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
Melanie Harker                               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.

Edward Albee trivia with "Virginia Woolf" cast members

Greetings, Omaha Community Playhouse blog reader!

My name is Noah Diaz and I’m an actor/director/intern here at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

There I am.  Aren’t I charming?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Hartman and Megan Friend who play Nick and Honey, respectively, in OCP’s upcoming production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Arguably one of the greatest American dramas, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? examines the breakdown of the marriage between middle-aged couple, Martha and George, and how that breakdown draws an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, into their bitter and frustrated relationship.

In addition to a great deal of verbal sparring and emotional vulnerability, this show calls for a large amount of alcohol consumption from its cast of characters. What better way to delve into the world of the play with Megan and Steve than to play a drinking game?
Disclaimer: we drank soda because we are consummate professionals.

Noah Diaz: Thanks for humoring me, you guys. I feel like if I’m given the opportunity to play a theatre drinking game, I really have to take it.
Megan Friend: I mean, you bought me a Diet Cherry Pepsi, so I think we’re even.
Steve Hartman (laughing): Glad to be here, buddy.
ND: Okay. Here are the rules: I will ask you a question and you must answer correctly. If you don’t, you have to take a sip of your drink. We’ll start with some general Edward Albee questions first. Ready?
MF: Yes. No. I’m scared. Okay.
SH (laughing): Yeah. Lay it on us.

What year was Edward Albee born? (A) 1919, (B) 1924 or (C) 1928?
MF: 1928!
SH: 1924?
ND: Megan’s right. It’s 1928. Drink it up, Steve!
SH (laughing): No!

ND: Slow it down, Steve! Calm it down. Okay. Ready for round two?
MF: Absolutely.

What was Edward Albee’s first play? (A) The Sandbox, (B) The Zoo Story or (C) A Delicate Balance?
SH: The Sandbox!
MF: The Zoo Story!
ND: Yeah, it’s The Zoo Story.
SH: I knew it! Why didn’t I say it?!
MF: You’re going to be done with your drink before we even get to the third question.

ND: Okay okay okay. We’ll move to some Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? questions. Maybe Steve will actually know some of these.
SH (laughing): Make them easier!

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre on which date? (A) November 13, 1962, (B) December 13, 1962 or (C) October 13, 1962?

MF: I’m going to totally guess and say December.
SH: Wow, okay. No, I’ll say November.
ND: Sorry, guys, but its October.
SH: Finally! About time you missed one.
MF (laughing): Let’s do this.

ND (laughing): Okay, let’s move on to a two-parter. This’ll be two questions so it’ll be worth two sips. Fill in the blanks.

Who played Honey in the most recent Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And what famous actor is that actress married to?
MF: No, I know this.
SH: I’m just going to get my drink ready. I have no idea.
ND: (hums Jeopardy theme song)
MF: Agh! I know this!

ND: She recently played the role of Nora on HBO’s The Leftovers.
SH: Some of us can’t afford HBO, Noah.
ND: True. That’s really true. Another hint: her husband also appeared in that same production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with her.
MF: I can’t remember.
ND: Her name is Carrie Coon and she’s married to Tracy Letts, who played George.
MF: It was right at the tip of my tongue!
ND (laughing): Drink it up!

ND: Okay, here’s the final question. It’s for the whole shebang. If you get it wrong, you have to down your whole drink.
MF: I have so much of my drink left!
SH (laughing): Shouldn’t have kept getting the answers right then.

Finish George’s quote: "All truth, being…”
MF: Related?
SH: Relative!
ND: Steve’s right!
SH: YES! Drink!
MF (laughing): Nooooo!

ND: Phenomenal job, guys! Okay, now’s the part where I act like a professional and ask you some serious questions about your production of the show. Here we go!

What’s your history with Edward Albee and his work?
Megan: I’ve never done an Albee play before, but I have read his work and studied his plays. When I attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival a while back, they were producing a smaller festival dedicated to his work. Seeing his work live really sparked my interest. But yeah, this will be my first time actually performing in a play of his.
Steve: Yeah, I’m about the same. My experience with him has been relatively limited. I’ve always admired his work though.

