Tag Archives: Omaha Community Playhouse

Passion Player

February 13, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In December 2017, Catie Zaleski resolved to stop delaying her dreams and started acting. A little more than a year and four plays later, it’s clear she made the right choice.

“When I’m acting I feel like my best self,” Zaleski says. “When you’re passionate about something, you could work on it all day and night, money or no money, and feel like you did something worthwhile. I love all the processes of acting, but some of my favorite moments the audience doesn’t get to see. Behind the scenes, actors work so hard to create and honor characters.”

Zaleski, 24, didn’t do theater in high school or college, but she competed in interpretive speech at both educational levels, which she credits as pivotal to her development as an actor.

“I love acting and I’d always wanted to act,” says Zaleski, who has a degree in international studies with a minor in women’s and gender studies from UNO. “I think the speech world is where my acting skill base comes from.”

Zaleski had done a short film, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and some local web series projects prior to securing her first theatrical role in Kim Louise’s Umurage, part of The Union for Contemporary Art’s February 2018 Centering the Margins series.

“I feel very lucky that was my first experience with theater,” she says. “Being at The Union and working with [director] Denise [Chapman]…she considers the whole person within the process with the culture she creates, like keeping you safe as an actor when doing emotionally taxing work. Theater isn’t therapy; it can be cathartic but it’s not therapy. The whole experience was very affirming of who I am as a person and an actor, but also still challenged and pushed me. I got to be with all black actors, which is rare for black actors. I feel like I am the person I am today because of that experience.”

Next up was The Mountaintop at Omaha Community Playhouse, where Zaleski worked with Chapman at the helm again.

“That was an amazing experience. I got to push myself and expand my range as an actor. We were very vulnerable in that process. It’s politically charged and says things a lot of people might not want to hear,” she says. “I also got to see the leadership of the Playhouse—people like [artistic director] Kimberly [Faith Hickman] who are working to make it a more inclusive space…it was great to see change being made there.”

Next, Zaleski did some stage readings at the 2018 Great Plains Theater Conference, which further exposed her to Omaha’s thriving theater community, followed by a starring role as Agnes in the Playhouse’s She Kills Monsters.

“The [roles] I’d gotten so far, I kind of thought, were for black actors and that might be the only things I’d get cast in,” Zaleski says. “A lot of times when people read scripts and there’s no race assigned, the default is white. And then when I got [the part] and my sister in the show was white—I liked [director] Beth Thompson from the jump. Again, the Playhouse is doing things that make people think, and pushing people’s ideas of family and how people interact in the real world is cool. Working with Beth was amazing.”

With the larger cast, Zaleski says she really felt the sense of community and also enjoyed getting to do stage combat and dig into the physicality of a role.

“I’m in the moment, but I’m also always thinking, ‘What can I take from this experience that will help me grow in the future?’” she says.

Late in 2018, Zaleski performed in Alyson Mead’s The Flora and Fauna, which the playwright offered royalty-free for a brief period with proceeds going to the #MeToo movement.

“It was awesome being surrounded by 20-some other women, and the script is so beautiful and hard and hopeful,” Zaleski says. “I found another community of women there. I’m constantly floored by the people in Omaha’s creative community.”

While Zaleski hopes to focus more on film work in the future, she’s incredibly grateful for her theater experiences. Regardless of the platform, Zaleski says she’s drawn to roles with complexity and projects that eliminate tired tropes attached to race, gender, class, and sexuality.

“I like characters and stories that push people’s ideas of life and humanity, and that show the complexities and nuances of life that we often forget about or are not shown,” she says.

Zaleski is thankful for the professional highs 2018 showed her, but also realizes she has been preparing for these moments.

“I’ve learned you have to be ready for moments, and you don’t always get to choose them…opportunities arise and you have to be ready to go,” she says. “I feel so lucky, thankful, and motivated to do more. My mindset is ‘keep going’ and whatever space you’re in, make sure you give it everything. I want to honor stories out there that need to be told—or maybe they have been told, but need to be told in a different way. I want to make sure that I’m constantly growing and being pushed outside of my comfort zone.”


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

Camille Metoyer Moten

December 27, 2018 by
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

Editor’s note: These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits. Click here for the full list of featured models. 


Camille Metoyer Moten, 64

“A life well lived” is the phrase I hope will fall from the lips of anyone describing me long after I’m gone.

My parents instilled in me a love of people and sensitivity to what is important in this life. That, along with the strength that comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ, has allowed me to be grateful for all of my triumphs and challenges. Our home was filled with music, love, and activism; my parents were involved in fighting for civil rights. This gave us the opportunity to learn that fighting for what is right is important, and it often means educating others.

I have learned to balance marriage, children, and a singing career, and have made giving back a priority in my life. My husband and I worked at Boys Town for 16 years as family teachers, giving love and structure to over 100 children. My career outside of singing included coordinating programs at the YWCA [now known in Omaha as the Women’s Center for Advancement], management at CommScope, and writing grants at Youth Care and Beyond. I have performed at the Omaha Community Playhouse, served on several boards at the YWCA, am the board president of Arts for All, and am president-elect of the downtown Rotary Club.

In 2013, I discovered I had breast cancer, but with my faith and the support of family and friends, I sailed through that episode of my life without a hitch.

I am most proud of my two grown children, my grandson, and of being married for 42 years. I am so blessed.

Happiness is such a fleeting emotion; I focus on the underlying joy within my soul that comes from my relationship with Christ. I am happy when I am singing, and hopefully I impart happiness to my audiences.

My advice for living life is exactly that—live life. I continue to live, set new goals, and focus on doing good in the world.

I have released my third CD; all were recorded from age 54 to 64. If someone told me I was too old to do that, I didn’t hear them. It’s too late to go back now.


This article first appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of 60PLUS in Omaha MagazineTo receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

 

Omaha is Growing as a Holiday Destination

November 21, 2018 by

Omaha has a long history of welcoming visitors during the holidays. In the 1930s Omaha’s Union station was considered one of the busiest train stations in the nation, welcoming more than 10,000 travelers a day. During that time, the station started a tradition of raising a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree in the middle of its main waiting room to welcome travelers during the holiday season. The Durham Museum continues the holiday tradition today, displaying the region’s largest indoor Christmas tree each year. Families have been known to drive for hours to take part in the museum’s annual tree lighting ceremony, and it is one of the many highlights that attracts motorcoach groups to the city during the holidays. 

Last year, during a three-day period, the city welcomed 22 motorcoach groups from states such as Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas to experience Omaha during the holidays. These bus groups were here to feast on ethnic Christmas dinners, enjoy music and dancing at places like the Greek Orthodox Church and the German-American Society, and travel to the Renaissance era for a Madrigal Christmas Feast (kings and jesters included). Each group enjoyed a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse and a holiday concert with Omaha’s symphony. Also on their itinerary was a stroll through Lauritzen Gardens, a botanical wonderland that displays more than 5,000 poinsettias through the holiday season.   

While here, these bus groups stayed in hotels, ate in restaurants, supported the arts, and shopped in Omaha stores. During that single three-day period last year, those 22 motorcoach groups spent more than $250,000 in the community.

As the CVB looks ahead, bus groups like these will be driving in even more dollars. In January 2020, Omaha is hosting the American Bus Association (ABA) Annual Meeting and Marketplace. This one meeting will bring in more than 3,400 tour operators, travel industry suppliers, and exhibitors, who will spend more than $7 million while they are here.

Holding the ABA meeting in Omaha gives Omahans the opportunity to convince these tour operators to plan future bus tours to Omaha. Other states that have hosted the ABA Annual Meeting have booked more than $100 million worth of additional business during the event and immediately afterward.

So, the next time you notice a motorcoach bus full of visitors, think of it as a holiday gift for our
entire community.


