performed in her first play. It is fitting that she has dedicated her career to theater for youth.

“I was drawn to [theater] from then on,” Laverty says. “As both a performer and director, I love the ensemble. It’s kind of a cliché, but you’re really a family with your fellow performers and have to trust them so much. As a theater teacher, I love watching my students blossom and I love creating a safe space for them to be who they are and to be weirdos. That’s why I keep doing it.”

When the Worcester, Massachusetts, native took on New York City after college—bent on a Broadway career—she instead kept getting hired to do children’s theater. Laverty decided to let the universe steer her in that direction and sought her MFA in theater for youth at Arizona State University. 

“That’s when I was really introduced to theater for the very young [a movement known by the acronym TVY], which is theater intentionally created for children under age 5,” Laverty says. “Theater for adults doesn’t have to be a certain way, but so often theater for young people has to be overtly educational, didactic, and still isn’t seen as a legitimate art form. But as a theater maker, I’m passionate about creating theater for theater’s sake. Something can be beautiful, exciting, dynamic, and it can also teach you something—because anything good will teach you something. I’m really passionate about legitimizing the field of theater for young audiences by creating beautiful work.

“A 3-year-old deserves to see something high-quality and beautiful, just like a 35-year-old does. You know, seeing a beautiful painting, for example, can make you think about things in ways that you never have before, it doesn’t need to knock you over the head with a lesson.”

Inspired by that passion, Laverty and schoolmates Jeff Sachs and Amanda Pintore founded Kerfuffle, a TVY company where Laverty is the founding artistic director.  

“Kerfuffle’s model is that we work directly with very young people through drama, creative movement, and art to facilitate open-ended drama sessions. With those ideas we create characters and stories with those young people, then we go into rehearsals and create shows in which adults are performing for very young people,” Laverty says.

In 2016, after graduating from ASU, Laverty brought her considerable talents to Omaha when she was hired by The Rose Theater as a teaching artist and director of early childhood. Kerfuffle came along with Laverty, and she and her partners—now located in Chicago and Lawrence, Kansas, respectively—hope to evolve it into a Midwestern theater company.

Kerfuffle’s first show, The Caterpillar’s Footprint, was remounted in 2018 at Lincoln’s Lied Center and Omaha’s OutrSpaces. In addition to the preceding creative workshops, characteristics of Kerfuffle shows include a pre-show experience to ease kids into a production, sensory elements throughout, shorter run times, and a post-show party with snacks aiming to transition kids back out of the experience and foster community among families.

As a 2018 Union for Contemporary Arts Fellow, Laverty has created the latest Kerfuffle production, Nested, which will run Dec. 7-15. She hosted several drama workshops for kids last summer in The Union’s Abundance Garden to help derive the concepts for Nested.

“[When we come up with the concepts] they are acting along the way,” says Laverty. “We’re literally playing pretend in The Union’s garden, coming up with ideas for who lives in the garden and then going into my studio and building this giant nest. It’s 10-feet wide, 4-feet tall, and we’re decorating it with sticks, leaves, yarn, and other materials. The show will take place with the actors in the nest and the audience seated around them in The Union’s gallery.”

Approaching her two-year Omaha anniversary when she spoke with Omaha Magazine, Laverty was feeling adjusted and welcomed. Even with her jampacked schedule she makes a point to make time for herself—hangout time with her cat (Ron Weasley), travel, and improv at The Backline (where she performs with Zip-Zopera, Less Mis, and The Carol Brunettes).

“The Backline is really fun, and it is not kid-friendly. So that’s also kind of nice,” Laverty says. “That way it’s not like my whole life is theater for people under 5. Although I’m deeply passionate about TVY, it’s good to have a balance. At first I just did it for fun, but I feel like improv actually has made me a much better teacher.”

Speaking of improv, and its core philosophy of “yes, and…” Laverty praises Omaha for coming from a place of “yes.”

“What I love about Omaha compared to other places is that people are really willing to say yes here,” Laverty says. “That’s how the OutrSpaces partnership happened. I just reached out to them and said I thought this would be a really great partnership and they were like, ‘Yes.’ And The Union, everything I’ve gone to them with, even stuff they’ve never done, they’re all about making it happen. So, I feel like people say yes here a lot, and that’s really exciting.” 


Kerfuffle’s Nested runs Dec. 7-15 at The Union for Contemporary Art. Visit u-ca.org or kerfuffletvy.com for more information.

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

2018 May/June Performances

May 3, 2018 by

Comedy Shows
Recurring Thursdays-Saturdays at The Backline Comedy Theatre, 1618 Harney St. Primarily long-form improv, the Backline also hosts standup shows, short-form improv shows, and occasionally sketch shows. INTERROGATED, the Backline’s premiere show, recurs every Friday. Times vary. Tickets: $3-5 Thursday, $5-10 Friday and Saturday. 402-720-7670.
backlinecomedy.com

Three to Beam Up
Through May 13 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Directed by Roxanne Wach, this performance tells the story of a man who believes he is the captain of a Federation starship trekking around space. His children have to fight to keep their father’s feet firmly planted on Earth. 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. 6 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets: $12 on Thursdays. $20 general, $15 students, seniors, and TAG members on weekends. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org

The Mountaintop
May 4-27 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This Olivier Award-winning play of historical fiction, The Mountaintop imagines the final night in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Times vary. Tickets: $24. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

The Best of Chicago with Brass Transit
May 5 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. The Omaha Symphony presents the ultimate Chicago experience with the eight piece band of Brass Transit, who performs flawless renditions of hits like “Saturday in the Park,” “25 or 6 to 54,” and more. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$89. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
May 5-6 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Shakespeare’s best-loved romantic comedy comes to life in the form of ballet. 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets: $27-$92. 402-345-0606
ticketomaha.com

