Beertown Q&A

What to know before you see the show: details from the production's creators at dog & pony dc

The Story Behind Beertown’s Quinquennial:
Beertown’s Time Capsule was originally part of the opening celebration of Beertown’s newly built City Hall in 1895, to be unearthed 100 years later. Included was Aloysius P.  Thompson’s revolver, which he claimed he brought with him from New York. By 1904, it was suspected that the late Richard Thompson (Aloysius’ son) used the gun in the 1895 murder of Rhys Bramblethorpe’s chambermaid. The Time Capsule was unearthed and the gun fingerprinted in 1905; that same morning, Aloysius drowned himself in the Thakawaki River and fingerprinting confirmed Richard’s guilt. Aloysius’ suicide note replaced the gun in the capsule, which was then re-interred, as a reminder that history should occasionally be reexamined in order to better understand the truth. With the flood of 1908, the time capsule was again unearthed and repaired for water damage. Beertonians agreed the capsule’s contents should be re-examined every five years, in order to preserve the most accurate and complete spirit of Beertown. 1915 marked the first official Quinquennial celebration; 2015 marks the twentieth.

Wait: is Beertown a real place? Can I go visit?
Beertown is not a real town. When dog & pony dc created the town and its history, we plotted out pivotal moments in American history over the past 150 years and then developed the back-story of this small town and its inhabitants. The Thakawaki are a real native indigenous tribe; Kawanii of the Thakawaki is not. Events like New Beers Day are 100% real; though they seem made up. And, of course, McSorley’s Ale House is a New York institution, but two brewers named Bramblethorpe and Thompson never existed.

We created a website,, which served as a repository for all the history we developed that never fit into the Beertown. It came out of our desire to surround the show with a “rich dramaturgical environment.” All the people, businesses and events were created based on research of small towns.

The Origins of Beertown...
In the summer of 2010, we were wrapping up two projects: Courage, a “NASCAR-punk, political theatre revival” adaptation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and Separated at Birth, a clown show exploring missed connections in public-transportation stations. Rachel (directing Courage and performing in SAB) and Wyckham (performing in Courage and directing SAB) frequently found themselves in conversation about the formation, preservation and deterioration of communities.

Around that same time, the company decided our next production should be creating through a consensus-based process. Topic and approach seemed perfectly in sync.

So in October 2010, an ensemble of 14 artists embarked on a devising journey starting with two books--Winesburg, OH by Sherwood Anderson and Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer--and the question “What does it mean to be American?” 16 months later, we premiered Beertown, having added three more artists to our community and expanded our sources of inspiration to include episodes of NPR’s Radiolab and This American Life, Studs Terkel interviews, WPA projects, Our Town, census data, and maps. Lots and lots of maps.

What is the balance of script to improv for Beertown?
Beertown is about 60% scripted. The script is a little over 40-pages long and “act two” consists of less than nine pages. (Half of which is the antecedent “Thesis Statement.”) Led by our “audience integration” principle, we want the audience to world-build and story-build Beertown with us. As a result, we can only script or plan ahead so much or it becomes disingenuous. Improv shows are traditionally created in front of an audience but not in partnership with them. d&pdc walks this fine line between scripted and improvised, and spends considerable time working on how to use the scripted parts to engage the audience in improv-scripting Beertown at every performance.

How complex is that?
Uh, it’s crazy detailed and ungainly. When we built the show, we hadn’t considered a life for it past 2011. The history and timeline was shaped around the quinquennial occurring every five years, starting in 1911 and occurring on the “1s and 6s.” We’ve had to alter history every calendar year since then, so the quinquennial occurred on the “2s and 7s” and the “3s and 8s,” and now occurs on the “4s and 9s.” It is vital to the success of the show, the ability to integrate audiences into Beertown, that it always take place in the present. It’s that first gesture of authenticity that starts their on-boarding to become Beertonians.