This column was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

Monster Smashing Weekend

October 11, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Friday, Oct. 12 to Sunday, Oct. 14Road trip to Grand Island for the Prairie Lights Film Festival. This is a three-day showcase of filmmaking featuring 38 films with six filmmaker Q&A sessions. Most importantly, all the films were shot in Nebraska or produced by Nebraskans. You will see short and feature-length films and will include a special Nebraska Women Filmmakers panel on Saturday afternoon, featuring a discussion with five filmmakers. Weekend passes are only $10 and will allow you access to all 38 films, Q&A sessions, mixers, and after-parties, plus discounts on food and drinks. Get your ticket to this blockbuster event here.

Friday, Oct. 12 to Sunday, Nov. 4: She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans, a young woman who is grieving the loss of her sister. After discovering her sister’s secret world in a notebook, she enlists the help of a dungeon master to help her learn more. We won’t ruin it for you, but suffice to say this unique play is a “high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies” and many other fantastic, fantasy characters. Jaunt on over to the Omaha Community Playhouse to catch it before it’s gone! Tickets can be found here.

Friday, Oct. 12: Monster Jam Wanna see 12,000 pound monster trucks spin donuts and race each other? Head on over to the Mid-America Center this Friday and check out some real monsters going head-to-head to see who’s best. The coolest part about it? You’re the judges! All you need is a smartphone. Just be sure not to get too caught up in the show and forget to vote. Get your tickets here now.

Saturday, Oct. 13Still haven’t been to the B Side of Benson Theatre? Verse Inc. An Evening with Marcey Yates is the perfect excuse to make this your weekend to check it out. Rapper, spoken word artist, and music producer Marcey Yates will be making an appearance along with cellist Maurisa Mansaray and violinist Heather Horste in this installment of “An Evening With…”. Tickets are only $10 and you can purchase them here now. Learn more about Yates in this 2017 article in Omaha Magazine.

Saturday, Oct. 13It’s the first ever La Vista Fall Festival this weekend. There will be fire pits, s’mores, and outdoor games, not to mention live music from Omaha’s favorite dance band, Eckophonic. End the night with snuggles while you watch Cars 3 with the whole family. The music and the movie will take place outside, so be sure to dress warm. Learn more here.

Countdown to Soirée: Mark your calendars! The Best of Omaha Soirée is coming up faster than you might realize. We have just four weeks left for you to say yes to success, and VIP tickets are going faster than you can say “Soirée.” Still undecided? Let us persuade you. Circus-style performers will be entertaining throughout the evening, with DJ Shor-T setting the mood.  Delectable appetizers from several Best of Omaha winners will be making the rounds, including: Granite City Food & Brewery; Le Bouillon; Attitude on Food; Noli’s Pizzeria; Pettit’s Pastry; Jason’s Deli; Smitty’s Garage Burgers and Beer; B&B Hot Dogs; Scooter’s Coffee; and Futuramic’s Clean Water Center. Spirits will be flowing thanks to Granite City Food & Brewery and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. And if you luck out and get one of those VIP tickets, you will get to enjoy music from one of Omaha’s favorite local bands, eNVy. Don’t wait. Get your tickets here now.

Ticket sales for the event below have ended, but you have the chance to win two tickets if you’re the first to message us on Facebook. 

July/August 2018 Calendar of Events

June 22, 2018 by and

Art & Museum Exhibits

Patriotic Perches
Through July 15 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This collection of 51 handcrafted birdhouses by Richard Yost will educate visitors about state birds and flowers. Admission: $10 adults, $5 ages 6-12, free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Fighting for the Right to Fight: African-American Experiences in World War II
Through July 15 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. This exhibit highlights some of the extraordinary achievements and challenges of African-Americans during World War II. Also showing at this time is American Adventure, which closes July 29. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free to children age 2 and under and members. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Amy Haney
Through July 17 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. An Omaha native, Haney is sharing her printmaking pieces. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Another Bloomin’ Exhibit by Omaha Artists, Inc.
Through July 23 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. The botanical artwork of many local artists will depict flowers, landscapes and more through a variety of media. Admission: $10 adults, $5 ages 6-12, free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Our Body: The Universe Within
Through July 31 at The Capitol District, 225 N. 12th St., Suite 120. Guests will be able to connect with human artifacts on a personal level. Admission: $15 adults, $10 children (5-14), $12 seniors (65+), active military members, and students (15+ with ID). 531-444-0423.
ourbodyomaha.com

Marcela Diaz: Contemporary Textiles
Through Aug. 18 at El Museo Latino, 4701 S. 25th St. This exhibit represents the traditional textile fiber art of the Yucatán region. Admission: $5 adults, $4 college students with ID, $3.50 students K-12 and seniors (55+), and free to children under 5, military members with ID, and museum members. 402-731-1137.
elmuseolatino.org

Sincerely, Mark Teague
Through Aug. 19 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. A showcase of original art from author and illustrator Mark Teague and his How Do Dinosaurs series, the LaRue stories, and more. Admission: free. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Children’s China: Celebrating Culture, Character, and Confucius
Through Aug. 19 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. Become a researcher at a panda reserve, cook a traditional Chinese meal, play games, explore the language, and become a dragon in a festival parade. Another exhibit on display at this time is Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secrets of the Sewer. Admission: $13 adults and kids, $12 seniors (60+), free for children under 2 and members. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org

A Night at the Dreamland Ballroom
Through Sept. 1 at Great Plains Black History Museum, 2221 N. 24th St. Dreamland Ballroom held some of the greatest jazz acts from its heydays in the 1930s until it closed in 1965. This exhibit will highlight photos and artifacts from this era. Admission: free. 402-932-7077.
gpblackhistorymuseum.org

Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection
Through Sept. 9 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St. Take a look at 50 masterworks from one of the most private collections of British painting in the U.S. Tickets: $10 general public ($5 on Thursday 4-8 p.m.), $5 college students, free for Joslyn members and ages 17 and younger. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org   

Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection. Through Sept. 9

Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism
Through Sept. 15 at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th St. This exhibit examines how Pepe often plays with feminist and craft traditions to counter patriarchal notions of art. Admission: free. 402-341-7130.
bemiscenter.org

Reality
Through Sept. 26 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St. This exhibit investigates art, science, and technology that creates, alters, and reflects upon the sense of what’s real. Admission: free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org

Mike Godek, Susan Woodford, Kayley Slack, and Amelia Koneck
July 1 through July 22 at Hot Shops Art Center, 1301 Nicholas St. Sculptors Godek and Woodford, and painters Slack and Koneck, will display their art during July at Hot Shops. 402-342-6452.
hotshopsartcenter.com

Agneta Gaines, Joan Fetter, and Jenna Johnson
July 6-28 at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. Textile artist Gaines and painters Fetter and Johnson display their colorful works. Admission: free. 402-342-9617.
artistscoopomaha.com

Ella Weber: Sounds Good
July 20-Aug. 25 at The Union for Contemporary Arts, 2423 N. 24th St. This Omaha artist examines the connections between consumerism, sexuality, spirituality, and the mundane through her suburban Midwestern ethos. Admission: free. 402-933-3161.
u-ca.org

Taking Root
Starting July 26 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Artist Kristine Allphin shows art that is full of color, texture, and the beauty of nature. Admission: $10 adults, $5 ages 6-12, free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.com

Betni Kalk
Starting July 27 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St. Encaustic painter and muralist Betni Kalk will show her works at the gallery. Encaustic painting is also known as hot wax painting, using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. Admission: free. 402-595-2122.
artscouncil.nebraska.gov

Nicki Byrum, Margie Schementi, Inna Kulagina, and Charleen Potter
Aug. 3-31 at the Artists Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. The Co-op’s August show features something for everyone, with paintings, mixed-media works, textiles, and ceramics. Admission: free. 402-342-9617.
artistscoopomaha.com

Fighting for the Good Life: Nebraskans’ Memories of World War I.
Starting Aug. 18 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. This exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by highlighting its impact on those in Omaha and the surrounding region. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), and free to children age 2 and under and members. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org 

