Cast of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


Dennis Stessman - Ransome Foster
Sydney Readman - Hallie Jackson
Isaac Reilly - Bert Barricune
Chad Cunningham - Jim Mosten
Christopher Scott - Marshal Johnson
Brennan Thomas - Liberty Valance
Chris Berger - Narrator
Aubrey Fleming - Ensemble
Gary Williams - Ensemble 


Jeff Horger – Director
Gabi Rima – Stage Manager
Jim Othuse  – Scenic and Lighting Designer
Amanda Fehlner – Costume Designer
John Gibilisco – Sound Designer
Christina Rohling – Fight Director
Vince Krysl – Music Composer/Arranger
Darin Kuehler - Properties
Greg Scheer – Production Coordinator 

Cast of Around the World in 80 Days


Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek - Phileas Fogg
Ablan Roblin - Jean Passepartout
Ben Beck - Actor 1
Monty Eich - Actor 2
Teri Fender - Aouda


Carl Beck - Director
Liz Kendall Weisser - Stage Manager
Bryan McAdams - Scenic Designer
Jim Othuse - Lighting Designer
Georgiann Regan - Costume Designer
John Gibilisco - Sound Designer
Susie Baer Collins - Dialect Coach
Jens Rasmussen - Fight Director
Vince Krysl - Music Composer/Arranger
Darin Kuehler - Properties
Greg Scheer - Production Coordinator

An Actor's Perspective

By Marcus Benzel, volunteer actor

Christmas time.  It’s a time of celebration, a time of laughter, and a time to give back to your community.  So how does a social media recruiter like myself give back to his community during the holidays?  I do so by acting!

I know, I know; acting isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about volunteering, however, there is a 41-year tradition in Omaha of families from all over bringing their loved ones to the Omaha Community Playhouse to get that sense of Christmas spirit, and it can’t happen without lots of volunteers.

Over the years, there have been different casts and different directors but one thing that hasn’t changed at all is the hard work and dedication that everyone onstage and behind the scenes puts into the show.

You know, I should clear that up a bit more, because when I say “hard work and dedication”, I feel that that doesn’t do justice to what goes into putting on a show for the community. For most of us, this whole process starts way back in August for auditions, and from there we begin the rehearsal process.  We are talking about six days a week from 6:30-9:30 P.M. (heck sometimes even 10 P.M.!) where actors are learning music, blocking (stage directions), choreography or even how to use a proper British dialect.

Finally, after all those long hours of rehearsal, we have one final week to put on the finishing touches: trying on costumes and wigs, working with set pieces and props, practicing on the stage with the lighting and sound as well as discovering last minute connections with our characters to make them feel special to us.  In the theatre world, this is what we call “tech week”, and once that’s all said and done we put on six shows a week (two on Sundays) for five weeks in a row.

That’s a lot of time and energy that a cast of 35 puts in.  Like I talked about earlier, we do this to give back and to share our passion for theatre.  A lot of us like myself have jobs during the day, and some of our younger cast members come straight from cramming their brains all day at school and school-related activities.

To give you an idea of what a show day looks like for a volunteer actor, I wake up at 5 A.M. every day to do some dishes and pack my meals that I prepped on Sunday. I’m usually at work from 7:30 A.M.-5 P.M., and from there I go straight to the gym to make sure I get my workout of cardio kickboxing or resistance training in.  Around 6:30, I run like crazy to make sure I get over to the Omaha Community Playhouse so I’m able to make it to vocal warm-ups and grab a quick bite to eat before the show.  After I scarf down my delicious chicken, green beans, and potatoes (a meal that I’m known to eat every night), I gear up for the show by getting into costume and getting into place for opening curtain.

After the 2 and a half hour performance, I take some time to thank the community for coming and supporting the Playhouse (which is something I love because you can see them getting into the Christmas spirit right in front of your face). I tend to get home around 10:30 P.M. every night, take a quick shower, and finally hope to be asleep by midnight.  Then the next day I wake up and do it all over again!

This is just one story of one busy person who does this show, but everyone has their own story about how busy they are and still find time to show up and perform.  Even though my life gets very hectic and I may be losing out on lots and lots of this thing called sleep, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We do this for the community, because for a lot of people out there, this is something special that has become a family tradition.