Do you have plants in the audience?
Nope. But it always seems to be the complete strangers accused of being shills, not spouses or friends of the family.

What happens if audience members make up new stories about Beertown? Do you ever keep them as permanent parts of the show?
Sometimes. Each performance is its own Beertown, its own unique community. We seek to world-build that community each night with the specific audience that’s there. But just as much as we fill in Beertown history as needed, so does the audience. More importantly, every show we learn from the audience new or nuanced ways of arguing for or against the artifacts. Similar points are raised show to show, but there’s always something special that comes out.

How much has Beertown changed from its first inception? Will the show ever be “done?”

Beertown’s catch phrase is “creating community and revising its history, nightly.” It would seem disingenuous if this was not 100% true. The show performed at Omaha Community Playhouse has material that hasn’t changed since we workshopped the show in June 2011. It also has material written by Omaha artists specifically for this production. We are rigorous in our craft and strive to have our work reflect our growing understanding of the art form and the world.

Man of La Mancha cast announced

Production:        Man of La Mancha
Show Dates:       Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2015
Director:              Hilary Adams
Cork Ramer                    Miguel de Cervantes/ Alsono Quijana / Don Quixote
Noel Larrieu                   Sancho Panza/ The Manservant
Patrick Wolfe                 Captain of the Inquisition
John Morrissey              Prisoner called The Governor/ The Innkeeper
Steve Krambeck             Prisoner called The Duke/ Dr. Carrasco/ Knight of Mirrors/ Barber/ Horse
Jennifer Gilg                   Prisoner/ Aldonza
Lori Lynn Ahrends         Prisoner/ Maria
Sydney Readman          Prisoner/ Fermina/ Dancer
John E. Jones                 Prisoner/ The Padre
Samantha Quintana     Prisoner/ Antonia
Judy Radcliffe                Prisoner/ Housekeeper
Julia Ervin                       Prisoner/ Horse
John Ryan                       Prisoner/ Onstage Guitarist/ Tenorio
Ryan Pflug                      Prisoner/ Juan/ Pedro
Jason DeLong                Prisoner/ Paco
Adam Hogston              Prisoner/ Anselmo
Andrew Stone               Prisoner/ Jose

About:                Winner of five Tony Awards, Man of La Mancha is a tale of hope and inspiration. When Miguel Cervantes is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition, he is able to keep only one possession: a manuscript of a play he has written. As Cervantes sets the stage with his words in a bleak prison cell, he transports the inmates to another world—the world of Don Quixote. The inmates become characters in his story as he sings about “The Impossible Dream” in this theatrical celebration of the power of imagination.

Tickets:                                On sale Aug. 25
Location:             Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre | Omaha Community Playhouse
6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132

Mauritius cast announced

Production: Mauritius
Show Dates: Aug. 14-Sept. 13, 2015
Director: Jeff Horger

Actor                             Role
Alissa Walker                 Jackie
Will Muller                      Dennis
Karl Rohling                   Philip
Chris Shonka                 Sterling
Julie Fitzgerald Ryan      Mary

Beertown Cast Announced

Production:        Beertown
Show Dates:       Oct. 16-Nov. 15, 2015
Director:              Rachel Grossman

Actor                                                     Role

Wyckham Avery                             Megan Soch
Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek            David J. Guy
Christopher Scott                           Edwin McFarlan
Kim Clark-Kaczmarek                     Karine Oppenheim
Noah Diaz                                        State Representative Lawrence Pickle-Cooper
Melissa King                                    Joann Ryals
Adelaide Waldrop                             Michael “MJ” Soch, Jr
Brennan Thomas                            Arthur Whiting

What exactly is a Monty Python?

Flying cows, killer rabbits, black knights, coconut equestrianism, knights who say “Ni” and French people. To any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, this might seem like a completely unrelated, absurd or confusing series. To Monty Python fans, this list elicits giggles, chuckles, guffaws and probably an unsolicited string of quotes. Spamalot¸ a musical lovingly ripped off from the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, features all of these absurd characters and objects and is playing at the OmahaCommunity Playhouse May 29-June 28, 2015.