Stage Performances

Once on This Island
Through July 1 at SNAP! Productions, 3225 California St. A collaboration with Omaha South High School, Once on This Island is the story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a “grand homme.” Ti Moune and Daniel Beauxhomme must find a way to make their love work in a land ruled by four gods, social inequality, and racial problems. 2 p.m. Tickets: $20 general, $15 for students, seniors, and military. 402-341-2757.
snapproductions.com

Shakespeare On the Green: King John
July 1, 6, 8 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. In this history show, King John finds a way to fight his family, the French, and the Pope in order to keep his throne. The outdoor event includes pre-show entertainment, and be sure to bring a blanket or chair to sit on. 8 p.m. Admission: free. 402-280-2391.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Shakespeare on the Green: July 1-8

Shakespeare On the Green: Much Ado About Nothing
July 2, 5, 7 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Misunderstandings, love, and deception make this Shakespearean comedy a classic. The outdoor event includes the pre-show entertainment, and be sure to bring a blanket or chair to sit on. 8 p.m. (10 p.m. on July 2). Admission: free. 402-280-2391.
nebraskashakespeare.com

James Johann
July 6-8 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St. Johann’s boyish appearance, self-deprecating sense of humor, and high energy all come together to create a unique onstage persona. Times vary. Tickets: $18 Friday and Saturday, $16 Sunday. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Juno’s Swans: A reading of Julius Caesar
July 7-8 at BlueBarn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St. Juno Swans, a part of the Connect with Shakespeare Series, explores gender perspectives of Shakespeare’s tragedy and characters with an all-female ensemble. When Rome announces Julius Caesar as the emperor of the free world, a rebellion quickly sparks as people wonder about the effects of Caesar’s tyranny. 2 p.m. Admission: free. 402-280-2391.
nebraskashakespeare.com

The Dairy Maid-Right
July 13-Aug. 5 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. It’s summer at the Dairy Maid-Right when co-workers and recent Pioneer High graduates Courtney and David encounter a child migrant. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $20 adults; $15 students, seniors (65+), and TAG members; $12 on Thursdays. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org

Dance Chance Event
July 14, Aug. 11 at Bancroft Street Market, 2702 S. 10th St. Be mesmerized as dancers perform a variety of dances with impressive choreography and style. 7-9 p.m. Admission: $2. 402-651-2327.
bancroftstreetmarket.com

Shake, Rattle and Roll Comedy Show with Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
July 16 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St. WWE legends “The Honky Tonk Man” and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, also known as “Rhythm & Blues,” reunite for a once in lifetime tour in which these superstars give the audience the inside scoop on the whirlwind life of pro wrestling. 7 p.m. Tickets: $20-$40. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

All-Star Comedy Jam
July 20 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Lil Duval lives a single, happy life filled with signature catch phrases. Kountry Wayne (Wayne Colley) uses short funny clips to captivate his audiences, and DC Young Fly combines his in-your-face personality with a raw comedic style. 8 p.m. Tickets: $42-$58. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Under the Radar
July 25-28, various locations. This four-day engagement showcases performances from local and national dance companies, theater collectives, open art discussions, and workshops. Times vary. Tickets: $40 pass or $75 VIP pass.
undertheradaromaha.com

You Had To Be There
July 25 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Ryan de la Garza hosts a live comedy show including a myriad of stand-up comedians and improv performers who will interact with random strangers via online webcam. 8 p.m. Admission: free. 18+ only. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Spunk
July 27-29 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Spunk is three short stories by Zora Neale Hurston adapted for the stage by George C. Wolf that feature music by Chic Street Man. 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: free. 402-933-3161.
u-ca.org

Gabriel Iglesias
July 28 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. Known comically as “Fluffy,” Iglesias is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and voice actor. 8 p.m. Tickets: $45-$70. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com 

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist
Aug. 1-12 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This show features McGuigan with an all-star lineup of musicians, backed by a four-piece horn section. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $42. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

Brad Williams
Aug. 2-5 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St. Williams’ ability to make humorous observations is winning over audiences and proving that anyone can overcome their shortcomings. Times vary. Tickets: TBA. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Miranda Sings Live…No Offense
Aug. 8 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Miranda Sings is the fictional character developed on the internet, created and portrayed by American comedian, actress, and YouTube personality Colleen Ballinger. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39.50. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Greatest Love of All: The Whitney Houston Show
Aug. 9 at the Orpheum Theatre, 409 S. 16th St. Houston’s musical legacy is brought to life for this once-in-a-lifetime concert starring Belinda Davids. 8 p.m. Tickets: $29.25-$79.25. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Fun Home
Starting Aug. 17 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. When Alison’s father dies unexpectedly, she explores her past to tell the story of their tumultuous relationship. Times vary. Tickets: $42+. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

Paula Poundstone
Aug. 24 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Poundstone is known for smart, observational humor and spontaneous interaction with the crowd. 8 p.m. Tickets: $39.25-$49.25. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Paula Poundstone: Aug. 24

David Cross: Oh Come On
Aug. 26 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Emmy Award winner and Grammy Award nominee David Cross is an inventive performer, writer, and producer on stage and screens big and small. 8 p.m. Tickets: $40 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

David Cross: “Oh, Come On.” Aug. 26

A Man a Fish
Aug. 28 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Prosper is a fisherman trying to get by in the face of everyday problems when a slippery eel salesman arrives in town peddling progress to the rural community. 7 p.m. Tickets: $20 advanced, or inquire at the box office day of show to reserve one to two “radical hospitality” tickets. 402-933-3161.
u-ca.org

Concerts

Free Concerts

Enjoy an eclectic array of live music, including rock, R&B, blues, jazz, and country from local and national musicians. Located in some of Omaha’s most vibrant areas, these summer concert series are sure to get the whole family grooving.

• Bridge Beats (The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza, 705 Riverfront Drive): 6 p.m. Fridays (June 29-Aug. 17).

• Jazz on the Green (Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St.): 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (July 5-Aug. 9).

• La Vista Concerts and Movies (La Vista Public Library, 9110 Giles Road): 7 p.m. Fridays (July 13 and Aug. 17).

• Music in the Park (Bayliss Park, 100 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, IA): 6 p.m. Wednesdays (through July 18).

• Music in the Park (Washington Park, 20th & Franklin Streets, Bellevue): 7 p.m. Thursdays (July 5 and 12).

• Playing with Fire Festival (Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St.): 4:30 p.m. July 14 and Aug. 25.

• Rockbrook Village (2800 S. 110th Court): 7 p.m. Fridays (through Aug. 31).

• Sounds of Summer: (Nebraska Medicine Amphitheater, Shadow Lake Towne Center, 72nd St. and Highway 370): 6:30 p.m. Fridays (June 1-Aug. 10).

• Stinson Park (Aksarben Village, 2285 S. 67th St.): 7 p.m. Saturdays (July 7, 21, and 28)

• Summer Concert Series (Narrows River Park, 2500 N. 25th St.): 4 p.m. Sundays July 1 and Aug. 5. (Note: $3 park entry fee is required)

• Vibes (Village Pointe, 17305 Davenport St.): 6:30 p.m. Thursdays (through Aug. 9).