An Evening with David Sedaris
May 7 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Master of satire and observant writer of the human condition David Sedaris is one of America’s preeminent humor writers. Hear him live and be ready to laugh. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $50-$55. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Jessica Lang Dance
May 10 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Choreographer Lang has a knack for blending modern design elements and classical ballet to create emotionally moving performances. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20-$45. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Symphony: The Planets
May 11-12 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. From Mars, the Bringer of War, to Neptune, the Mystic, Holst depicts the planets of myth and mystery, leaving the audience breathless. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$72. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Big Canvas (Short-Form)
May 12 and 25, June 9 and 29 at various locations. Looking for the kind of improv you see on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Big Canvas performs every month’s second Saturday (The Backline at 1618 Harney St.) and last Friday (Sozo Coffeehouse at 1314 Jones St.). Times vary. Tickets: $5.
bigcanvasne.com

Mick Foley
May 15 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St., Suite No. 201. Listen to this professional wrestler’s tale of the most famous match of his career. With humor and ease, Foley talks about the “Hell in a Cell” match, which made him a wrestling legend. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $25-$75. 402-493-8036.
standupmedia.com

Wicked
May 16-June 3 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. This Broadway sensation tells the untold story of what happened in Oz long before Dorothy, and from a different perspective. Times vary. Tickets: $54-$164. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Arturo Sandoval: The Dear Diz Tour
May 17 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. This renowned trumpeter and 10-time Grammy Award-winning artist brings his tour celebrating the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie to Omaha. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20-$45. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The City in the City in the City
May 17-June 17 at BlueBarn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St. After the death of her mother, Tess and a mysterious woman set off to the ancient city-state of Mastavia and together encounter strange places and people. 7:30 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday), 6 p.m. (Sunday 6/3 & 6/17), 2 p.m. (Sunday 6/10). Tickets: $30 adults, $25 students, seniors, TAG members. 402-345-1576.
bluebarn.org

Tiffany Haddish: #SheReady
May 19 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Dubbed the “funniest woman alive” by Vanity Fair, Haddish is quickly establishing herself as one of the most sought-after comedic talents in TV and film. She recently starred in the hit comedy Girls Trip. 7 p.m. Tickets: $35-$55. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Life on the Vertical with climber Mark Synnott
May 22 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Rock-climber Synnott has made legendary first ascents of some of the world’s tallest, most forbidding walls. Although he has many passions, one of Synnott’s hobbies includes sharing his life as a professional climber and explorer. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $11-$26. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Improv Festival
May 24-27 at various locations. Catch local and national comedians with improv performances and workshops at The Backline, KANEKO, The Dubliner, and Bourbon Saloon. National headliners include Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall and Seth Morris of Upright Citizens Brigade. Times and ticket prices vary. 402-720-7670.
omahaimprovfest.com

Lazarus Syndrome
May 31-June 24 at SNAP! Productions, 3225 California St. Elliott has spent most of his adult life as a person living with AIDS. He struggles with the emotional toll of Lazarus Syndrome. A quiet evening is suddenly interrupted with the unexpected arrival of his brother and father, who arrive carrying homemade matzo ball soup and family baggage. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 6 p.m. for Sundays. (June 24 show is at 2 p.m.) Tickets: $20 general, $15 for students, seniors, and military (Friday-Sunday). All Thursday shows are $12. 402-341-2757.
snapproductions.com

Omaha Symphony: The Beach Boys
June 1-3 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. The one and only Beach Boys return with favorite hits like “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and more. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $29-$109. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Disney’s Newsies
June 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farman St. This Disney musical tells the story of Jack Kelly, a rebellious newsboy who dreams of life as an artist away from the big city. 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. depending on the date. Tickets: $22-$27. 402-345-4849.
rosetheater.org

Tom Segura
June 7-9 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St., Suite No. 201. This actor/comedian/writer has become one of Hollywood’s most in demand and highly regarded talents. Segura is best known for his three Netflix specials, Completely Normal (2014), Mostly Stories (2016), and Disgraceful (2018). Times vary. Tickets: $35. 402-493-8036
omahafunnybone.com   

Omaha Symphony: Beethoven’s Ninth
June 8-9 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. At The Ninth’s premiere, a critic said Beethoven’s “inexhaustible genius revealed a new world to us.” It continues to amaze with its celebration of humanity in the “Ode to Joy.” 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$72. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Singin’ in the Rain
June 1-24 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. The classic movie musical comes to life on stage with charm, humor, and stormy weather that made it so beloved in the first place. Times. Ticket sales start April 10. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

Shakespeare On the Green: Much Ado About Nothing
June 21-24 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. A story of quick tongues and a false death kick off this Shakespearean tragedy of misunderstandings, love, and deception. Don’t forget to bring a picnic basket and seats. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Sonya Clark’s Translations
June 23 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Translations consists of the artist reading poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Audre Lorde, and Nikki Giovanni on the subject of hair, written in Twist—a font resembling hair clippings. The piece is performed in a beaded barber’s chair, and represents the sharing of cultural knowledge through hairdressing traditions, and the complex and fraught relations between black women’s personal and political identities. 1-4 p.m. Admission: free. 402-933-3161
u-ca.org

Choir Boy
June 26 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Known most recently for his Oscar Award winning movie Moonlight, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy explores the intersections of black masculinity, sexuality, and respectability politics as it holds a mirror to us all, calling us to do better. 7 p.m. Admission: $20 advanced tickets/free day of show. 402-933-3161
u-ca.org

Shakespeare On the Green: King John
June 28-30 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chars or blankets as John must fight his family, the French, and the Pope in order to keep his throne. Times vary. Admission: free.
nebraskashakespeare.com


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