The Troupe
For those wondering, “What is a Monty Python?,” Monty Python was a British comedy group that formed in the 1960s and was best known for its 1970s movies Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Their comedic style was unpredictable and irreverent and tended to parody pop culture entertainment. Beginning as a sketch comedy troupe, The Pythons’ transition into movies was a daring, yet wildly successful, decision. Their transition from movies to stage 40 years later was also daring and not necessarily popular decision among all the Pythons at first.

Developing Spamalot
“I'd like to think that Spamalot was ultimately successful because Eric Idle willed it to happen,” said Spamalot Director Mark Robinson. “As the chief songwriter for the Pythons, he held great passion trying to create a stage show based on Python material, but he had to convince the stubborn others of the group that it could work. Just as George Bernard Shaw resisted having Pygmalion turned into what became My Fair Lady, most of the Pythons didn't really have any interest in having their satirical body of work – beloved by millions – turned into a narrative-driven stage musical that could ultimately flop like so many others had before them.”

So what turned the tide?

“The Pythons – who had moved on with their own lives and careers after the group officially broke up in the 1980s – resisted until Idle finally sat them down and played for them the show's power-ballad ‘The Song That Goes Like This,’” said Robinson. “John Cleese and the others laughed and began to see the real potential for a musical based on their work. They then gave Idle their blessing to proceed; although, they had little interest in being directly involved with its creation and left the project in Idle's capable hands.”

And Now for Something Completely Different
So not to disappoint any Monty Python super fans, favorite characters such as Not Dead Fred, Tim the Enchanter, Prince Herbert, Patsy and all the knights will all be accounted for in Spamalot. Also present in Spamalot will be two things that are totally UN-Python – women and endings.

“This show has a leading lady who is played by an actual lady! Python addicts know well that most of the female roles in the Pythons’ work were played by the six men of the group,” said Robinson. “The so-called ‘7th Python’ – British bombshell Carol Cleveland who appeared in every Python incarnation (as a woman) – only played trivial roles. With Spamalot, however, Idle made a great leap by creating a leading role in the show played by a female! The risk paid off and added a never-before-attempted dimension to the Pythons’ work.”

The aforementioned lady is The Lady of the Lake. In OCP’s production, The Lady of the Lake is played by Melanie Walters who also happens to be the show’s choreographer. Talk about talent!

“Also unlike the film, the show actually has a proper ending,” said Robinson. “This may sound like a ridiculously obvious and expected attribute of any stage play, but the Pythons’ greatest struggle as writers were the creations of sensible traditional endings to their sketches and projects. You'll find that reflected in the abstract and abrupt endings of almost everything they ever created. This struggle is what originally led John Cleese to invite American-born animator Terry Gilliam into the group in 1969. Gilliam was responsible for the Python's distinctive segues: those far-out animated sequences which bridge the non-requiting sketches, and disguise the writer’s frequent inability to find a punch line funny enough to end a sketch on. Happily, the stage musical includes affectionate nods to Gilliam's wacky Victorian visuals; beautifully incorporated into our production by our show's talented scenic artist Craig Lee.”

On Stage at OCP
Even if patrons are not familiar with Monty Python humor, they will still laugh along with the rest of the crowd and enjoy the production from start to finish. Robinson also added, “Oh, patrons should also expect to see twenty-four of Omaha's brightest performers singing their lungs out and dancing up a frenzy, which is only interesting to those potential audience members who like...talent.  (If they're lucky, they might even catch a glimpse of God Almighty, too.)”

Spamalot is on the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre at the Omaha Community Playhouse May 29-June 28, 2015. Single tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for students. Tickets are half price after noon at the Box Office for that evening’s show (cash or check only while tickets last). Group tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. For tickets, visit the OCP Box Office, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.