Jeremy Enigk
July 3 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. This ’90s indie-rock icon who recorded Return of the Frog Queen is coming to Omaha. Enigk is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Tempo of Twilight
July 3, 10, 17, 24 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This outdoor concert series brings local entertainment to the garden. Bring chairs, food, and the family. 6 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 ages 6-12, free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Elevate: Ben Jones and Lowercase Tres
July 6 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. DJs Ben Jones and Lowercase Tres host a rave of underground house music with a rotation of guest DJs. 9 p.m. Tickets: free. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

The Guhmball
July 6 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Guhmi (Roscoe Whyte & Sozen) produces a variety of music—from house to dubstep to future bass. 9 p.m. Tickets: $5 advance, $8 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

*Ballyhoo!
July 8 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. This Baltimore group comes to Omaha with Bumpin Uglies and Tropidelic. All three groups are described as a mix of reggae and punk rock. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Electric Six
July 10 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. The six-member American band brings rock music infused with garage, disco, punk rock, and metal to Omaha. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

YOB and Bell Witch
July 11 at Lookout Lounge, 320 S. 72nd St. These two American doom metal bands originate from the Pacific Northwest and bring their eclectic style and many albums of work to Omaha. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-391-2554.
lookoutomaha.com

moe.
July 13 at The Waiting Room Outdoors, 6212 Maple St. This progressive rock band has headlined music festivals from Lollapalooza to Bonnaroo and shared the stage with the Allmans, The Who, and Robert Plant. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $30 advance, $35 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

A$AP Ferg
July 14 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St. Building on the success of Trap Lord, A$AP Ferg continues to captivate fans with each new album and song release. 8 p.m. Tickets: $29.50 advance, $35 day of show. 402-346-9802.
sokolauditorium.com

Kimberly Dunn
July 14 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Country artist Kimberly Dunn is ready to ignite. Her new album, New Smoke Show, offers lots of high-energy songs. 9 p.m. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Chris Robinson Brotherhood
July 17 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. CRB’s latest studio album, Barefoot In The Head, showcases stunning musicianship and infectious energy. 8 p.m. Tickets: $25. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Quintron & Miss Pussycat
July 17 at O’Leavers, 1322 S. Saddle Creek Road. This live show is one of barely controlled chaos full of dance beat, explosions, and puppet stories. 9 p.m. Admission: $8 advance, $10 day of show. 402-556-1238.
facebook.com/oleavers

Daryl Hall & John Oates With Train
July 18 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. Hall and Oates are an American duo with a blues-infused rock ’n’ roll style. Train is an American rock band. 7 p.m. Tickets: $46.50-$129.50. 402-341-1500.
centurylinkcenteromaha.com

Hullabaloo Music Festival
July 19-21 at Falconwood Park, 905 Allied Road, Bellevue. A celebration featuring live music from regional and national bands and DJs. Guests can camp throughout the weekend in tents or campers. Times vary. Tickets: $30 day pass, or $80 weekend pass. 402-210-4747.
hullabaloomusicfestival.com

Pomeroy & Friends
July 19 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Pop-rock band Pomeroy focuses on fighting the mainstream sound to create a vibe and presence unique to them. 9 p.m. Tickets: $20. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Chase Rice
July 20 at The Waiting Room Outdoors, 6212 Maple St. This country music maverick performs energetic live shows with an edgy, eclectic sound. 6:30 p.m. $35 advance, $40 day of show. 402-884-5353.
reverblounge.com

Metalachi
July 21 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. A surprising blend of metal and Mariachi, Metalchi is a family affair, comprised of five siblings with a mythic origin story. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Citizen
July 23 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. This breathy pop band is known for their latest single, “Fever Days.” Also performing is Oso Oso, Teenage Wrist, and Queen of Jeans. 8 p.m. Tickets: $16 advance, $19 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Har Mar Superstar Sings Sam Cooke
July 24 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Sean Tillmann—better known as Har Mar Superstar—specializes in R&B, soul, and pop tunes. This show will highlight songs by Sam Cooke. 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Weedeater
July 25 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. The North Carolina-originated punk band will perform a heavy and impudent set. The show opens with Zeke, Freakabout, and Bonghammer. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Drive By Truckers
July 27 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. This alternative-country-rock band tells a distinctly American story via craft, character, and concept, all backed by sonic ambition and social conscience. 9 p.m. Tickets: $30. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Jamey Johnson
July 27 at SumTur Amphitheater, 11691 S. 108th St., Papillion. American country singer and songwriter Jamey Johnson has been nominated for 11 Grammys and noted as a top performer in the genre. 8 p.m. Tickets: $39.50-$89. Children 2 and under admitted free with paid adult ticket. 402-597-2065.
sumtur.org

FishFest Omaha
July 28 at Falconwood Park, 905 Allied Road, Bellevue. Nebraska’s largest Christian music festival features performances by For King & Country, Sidewalk Prophets, Zach Williams, and local artists; a bonfire worship service; a drive-in movie; and camping. 11 a.m. Tickets: $40-$175, $10 each for Q&A sessions with headlining performers. 402-422-1600.
fishfestomaha.com

Guster
July 28 at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14 St. This alt-rock group has been together for more than 20 years and is touring the U.S. 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $28 advance, $30 day of show. 402-345-7569.
theslowdown.com

Walk the Moon
July 30 at the SumTur Amphitheater, 11691 S. 108th St., Papillion. This pop group and radio favorite will likely encourage concert-goers to Shut Up and Dance. 7 p.m. Tickets: $35-$75. Children 2 and under admitted free with paid adult ticket. 402-597-2065.
sumtur.org

Luke Bryan
Aug. 2 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. This American country singer and songwriter consistently finds himself on top in the country charts. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39.75-$89.75. 402-341-1500.
centurylinkcenter.com

Billy Currington
Aug. 3 at Stir Concert Cove, 1 Harrah’s Blvd., Council Bluffs. An American county music singer and songwriter, Currington has released such hits as “Get Directions” and “Hey Girl.” 8 p.m. Tickets: $43-$178. 712-329-6000.
caesars.com

Billy Currington: Aug 3

Chvrches
Aug. 4 at The Waiting Room Outdoors, 6212 Maple St. This Scottish synth-pop band from Glasgow is bringing their latest hits to Omaha. 7:30 p.m. $28 advance, $32 day of show. 402-884-5353.
reverblounge.com

Portugal. the man
Aug. 6 at Stir Concert Cove, 1 Harrah’s Blvd., Council Bluffs. The American rock band known for “Feel it Still” and other hits are coming to Council Bluffs. 8 p.m. Tickets: $35-$93. 712-329-6000.
caesars.com

Joe Bonamassa
Aug. 7 at the Orpheum Theatre, 409 S. 16th St. The award-winning blues artist performs a tribute to old country music with songs by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Hank Williams. 8 p.m. Tickets: $83.50-$183.50. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Melvins
Aug. 8 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. This 35-year-old rock band has taken on a new musical approach, including the use of two bass players. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Boy George & Culture Club
Aug. 11 at Stir Concert Cove, 1 Harrah’s Blvd., Council Bluffs. The English legend is known for “Karma Chameleon,” “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” and others new-wave hits. Also performing is Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins. 8 p.m. Tickets: $48-$161. 712-329-6000.
caesars.com

SMOD Fest
Aug. 11-12 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. The Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest is an annual get-together of stoner rock and doom metal bands. 4 p.m. Tickets: $25-$40. 402-884-5353
waitingroomlounge.com

Maha Music Festival
Aug. 17-18 at Stinson Park, 2285 S. 67th St. This summer music festival showcases a vibrant, eclectic mix of amazing national and local music. This year’s line up includes Weezer, TV on the Radio, Father John Misty, The Kills, ZZ Ward, and more. 5 p.m. Aug. 17, noon Aug. 18. Tickets: $40-$290. 402-496-1616.
mahamusicfestival.com

Maha Music Festival: Aug. 17-18

The Smashing Pumpkins
Aug. 20 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. The Grammy award-winning alternative rock group is going on tour to celebrate their first five albums. 7 p.m. Tickets: $32-$128. 402-341-1500.
centurylinkcenteromaha.com

Pedro the Lion
Aug. 21 at The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. This indie-rock band dissolved in 2006. In 2017, the band got back together to perform their classic first-person narrative lyrics and political songs. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Gov’t Mule
Aug. 29 at SumTur Ampitheater, 11691 S. 108th St., Papillion. Heavily influenced by the Allman Brothers Band, this jam band has been a summer festival staple for over 20 years. 7 p.m. Tickets: $35-$69.50. 402-597-2065.
sumtur.org

O.A.R. and Matt Nathanson
Aug. 31 at Stir Concert Cove, 1 Harrah’s Blvd., Council Bluffs. O.A.R. has created and maintained a musical parallel universe for over 20 years. Their “Just Like Paradise” tour with folk-rock artist Matt Nathanson is sure to delight fans new and old. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39.50-$112. 712-328-6000.
caesars.com

O.A.R. and Matt Nathanson: Aug 31

Family & More

Farmers Markets

Gardening season is open in Omaha, and those desiring fresh produce will find plenty of options in the area, along with artisan cheeses, farm-raised meats, freshly baked breads, assorted treats, and craft items.

• Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets) 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays.

• Council Bluffs (Bayliss Park) 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursdays.

• Gifford Park (33rd and California streets) 5-8 p.m. Fridays.

• Florence Mill (9102 N. 30th St.) 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.

• Old Market (11th and Jackson streets) 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays. 

• Papillion (84th and Lincoln streets) 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays.

• Rockbrook Village (2800 S. 110th Court) 4-7 p.m. Thursdays.

• Village Pointe (168th and Dodge streets) 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Free Movies

Laugh, cry and relax with classic movies under the stars this summer. Bring a blanket or chair, and enjoy the show. All movies begin at dusk.

• Flix at the Chef (Behind Dairy Chef in Elkhorn, 3223 N. 204th St.): July 14, Aug. 11.

• Midtown Crossing (Turner Park, 3110 Farnam St.): Mondays through July 30.

• Movies in the Park (Bayliss Park, 100 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, IA): Fridays through Aug. 10.

• SumTur Starlight Movies (SumTur Amphitheater, 11691 S. 108th St., Papillion). Aug. 3, 10.

Midtown Crossing Monday Night Movies: through July 30

The Great American Lobster Fest
Through July 1 at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, 4200 Ave. B, Council Bluffs. The Midwest’s largest lobster and seafood festival comes to Council Bluffs. Enjoy live lobster, live music, family-friendly games, activities, shopping, and more. Noon. Admission: $5 adults, free for children 12 and under. 773-754-7105.
americanlobsterfest.com

Get Fit in the Park
Sundays through Oct. 14 in Stinson Park, 2285 S. 67th St. Enjoy the sunshine and direction of professional fitness instructors with yoga and Zumba classes. 10 a.m. Admission: free. 402-496-1616.
aksarbenvillage.com

Kids Funfare
Thursdays through July 26 at Center Court, 120 Regency Parkway. Kids will enjoy a variety of local, family-friendly entertainment Each week is something different. 10 a.m. Admission: free. 402-506-4376.
regencycourtomaha.com

Midwest Paranormal History/Ghost Tour
Fridays and Saturdays through October at various locations in Omaha. Learn of the macabre legends, lore, and haunted history of Omaha through stories of the sites and reports of paranormal activity. Time based on sunset. Admission: $10-$20. 402-953-9670.
mphtours.com

Leashes at Lauritzen
July 2,9; Aug. 6, 13 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Dogs are welcome to explore the grounds and enjoy the outdoors. Heel for family photos, learn about local dog-related non-profits, and enjoy treats/samples. 5-8 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 for children or dogs, free for garden members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Ralston Fourth of July Festival
July 3-4 at Independence Square, 77th and Main streets. One of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in the Metro area features a fun walk/run, a quilt show, children’s parade, live music, a full-scale parade and fire department water fights. Event times vary. Admission: free (entry fees required for some activities). 402-339-7737.
ralstonareachamber.org

Red, White and Zoo!
July 4 at Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 S. 10th St. This special event includes bounce houses, music, and special animal encounters. The first 800 people will receive a free patriotic gift. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $21.95 adults 12+, $15.95 children 3-11, free to children 2 and under. $1 discount for seniors, active-duty military, and children of active-duty military. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Yoga in the Garden
Every Thursday in July and August at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Come to the gardens and practice yoga with a trained instructor. People of all abilities are welcome to participate. Times vary. Admission: $15 for non-members; $10 for members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Omaha Beer Fest
July 6-7 at Horsemen’s Park, 6303 Q St. Enjoy unlimited 2-oz. samples of craft beers, ciders, and meads from 60 participating breweries, along with Beer Academy Sessions and live music. 6-9 p.m. Tickets: $35 advanced, $40 at the door, $75 VIP. 402-731-2900.
omahabeerfest.com

RiverFest
July 6-7 at Haworth Park, 2502 Payne Dr., Bellevue. This regional festival has live music, a beer garden, a kids zone, fireworks, helicopter rides, and a state champion barbecue competition. 3 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday. Admission: $1. 402-898-3000.
bellevuenebraska.com

Douglas County Fair
July 10-15 at multiple locations: Village Pointe Shopping Center (17305 Davenport St.), Chance Ridge Event Center (506 Skyline Road, Elkhorn), Metropolitan Community College (10407 State St.). Enjoy food, displays, and attractions at the Douglas County Fair’s new multi-location venues. Organizers are creating an event focused on education and community to blend urban and rural family fun. Parking is not available at Chance Ridge. Shuttles will transport the public from Village Pointe and MCC. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-516-5826.
douglascountyfair.org

American Solar Challenge Kickoff Event
July 13-14 at Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center, 601 Riverfront Drive. Teams in the American Solar Challenge will start their 1,700+ mile journey to Oregon in Omaha. Food, music, historical re-enactors, and cultural demonstrations will be a part of the event, along with displays of the vehicles making the trek. 3-7 p.m. Friday; 8-10 a.m. Saturday. Admission: free. 402-661-1804.
americansolarchallenge.org

O Comic Con
July 13-15 at Mid-America Center, 1 Arena Way, Council Bluffs. Fans can meet actors, artists, and writers. Panels, merchandise and crowds of people dressed as favorite characters will be in attendance at this event. Noon-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $30-$35, or $55 for a three-day pass. 712-323-0536.
ocomiccon.com

O Comic Con: July 13-15

Rhythm Weekend: Omaha Jazz and Tap Dance Festival
July 12-15 at Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 38, 201 S. 24th St. Enjoy a weekend full of workshops, dance battles, showcases, history, and more. Master tap and jazz dancers from around the world will share their passion. Times vary. Tickets: $30-$250. 402-208-3006.
jitterbugs.org

Brew at the Zoo
July 14 at the Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 S. 10th St. Patrons (21+ only) can sample four limited-edition beers, and enjoy food, animal encounters, and live music. 8-11 p.m. Admission: $70 members, $80 non-members, $120 VIP. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

The Color Run 5K
July 14 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. The popular traveling 5K comes back to Omaha. Participants run the route, while paint powder colors the streets—and the runners. 8-11 a.m. Runner tickets: $14.99 children 5 and under, $24.99-$49.99 adults. No charge to watch the race. 402-341-1500.
thecolorrun.com

Railroad Days
July 14-15, various locations. This family-friendly festival celebrates all things trains and tracks. Locations include The Durham Museum, Lauritzen Gardens, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, RailsWest Railroad Museum, and General Dodge House. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $15 pass for two adults and two children. 402-444-5071.
omaharailroaddays.com

LGBT Wedding Expo
July 15 at Sheraton Omaha Hotel, 655 N. 108th Ave. Browse, mingle, and connect with local wedding professionals and leave with plenty of ideas. 12:30-3:30 p.m. Admission: free. 402-496-0850.
rainbowweddingnetwork.com

Pinnacle Bank Golf Championship
July 16-22 at The Club at Indian Creek, 3825 N. 202 St. The PGA tour is back with the Web.com Tour, featuring 156 golfers and 72 holes. The top 25 money winners will advance to the PGA tour. Times vary. Admission: $10-$40. 402-991-2525.
thepinnaclebankchampionship.com

