July may be thought of as one of the emptiest months for live theater in the metro, once Shakespeare on the Green has ended.
But this year, the month is alive with activity. Four shows open this weekend, each from a different genre. Each also has an interesting behind-the-scenes angle.
“Annie Get Your Gun,” a classic musical. Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre at Sumtur Amphitheater
As the theater’s board approached its sixth summer musical, an Irving Berlin classic about Annie Oakley, long-term growth was on its mind.
“We can’t rely only on board members to direct if we want to last long into the future,” said co-founder Jeff Nienheuser.
So the board hired Todd Brooks, a widely known director of musicals. Brooks is both stage director and music director of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
“The plus side of having both jobs is that you get to call all the shots,” Brooks said. The bad side, he said, is trying to read music while closely watching what’s going on onstage. Having a rehearsal accompanist has been a big plus.
“By the time I’m conducting the orchestra in final rehearsal, hopefully, it’s just a matter of tweaking things,” he said.
“The Beautiful and the Damned,” literary adaptation by Lone Tree Theatre Project at Omaha Community Playhouse.
Josh Ryan, a University of Nebraska at Omaha theater student in his senior year, has written an original script based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, using narrative theater to tell the story.
“Narrative is a book come to life,” he said. “We get dialogue between characters, but also subtext, a broader narration to set the atmosphere.”
He said the story is “for those who believe in love, and for those who understand how absurd that is.”
Anthony (John Landrie), an idle party boy supported by a rich grandfather, lacks a sense of purpose until he falls in love with Gloria (Olivia Sather).
“Crash! Boom! Pow!,” a comic-book adventure and original script. Shelterbelt Theatre at SNAP/Shelterbelt.
Ben Beck and Molly Welsh met weekly for six months to write this play, inspired by the works of playwright Charles Mee. It got a reading at the Great Plains Theatre Conference.
“I’m passionate about comic books,” said Beck, a recent UNO theater graduate. “We wanted to see how well we could translate from comic book to stage.”
Welsh said a second goal was to tell a meaningful story, something not always associated with comic books.
“Comic books today are very gutsy and deal with serious issues,” Beck said. The show includes adult material, not suitable for children.
“For a summer slot, this show has the right energy, and we’re committed to developing new voices,” said Ellen Struve, the Shelterbelt’s artistic director. “So much is visual. (Playwrights) have to see it onstage to know what they’ve created.”
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” Tony-winning drama. Circle Theater at Central Presbyterian Church
The Circle often does an “artist’s choice” play, so when actor Ryle Smith suggested Edward Albee’s classic, Circle co-founders Doug and Laura Marr listened.
Laura Marr and Michael Markey, who also helped found the Circle more than 25 years ago, will play feuding spouses George and Martha. It’s their first time acting together since the “Phil’s Diner” plays that gave the Circle its start.
2012 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Broadway opening of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” which later became an Oscar-winning movie starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
“I was excited with the offer to work with the Circle and the Marrs,” said director Denise Chapman, who is education director at the Omaha Community Playhouse. “Albee writes such beautifully complex characters. Digging past Martha and George’s surfaces to find the love story has been a beautiful challenge.”
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