I honestly didn’t fully understand the impact that A Christmas Carol has on the community until I was halfway through my first run of the show last year. To me, it was just another show I was doing because I love being on stage and performing for others, but after talking to generations of families who told me how important it was for them to come here (because they don’t feel like it’s truly Christmas until they have seen us jump around the stage doing the polka for the 200th time) I realized how many people this show has impacted.

Our community made me see that performing this show isn’t about the performance, but instead taking every chance we have to share the Christmas spirit with others. Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments below what A Christmas Carol has meant to you.

The Cast and Crew of A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

November 18 - December 23, 2016

Hawks Mainstage Theatre


Fred - Scott Van Den Top
Jake - Marcus Benzel
Nell - Rusheaa Smith-Turner
Ebenezer Scrooge - Jerry Longe
Bob Cratchit - Chris Berger
1st Charity Man - Don Keelan-White
2nd Charity Man - Mike Palmreuter
Peter Cratchit - Henry Wisneski
Francis Cratchit - Brodhi McClymont
Belinda Cratchit - Maddie Smith
Tim Cratchit - William Wisneski
Jacob Marley - Ron Chvala
Ghost of Christmas Past - Julie Huff
School boy - Daniel Davis                
School boy - Andrew Hedin
School boy - Samuel Ortner
Ebby - Keithen Cudly
Fan - Ella Walker
Dick Wilkins - Joseph Mokrycki
Mr. Fezziwig - Don Keelan-White
Mrs. Fezziwig - Sara Planck     
The Ball Musicians - Ron Chvala, Mike Palmreuter
Young Scrooge - Ian Hill            
Belle Fezziwig - Emily Smith
Ghost of Christmas Present - Mike Palmreuter
Mrs. Cratchit - Emily Mokrycki
Martha Cratchit - Clara Pohlman
Millie - Julia Ervin
Lucy - Emma Chvala  
Topper - George “Nick” LaMay
Myrtle Crow - Julie Huff
Mrs. Dilber - Sara Planck
Men at Cart - Marcus BenzelDon Keelan-White, Ron Chvala
Boy with Sled - Judson Cloudt
Female Ensemble - Hannah Fay Johnson
Male Ensemble - Justin Eller

Specialty Players

Little Bo Peep - Alexis Reynolds
Little Boy Blue - Gracee Fitch
Beggar - Kole Rowan
Chestnut Vendor - Jenna Hager
Poulterer - Joseph Mokrycki
Greenery Vendor - Amina Teri
Baker’s Wife - Sara Planck                 
Baker - Don Keelan-White
Toyshop Keeper - Mike Palmreuter


Kimberly Faith Hickman – Artistic Director
Susie Baer Collins – Director
Carl Beck – Director
Ablan Roblin - Director
Jeff Horger - Director
Jeanne Shelton – Stage Manager
Jim Othuse - Scenic and Lighting Designer
Georgiann Regan – Costume Designer
Tim Burkhart – Sound Designer
John Gibilisco – Resident Sound Designer/Production Electrician
Jim Boggess – Music Director
Kate Schrader – Music Rehearsal Assistant
Michelle Garrity – Dance Choreographer
Christopher Sanders – Shadowing Choreographer 
Darin Kuehler – Properties
Greg Scheer – Production Coordinator


The Cast and Crew of Sister Act

'Sister Act'

September 16 - October 16, 2016

Hawks Mainstage Theatre


Kim Alger - Sister Mary Theresa
Judy Anderson - Mother Superior
Lauren Anderson - Ensemble
Marguerite Bennett - Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours
Brendan Brown - Ernie
Rachel Busse - Tina
Marcel Daly - Eddie
Justin Eller - Joey
Jennifer Ettinger - Ensemble
Adam Fulbright - Pablo
Janet Goodman - Ensemble
Lauren Johnson - Michelle
Jessie Kellerman - Ensemble
Melissa King - Sister Mary Robert
Caitlin Mabon - Ensemble
Sara Mattix - Sister Mary Patrick
Megan Morrissey - Ensemble
Brian Priesman - Curtis
Cork Ramer - Monsignor O’Hara
Sally Neumann Scamfer - Sister Mary Lazarus
Alia Sedlacek - Ensemble
Jonathan Smith - TJ
Zhomontee Watson - Deloris Van Cartier


Kimberly Faith Hickman - Director
Steve Priesman - Stage Manager
Jim Boggess - Music Director
Melanie Walters - Choreographer
Jens Rasmussen - Fight Director
Joey Galda - Assistant Director
Jim Othuse - Scenic and Lighting Designer