Turner Park Night Market
July 27, Aug. 31 at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. Omaha Farmer’s Market teams up with Turner Park to feature local artisans, vendors, activities, food, and more. Local nonprofits will also engage in the festivities to showcase their service opportunities. 6-10 p.m. Admission: free. 402-351-5954.
midtowncrossing.com

Benson Days
July 28-29 in Benson, Maple St. between 58th and 63rd streets. This family-friendly event celebrates Benson’s creative culture. Activities include a pancake breakfast, a parade, artists, vendors, food trucks, live music, and more. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free.
bensondays.com

Benson Days: July 28-29

Nebraska Asian Festival
July 28 at Lewis and Clark Landing, 345 Riverfront Drive. Enjoy food, activities, and cultural performances at this family-oriented event about Asian heritage. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Admission: $5; free for children under 12. 402-216-9081.
nebraskaasianfestival.com

New American Arts Festival
Aug. 3 in Benson, Military Ave. and Maple St. Celebrate the arts, ideas, and cultures of Omaha’s refugee and immigrant communities with workshops, performances, art, food, and music. 4-11 p.m. Admission: free. 402-203-5488.
bensonfirstfriday.com

Canvas and Chocolates
Aug. 4 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Participants can paint under the direction of a trained artist while snacking on themed chocolates. Art supplies and treats are provided. Noon-2 p.m. Tickets: $49. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

River’s Edge Taco Fest
Aug. 4 at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, 4200 Ave. B, Council Bluffs. This festival will showcase 20 of the metro’s best taco-centric restaurants, local and national music artists, and a Chihuahua race. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 day of event, $100 VIP.
riversedgetacofest.com

Riverfront ribFest
Aug. 9-12 at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, 4200 Ave. B, Council Bluffs. Barbecue, games, and rides are featured in this event, which includes six award-winning barbecue teams bringing ribs to the riverfront and music by Travis Tritt, Uncle Kracker, the Spin Doctors, and more. Sunday activities include a church service and horse show. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $5 adults (until 3 p.m.), $10 after 3 p.m.; $5 kids (age 16 and under).
riverfrontribfest.com

Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air and Space Show
Aug. 10-12 at Offutt Air Force Base, 205 Looking Glass Ave. F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II demonstration teams will headline this show, which is back after a one-year hiatus. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: free. 402-294-8880.
offuttairshow.com

High Vibe Festival
Aug. 11 at Stinson Park, 2285 S. 67th St. Good vibes abound with activities such as a 5K run, live music, yoga all day, workshops, and plant-based food. 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tickets: $10-$108. 402-496-1616.
aksarbenvillage.com

Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival
Aug. 10-11 at Coventry Campus, 204th and Q streets. Sip Nebraska wines and enjoy hot air balloon launches. 5-11 p.m. Friday, 3-11 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $14-$19 adults; $7 children under 12; free for children 5 and under. 402-346-8003.
new.showofficeonline.com

Omaha Comic Book Convention
Aug. 12 at Comfort Inn & Suites Central, 7007 Grover St. Comic book lovers from near and far are invited to present and purchase comic books and collectible items like action figures and trading cards. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: free. 309-657-1599.
epguides.com/comics

Big Omaha
Aug. 16-17 at Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. The Big Omaha conference continues to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. In tandem with the Maha Music Festival, the conference will include keynote speakers, special guests, networking opportunities, and a notable opening party for the weekend. Party TBA Thursday, conference 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday with music festival afterwards. Tickets: $250-$325.
mahamusicfestival.com

Omaha’s Original Greek Festival
Aug. 17-19 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, 602 Park Ave. Live music, folk dancing, authentic Greek cuisine, a Greek boutique, and more. 5-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $3. 402-345-7103.
greekfestomaha.com

Terrain Racing: Omaha
Aug. 18 at the Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch, 11001 S. 48th St., Papillion. This 5K and obstacle course allows participants to embrace the mess and enjoy a fun,  hands-on workout. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets: $35-$100. 402-331-5500.
terrainracing.com

Omaha Fashion Week
Aug. 20-25 at Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. The country’s fifth largest fashion event features more than 40 designers, 400 models, and hundreds of creations. 6-10 p.m. Admission: $40-$80. 402-937-1061.
omahafashionweek.com

Millard Days
Aug. 21-26 at Andersen Park, 136th and Q streets. This full week of activities includes a parade, a carnival, a beer garden, horse shows, and live music. Times vary. Admission: free ($25 for carnival). 402-697-5258.
millarddays.com

Dundee Day
Aug. 25 in the Dundee neighborhood, 50th Street and Underwood Ave. The day includes the Rundee 5K, a pancake tent, parade, beer garden, vendors, a farmers market, and live music. 8:30 a.m. Admission: free. 678-873-4591.
dundee-memorialpark.org

SeptemberFest
Starting Aug. 31 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St. Lot D. This “Salute to Labor” festival offers four days of entertainment, educational and artistic displays, a carnival, Omaha’s largest parade, a beer garden, a Kiddie Kingdom, and food. Times vary. Admission: $5 per person, per day. The parade is free to attend. 402-341-1500.
septemberfestomaha.org


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

July/August 2018 Stage Performances Calendar

June 19, 2018 by and

Stage Performances

Once on This Island
Through July 1 at SNAP! Productions, 3225 California St. A collaboration with Omaha South High School, Once on This Island is the story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a “grand homme.” Ti Moune and Daniel Beauxhomme must find a way to make their love work in a land ruled by four gods, social inequality, and racial problems. 2 p.m. Tickets: $20 general, $15 for students, seniors, and military. 402-341-2757.
snapproductions.com

Shakespeare On the Green: King John
July 1, 6, 8 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. In this history show, King John finds a way to fight his family, the French, and the Pope in order to keep his throne. The outdoor event includes pre-show entertainment, and be sure to bring a blanket or chair to sit on. 8 p.m. Admission: free. 402-280-2391.
nebraskashakespeare.com

Shakespeare on the Green: July 1-8

Shakespeare On the Green: Much Ado About Nothing
July 2, 5, 7 at Elmwood Park, 411-1/2 N. Elmwood Road. Misunderstandings, love, and deception make this Shakespearean comedy a classic. The outdoor event includes the pre-show entertainment, and be sure to bring a blanket or chair to sit on. 8 p.m. (10 p.m. on July 2). Admission: free. 402-280-2391.
nebraskashakespeare.com

James Johann
July 6-8 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St. Johann’s boyish appearance, self-deprecating sense of humor, and high energy all come together to create a unique onstage persona. Times vary. Tickets: $18 Friday and Saturday, $16 Sunday. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Juno’s Swans: A reading of Julius Caesar
July 7-8 at BlueBarn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St. Juno Swans, a part of the Connect with Shakespeare Series, explores gender perspectives of Shakespeare’s tragedy and characters with an all-female ensemble. When Rome announces Julius Caesar as the emperor of the free world, a rebellion quickly sparks as people wonder about the effects of Caesar’s tyranny. 2 p.m. Admission: free. 402-280-2391.
nebraskashakespeare.com

The Dairy Maid-Right
July 13-Aug. 5 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. It’s summer at the Dairy Maid-Right when co-workers and recent Pioneer High graduates Courtney and David encounter a child migrant. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $20 adults; $15 students, seniors (65+), and TAG members; $12 on Thursdays. 402-341-2757.
shelterbelt.org

Dance Chance Event
July 14, Aug. 11 at Bancroft Street Market, 2702 S. 10th St. Be mesmerized as dancers perform a variety of dances with impressive choreography and style. 7-9 p.m. Admission: $2. 402-651-2327.
bancroftstreetmarket.com

Shake, Rattle and Roll Comedy Show with Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
July 16 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St. WWE legends “The Honky Tonk Man” and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, also known as “Rhythm & Blues,” reunite for a once in lifetime tour in which these superstars give the audience the inside scoop on the whirlwind life of pro wrestling. 7 p.m. Tickets: $20-$40. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