What prompted you to audition for this production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Megan: I’d never auditioned at the Omaha Community Playhouse before! I’d always wanted to but I just never had the opportunity. I’d read the older version of the play before auditions and really connected to the role of Honey…so yeah. I’m just glad things worked out.
Steve: Great play, great theatre, great role.
Megan (laughing): Straight and to the point.
Steve (smiling): Yep.

What’s been the most challenging part of this process as a performer?
Noah: Don’t say the lines. Everyone always says learning the lines is the hardest.
Megan (laughing): Honestly, the language. I guess also having to act drunk.
Steve: With the character of Nick, it’s so hard to find out what his motivations are in relation to George and Martha. Sometimes he’s intrigued by them, sometimes he despises them, sometimes he’s turned on by them, you know? It’s about tracking his next step and making sure you don’t see me, as the actor, anticipating it.

So what’s next for you guys? What have you got planned after this?
Megan: I just accepted job with R.E.S.P.E.C.T. That’ll be fun. In terms of performing, I’m not sure yet. I’ll be auditioning around town and seeing where I land.
Steve: Yeah, no big plans here either. If I see an audition that catches my eye, I’ll head that way. But not plans yet.
(Megan and Steve share a look)
Steve: That was a boring answer, wasn’t it?
Megan (laughing): Yeah, it kinda was, but it’s nice to keep your options open.

You can see the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, running May 8–June 7, 2015; Thursday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $21 for students. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

Ghosts, pratfalls, Shakespeare and swordplay

En garde! 

Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet will soon be making its way to the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage. This tongue-in-cheek comedy about the gray area where life and art coincide features ghosts, pratfalls, Shakespeare and thrilling swordplay choreographed by Rick Sordelet, a world-renowned fight choreographer with credits on Broadway (The Lion King, Waiting for Godot, Beauty and the Beast) and abroad (European tour of Ben Hur Live). Director Ablan Roblin and actors Ben Beck and Kevin Barratt answered a few questions about the upcoming production.
Kevin Barratt as John Barrymore and Ben Beck as Andrew
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as actor in learning this fight choreography?
Ben Beck (plays Andrew): I think the biggest challenge has been taking this choreographed fight that’s been imprinted in my mind and then adding the “acting” element. Right now it’s kind of like rubbing my tummy and patting my head.
Kevin Barratt (plays John Barrymore): For me, it’s learning it as quickly as we did. We were very early in the process when Rick [Sordelet] came in. Usually we’re given time to painstakingly go through the choreography but Rick was only here for a couple days, so it was like, “Bam! Here it is and done!”

What’s your favorite moment from the fight? A particular move or sequence?
Ben: I don’t want to give anything away!
It varies from moment to moment, run to run. Things click differently each time we run through the show.

Aside from the fight itself, have there been any unexpected challenges?
(smiling) Not yet.
Kevin Barratt as John Barrymore
What was it like working with Rick?
Ben: Rick is a wonderful teacher who can recognize each actor’s strengths and weaknesses. He’s just so supportive. And despite the time constraints, Rick was able to organically create some wonderful moments and stage pictures. I can’t imagine it coming from anyone else.
Kevin: He’s marvelous, a real gentlemen. He was so positive and honest at the same time. You never felt like he was just blowing smoke with where we were at. He was straightforward and I really appreciated that.

How have rehearsals been? Any interesting stories and/or discoveries with the cast?
Ben: I love watching the scenes I’m not blocked in. It’s great being able to step back and see the other actors take on this really funny and moving work.
Ablan Roblin (director): Rehearsals have been so great. They’re just a lot of fun. I’m thrilled that the actors are listening to each other and working well as a cast.
Ben Beck as Andrew
What can audiences expect from this show?
Ablan: They can expect to have a good time, to have a good laugh and to think.

What was it like having Rick step into rehearsals and stage the fight? Did his input influence other aspects of the show?
Ablan: Oh, yeah! Rick was staging the fight, sure, but he was also staging a scene. With that came a great sense of physical realization of the characters. He helped the actors craft their characters and helped them emerge.

You can see the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of I Hate Hamlet, running April 17–May 10, 2015; Wednesday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $21 for students. For groups of 12 or more, adult tickets are $24 and student tickets are $16. On Wednesday, April 22, tickets are $10 to that evening's show beginning at 4 p.m. at the Box Office. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

Story by Noah Diaz