The Cast and Crew of Murder Ballad

'Murder Ballad'

October 14 - November 20, 2016

Howard Drew Theatre


Mackenzie Dehmer - Narrator                                              
Leanne Hill Carlson - Sara                                                     
John E. Jones - Michael                                                
Thomas Gjere - Tom                                                     


Jeff Horger – Director

Mary Dew – Stage Manager    

Jim Othuse  – Scenic Designer

Chris Wood – Lighting Designer

Amanda Fehlner – Costume Designer

Tim Burkhart – Sound Designer

John Gibilisco – Resident Sound Designer/Production Electrician

Darin Kuehler - Properties

Greg Scheer – Production Coordinator 

Guest Blog: Daena Schweiger on The Producers

Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance – Mel Brooks

I remember the first time I saw (and fell in love with) the original movie The Producers starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. It was a Saturday afternoon. It was shown on regular television as filler until some sports programming began later that day.  I was surprised it was being shown. I knew the plot: two men scheming to bilk elderly, amorous women out of their money by producing a certified flop (a feel good musical titled “Springtime for Hitler” **) guaranteed to close the first week.  It sounded hilarious. It also didn’t sound like something that would appear on regular television, even if it was a Saturday afternoon. It didn’t matter. They ran it, I watched it, and hummed the music to “Springtime for Hitler” the entire next week.  It quickly became one of my favorite Mel Brooks films. Young Frankenstein is still number 1.

**Fun Fact:  I know one of the uncredited dancers in the “Springtime for Hitler” musical number in the movie (I worked with her when she did guest directing stints for Opera Omaha in the mid-nineties).

Years later the second incarnation of The Producers, in musical form, took Broadway by storm and was a smashing success for stars Nathan Lane (Max) and Matthew Broderick (Leo). The third incarnation of The Producers came a few years after the Broadway run. The wildly successful musical took it’s talents to the big screen, and took Mr. Lane and Mr. Broderick with it for the ride.  I did not see this movie, and that’s okay.  Full disclosure – I’m not a fan of movies turning into musicals and then being filmed as a movie musical. As if the original, non-singing movie, doesn’t exist!  (My friend who attended the OCP preview night with me said she was not impressed with the Lane / Broderick movie, but had seen the Broadway tour when it came to Omaha a few years back and was eager to see how OCP tackled some scenes).

The musical, I am happy to report, is every bit as funny as the original movie, and in some places, is even more funny than the original film. The invited audience on Thursday reacted as I did – doubled over with laughter from the moment the curtain rose.  The humor of Mel Brooks, I think, is timeless – the jokes don’t feel dated to me even if some of the setups are familiar. 

Of course, it helps to have a solid understanding of comedy, and more importantly, comedic timing.  Jeff Horger (stage director) has assembled an outstanding cast that is more than up to the challenge.  Leading the way are two Playhouse veterans and audience favorites – Jim McKain as Max Bialystock and Steve Krambeck as Leo Bloom.  They are surrounded by a supporting cast that shines as brightly as the aforementioned leads.  Mike Palmreuter, as the Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, and Zach Kloppenborg, as Carmen Guia, are worth the price of admission. Also worth the price of admission?  The dancing pigeons. Yes, you read that right. Dancing pigeons.  I haven’t laughed as hard as I did during the song “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” in a long time.  A big shout out to Darin Kuehler for that bit of props magic. 

Speaking of the artistic team – once again Jim Othuse has provided a sensible, practical set that takes us from Max’s run down, seedy office to outside the Shubert theatre, a rehearsal hall, and a prison. Scene changes were flawless and fast.  Melanie Walters provided outstanding choreography, in particular the Act I finale and, of course, “Springtime for Hitler” in Act II.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes were imaginative and fun. And Jim Boggess and his talented musicians in the pit kept nice tempos and pacing throughout.

As an audience member you would be hard pressed to find a flaw in the production. There was no weak link in the cast, crew, or artistic staff.  One of the most highly anticipated musicals in Omaha in years will not disappoint you. They say laughter is the best medicine, and as Mel himself stated, “If you bring these people down with comedy they stand no chance.” None of us stood a chance on preview night. We were all felled by laughter.  In fact, it left us breathless. And humming its signature song.

Daena Schweiger is a local director and playwright. She also serves as a board member for SNAP! Productions.