All-Star Comedy Jam
July 20 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Lil Duval lives a single, happy life filled with signature catch phrases. Kountry Wayne (Wayne Colley) uses short funny clips to captivate his audiences, and DC Young Fly combines his in-your-face personality with a raw comedic style. 8 p.m. Tickets: $42-$58. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Omaha Under the Radar
July 25-28, various locations. This four-day engagement showcases performances from local and national dance companies, theater collectives, open art discussions, and workshops. Times vary. Tickets: $40 pass or $75 VIP pass.
undertheradaromaha.com

You Had To Be There
July 25 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Ryan de la Garza hosts a live comedy show including a myriad of stand-up comedians and improv performers who will interact with random strangers via online webcam. 8 p.m. Admission: free. 18+ only. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Spunk
July 27-29 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Spunk is three short stories by Zora Neale Hurston adapted for the stage by George C. Wolf that feature music by Chic Street Man. 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: free. 402-933-3161.
u-ca.org

Gabriel Iglesias
July 28 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q St. Known comically as “Fluffy,” Iglesias is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and voice actor. 8 p.m. Tickets: $45-$70. 402-934-9966.
ralstonarena.com 

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist
Aug. 1-12 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. This show features McGuigan with an all-star lineup of musicians, backed by a four-piece horn section. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $42. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

Brad Williams
Aug. 2-5 at Omaha Funny Bone, 17305 Davenport St. Williams’ ability to make humorous observations is winning over audiences and proving that anyone can overcome their shortcomings. Times vary. Tickets: TBA. 402-493-8036.
omaha.funnybone.com

Miranda Sings Live…No Offense
Aug. 8 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Miranda Sings is the fictional character developed on the internet, created and portrayed by American comedian, actress, and YouTube personality Colleen Ballinger. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39.50. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

The Greatest Love of All: The Whitney Houston Show
Aug. 9 at the Orpheum Theatre, 409 S. 16th St. Houston’s musical legacy is brought to life for this once-in-a-lifetime concert starring Belinda Davids. 8 p.m. Tickets: $29.25-$79.25. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Fun Home
Starting Aug. 17 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. When Alison’s father dies unexpectedly, she explores her past to tell the story of their tumultuous relationship. Times vary. Tickets: $42+. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

Paula Poundstone
Aug. 24 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Poundstone is known for smart, observational humor and spontaneous interaction with the crowd. 8 p.m. Tickets: $39.25-$49.25. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Paula Poundstone: Aug. 24

David Cross: Oh Come On
Aug. 26 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Emmy Award winner and Grammy Award nominee David Cross is an inventive performer, writer, and producer on stage and screens big and small. 8 p.m. Tickets: $40 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

David Cross: “Oh, Come On.” Aug. 26

A Man a Fish
Aug. 28 at The Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St. Prosper is a fisherman trying to get by in the face of everyday problems when a slippery eel salesman arrives in town peddling progress to the rural community. 7 p.m. Tickets: $20 advanced, or inquire at the box office day of show to reserve one to two “radical hospitality” tickets. 402-933-3161.
u-ca.org


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

Jennifer Castello

May 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Thirty-year-old Jennifer Castello lives by a simple philosophy: “Art is power.” As a writer, educator, and actor, the Omaha native has tapped into all areas of her deep imagination to carve out her path. She unequivocally believes creativity was put here to bring out a person’s voice, and that’s exactly what she’s doing.

“I think art has worked best when someone isn’t being listened to, then grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck, and through art that person says, ‘Shut up and look,’” she says. “When I’m teaching, it’s not about me. It’s about making sure that at the end of the session, residency, or workshop, the students are equipped to express themselves—be it in a story, in a song, or just in everyday life. Art is self-advocacy. Art is power. Art is resistance.”

Castello began her writing career at the ripe age of 4, when her grandmother discovered how often she was coming up with original stories.

“She pulled out a stack of papers, stapled them together, and told me to make a book,” she recalls. “The pride she took in the stories I told her made me feel like it was something special to be a writer. She was a teacher, and it was also through her and that pride that I realized I wanted to be a teacher, and make some other kid feel just as special as she made me feel.”

At 18 years old, Castello scored her first teaching job, participating in the Teacher Academy Project program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and eventually got her teaching license. Now, she freelances at a variety of local organizations, including the Omaha Community Playhouse. 

“I go out into schools and community spaces and engage students in creating something,” she explains. “If that’s creating a clever way to win a drama game, learning how to make their own characters with makeup on their faces, or write their very own script, that’s where my heart is. When I was a kid in Omaha, teachers reached out to me and taught me that my brain had a purpose and a worth, and I’m always trying to pay it forward.”

In terms of her acting, Castello credits her father.

“He signed me up for a class at the Emmy Gifford Theatre,” she says. “Then when the Emmy Gifford turned into The Rose, he made me audition for one of the main stage plays and I got in. It was a community for me to hold onto when things got rough, and I’ll forever be grateful for that community.“

As an author, the Central High School grad was compelled to write The Messiah of Howard Street when she was still an undergrad at DePaul University in Chicago. It was inspired by the colorful characters that have become a staple of the Old Market district.

“I had read My Antonia in my American English class,” she explains. “This wasn’t the first time I read it, I’d read it at Central High my junior year of high school. But comparing and contrasting a Chicago classroom to an Omaha classroom, I realized how fantasized Nebraska is in the minds of people who don’t live here. I mean, there are some obvious stereotypes we’ve all heard, but also the idea that there are rolling fields, and peace, and nature, and all that, it was just weird.”

Like so many other Central High teenagers, the Old Market was Castello’s meeting spot during adolescence. But over the years, she had many other experiences on and around Howard Street that helped shape her life.

“One of my first tastes of freedom was walking down to the Old Market and going to all the shops, getting Ted & Wally’s, and eating way too much spaghetti. Mom would take me to Little King before a dance recital, my best friends held my 18th birthday party as Zio’s, I sang and performed there, and I actually had my first date with my husband at Spaghetti Works.”

Armed with a Master of Science in secondary education from UNO and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine, she recently held a one-act festival, finished a semester-long scriptwriting residency at Central High, and has become a member of the Nebraska Arts Council teaching roster. In short, Castello stays busy.

“In undergrad, my professor warned me I might not be able to make a living in the arts,” she says. “But being a teaching artist and an arts educator has been something I truly enjoy. I really appreciate being able to do it every day. I get to help kids play pretend. That’s like…the dream.”


To learn more about Castello’s work, visit jennifercastello.com

This article appears in the May/June 2018 edition of Encounter.

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.

Eliminating The Impossible

March 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Zhomontee Watson first took the stage when she was a sophomore in high school. Completely new to the world of acting, her first director chose her to play the lead in The Princess and the Pea. As a college senior, Watson found herself nominated for Best Actress in a musical in the 12th annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.

Watson netted the nomination (and a win)* in this year’s OEAAs with her performance as the lead character in Sister Act at Omaha Community Playhouse. She says she’s grateful, but it did catch her off guard. Her portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier was in September 2016—just before the cut-off date for OEAA qualifications.

“I did not expect this. Since it was over a year ago, I didn’t expect it to be part of the awards,” Watson says.

Sister Act, the musical comedy based on the 1992 film by the same name, follows Deloris Van Cartier on her journey into the Witness Protection Program after she sees a murder that she shouldn’t have. For her own safety, Deloris is sent to live in a holy convent. She struggles as she learns to adapt to her new life among the nuns.

“In this role I really had to connect to the words. There was no way you could sing those songs without connecting something to it,” Watson says.

Watson notes that most of her previous roles have been characters in established positions of power—such as a principal or mother figure—but Deloris Van Cartier was a different challenge for Watson to tackle. Completely removed from the security of her old life, Deloris must put her trust and safety into other people’s hands.

