Tenures among key leadership positions at the Omaha Community Playhouse often span decades. It’s perhaps one of the main reasons that the largest community playhouse in America has earned its reputation as a treasured arts organization for generations of Omahans
When they retired last year, Artistic Director Carl Beck and Associate Artistic Director Susan Baer Collins had racked up a combined 60 years of service.
Big shoes to fill, indeed.
“I needed a map to visualize where Omaha was as I prepared to visit for my interview,” says new Artistic Director Hilary Adams, who had honed her craft in New York for the past 18 years. “My first impression of the community was how very supportive everyone was…not just with me, but how broadly the arts are supported in this city across the board. It was huge. Astonishing. I learned very quickly that people know how to practice and support the arts here.”
Adams, a graduate of City University of New York, was a 2004 Drama Desk Award nominee for Outstanding Director of a Play for the Works Productions staging of Moby Dick.
“What’s so exciting to me about being here,” Adams adds, “is to show what community theater can do, what it can be. We are losing our ‘front porches’ in America. We are losing our connectedness. Theater and the other arts have the power to rebuild communities, to restore that connectedness.”
Adams made her Playhouse debut last fall directing the comedy The Drowsy Chaperone, which starred popular radio personality and actor Dave Wingert.
“She’s just amazing,” says Wingert. “She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it out of an actor.”
But not everyone, it would seem, is thrilled with Adams new gig.
“I need one of her back here in New York,” David Henry Hwang jokingly lamented in a recent telephone interview. Adams has acted as an assistant for the Tony Award-winning playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. “She’s smart. She’s talented. She’s energetic. Hilary is going to have a major impact on American theater…not just Omaha Theater, but American theater.”
As a child growing up in northern Virginia, Adams’ family made frequent trips to New York. “The TKTS booth in Times Square was one of my favorite places on earth. When I stood there in line for tickets to a show, I could hardly bear it…the anticipation.” Not the long wait for tickets, she adds, but the wait to see some magic on stage later that evening.
Now Adams is delivering her own special blend of stage magic at the venerable arts institution on Omaha’s Henry Fonda Drive, 1,250 miles west of her beloved TKTS tent and the Great White Way.