“I also got to have a sensitive and tender moment in the show where I had to connect with people who I love and who love me,” Watson says.

Sister Act displays a family-like bond between the nuns and Deloris, and Watson says that bond didn’t end when the curtain dropped. She says that her real-life connection to her fellow cast members helped bring her performance to life.

Director Kimberly Faith Hickman remembers Watson for her strong stage presence and work ethic. “She takes on the challenge and always accomplishes what you asked her to do, no matter how difficult it may be,” Hickman says. “You should never miss out on an opportunity to collaborate with Zhomontee.”

Acting has always been a passion for Watson. She doesn’t get compensated for her hours of devotion to the theater, but she does find acting to be an important outlet in her life.

“Acting definitely gave me a home away from home,” Watson says.

As someone who experienced some instability while growing up, acting was a way for Watson to find a support system and consistent group of people. Additionally, she’s found that acting puts her mind at ease.

“I can be myself with not being myself,” Watson says. “I get to dive into another character and leave my life at the door.”

In March, Watson is appearing in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of James and the Giant Peach. Like Sister Act, it is a musical directed by Hickman.

Watson plays the Earthworm in this beloved children’s story. Despite the role originally being intended for a man, she has taken on the challenge of portraying the character.

“She’s a risk-taker. I don’t know if she describes herself that way, but as someone who directs her I see her as a risk-taker,” Hickman says. “She asked if she could sing a part that wasn’t written for her gender and she was fantastic.”

Even through all her positive experiences in Omaha’s theater community, Watson does believe there’s room for improvement. Now, more than ever, she believes that conversations about inclusivity and diversity should be taking place.

While the OEAAs are taking steps to be more inclusive—such as changing their awards to be gender inclusive—there are other organizations that are failing to hit the mark.

“In our theater community now, it’s very important to know that inclusion is a thing and that it needs to remain a thing. It needs to become more a part of the narrative than it currently is,” Watson says.

She hopes that more theaters become proactive in finding diversity for their performances. There’s plenty of talent in Omaha’s minority communities, but theaters must create an inviting space. Watson says that they can’t just expect their theaters to develop a perfect cast—they have to actively seek and promote.

Additionally, she encourages those in the community to be accepting and understanding of newcomers. She believes that theaters can get stuck in a “comfort zone” that includes only casting a handful of frequent actors and actresses. By taking time to teach new thespians, Watson believes that Omaha’s already-impressive theater community can soar to new heights.

Her educational goals don’t stop with the stage. Her final year of undergraduate studies has taken up plenty of Watson’s free time, but she’s still managing to put the hours in for rehearsal and performance. Her current plan is to graduate in May and apply for UNO’s graduate counseling program.

“Grad school is a whole different ball game, so I’ll see how time management factors in, but I definitely don’t plan on stopping,” Watson says. “If I can squeeze in a show or two then I will.”

*Article updated after the OEAA winner announcements. 

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter.

Curtain Calling

March 2, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up, Laura Leininger-Campbell was an introverted bookworm who dreamt of being an actor and had an imagination that ran as wild as her naturally curly hair. She would go on to establish her own singular course in the arts, with a steadfast love of theater and storytelling acting as her compass.

Leininger-Campbell avidly participated in high school plays before earning a degree in theater from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. She’d have her first run-in with the legacy of famed playwright Eugene O’Neill there—though it wouldn’t be her last.    

“[Connecticut College] had a great theater program and many ties to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center the next town over in Waterford,” she says. “New London is actually where O’Neill lived. His childhood home—the Monte Cristo Cottage, [depicted] in Long Day’s Journey Into Night—is there.”

After college, Leininger-Campbell moved to New York City, where her expectations of an acting career were humbled by the reality of paying the bills. Three years later, she realized her day job with hat designer Tracey Tooker left little time for auditions and the then-nebulous-to-her concept of networking.   

“They do a much better job teaching kids to manage creative careers now,” she says. “I ended up getting pretty fried, so I gave up on it, moved back to Omaha, and started over. I told myself I wouldn’t do theater anymore, and tried to make peace with that.”

But her calling kept calling. A role in Brigit Saint Brigit Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard helped her establish strong ties there, which extended throughout the Omaha theater community as she took on more roles. Leininger-Campbell found herself living the dream on her own terms. 

“I was actually enjoying a life of theater and making a living,” she says.

Leininger-Campbell’s next star turn emerged when her career as a playwright germinated. She says it began with several adaptations she wrote for the Joslyn Castle Literary Festival: Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Jewel of Seven Stars.   

“At that point, I really liked the idea of writing—taking specific ideas from the [original] writer and putting them on the page in a compelling way,” she says. “My acting background really helped me understand the structure of compelling scenes and what makes for good conflict.”

Playwright Ellen Struve noticed her knack for theatrical storytelling and encouraged her to create original script work.

“Ellen was instrumental in getting me going. She gave me a little notebook and said, ‘I think you have real stories in you. Go write them down.’ She was very influential, and she was the first person I called when I was done. I said, ‘I think I wrote something.’ And that something I wrote was Eminent Domain,” Leininger-Campbell says. 

The play employs wit, humor, and powerful emotion to tell the poignant story of a Nebraska family whose farm is threatened by the construction of an oil pipeline. Leininger-Campbell spent lots of time on her own family’s farm growing up. The agrarian inspiration motivated her to write something inspired by news about the Keystone XL pipeline.        

“I wanted to write about a farm family…and those memories of people who just remain in your heart. That story fit so perfectly with what I saw happening with KXL,” says Leininger-Campbell. “Much of my impetus to start writing comes from outrage, and once I identify my outrage, I try to understand both sides and expose them so people have something to talk about on the way home from the theater…I tried to depict both sides in Eminent Domain.”

Eminent Domain progressed from a notebook to a reading at the Shelterbelt Theatre to its world premiere, sold-out run at the Omaha Community Playhouse in 2017. Leininger-Campbell’s next touchpoint with the legacy of Eugene O’Neill came when Eminent Domain was named a 2016 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist.     

“Laura’s script came to my attention after its public reading at Shelterbelt Theatre, and I fell in love with it immediately,” says Kimberly Faith Hickman, artistic director at Omaha Community Playhouse. I’m proud and honored to see this story enter the canon of American theatre, and for Omaha Community Playhouse to have been the home for its world premiere.”

“The reaction we had at the Playhouse was great,” says Leininger-Campbell, who’s sent queries nationwide for the piece. “Part of it’s about the pipeline, but really it’s about a family that has to join together in trying times, and I can’t think of a better time than right now, when people are so polarized, to see a polarized family having to cleave together to solve their own problems. It’s a Nebraska story, but it’s an American play.”

Leininger-Campbell credits director Amy Lane for helping to clarify and enhance aspects of the script, and the cast for bringing the show to life. She also cites her husband, author/musician Michael Campbell, who was the first to read the play and later contributed the production’s music.

“He wrote these beautiful, amazing tunes, just on the knowledge of what he’d read about the characters. I was really lucky to have him as a collaborator,” says Leininger-Campbell.

KXL pipeline fighter Jane Kleeb attended the Shelterbelt reading—offering helpful feedback afterwards—and the Playhouse premiere.

While she plans to do some acting in 2018, Leininger-Campbell is fully embracing the role of playwright. This year, audiences can anticipate Leininger-Campbell’s Terminal. The comedy tells the story of a group of people stuck inside an airport terminal who “get on each others’ nerves and slowly their humanity begins to melt away.”

Leininger-Campbell says her biggest wish is more time to write, and while time is a finite resource, she has ideas aplenty.

“I like to identify stories and then just tuck them away to mine later,” says Leininger-Campbell. “I love the process of writing and bringing those stories to life.”

Learn more about Laura Leininger-Campbell at lalaplaywright.com.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.