Volunteer Spotlight: Glenda Kalina

What OCP Means to Me

For many, the Omaha Community Playhouse feels like family. Staff members, volunteers and audiences alike walk through our doors as strangers, and leave as so much more. We strive to transform our building into a theatre where you can grow and learn; a place that feels like home. No one knows this better than Glenda Kalina. Glenda has previously served as a production volunteer, and currently volunteers in OCP's administrative offices.
"Our fondness for the Omaha Community Playhouse began in the late seventies when our daughter, Carla, was a violinist with the pit orchestra for My Fair Lady. It was followed by our other daughter, Kelly, who danced and sang her way through a few musicals in the eighties, and traveled with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan as "Lucy" in A Christmas Carol two different years. It was when she was in the "Ballroom" that I had the opportunity to play keyboards for the onstage band. That was a fun thing for me as a mom to be in a show with one of my daughters. Joanne Cady (beloved OCP choreographer from 1974 to 2003) asked me to play for her dance classes, and even let me bring along our German Shepherd, Zach, who would make himself comfortable under the grand piano and watch the dancers practice their moves."
Glenda's involvement only grew from there. Glenda is one of over a dozen dedicated volunteers who work two-hour shifts one day a week answering phones and assisting with projects in the OCP administrative wing.

Volunteers Oskar and Glenda
"About eleven years ago, I began my final contribution to OCP by volunteering on Tuesday mornings in the administrative offices helping answer the phones. Again, I brought my dog, only this time it was a big yellow lab named Oskar. He soon became everyone's therapy dog, you might say, as folks would stop and Oskar would get a pat or two. Oskar just brightened everyone's day. These weekly visits down Henry Fonda Drive brighten my life with so many friends, both new and old, and make me feel like I am doing something worthwhile in my retirement years. My hat's off to OCP that they feel their patrons deserve to be greeted with a real person and not a machine during office hours!"
When asked how OCP impacted her, Glenda put it best.
"How lucky are we to live in Omaha, a city that possesses such a fine community theatre to influence the lives of our children and grandchildren. From my husband, Larry, and me we say thank you, Omaha Community Playhouse. Thank you for making Omaha the kind of community that is easy to call home. Thank you for all you have done and are still doing to enrich the lives of our family."
It's a family we are proud to be a part of.
Stupid F@#%ing Bird 
Actor Alissa Hanish reflects on her past experience with Chekhov's works

1.    Have you ever read or performed a Chekhov work before? If yes, what work(s)?

Yes, I was first introduced to Chekhov in college when we read The Cherry Orchard. I immediately fell in love with the play...the imagery, the metaphors, the characters, how unbelievably dramatic yet relatable it was. It felt like what theatre should be - heightened reality that made me feel something. Then, a year later, I was cast as Anna Petrovna in The Chekhov Machine. It was an outrageous, wonderful little play about the characters from Chekhov's plays coming back to haunt him as he is dying from TB. It was a fascinating experience and made me fall even more in love with his work. His characters are so dramatic and ridiculous, yet you see yourself in all of them. His characters are our inner lives - the things brewing inside of us that we don't let others see. We are so dramatic in our own minds, but we try to be rational human beings. Chekhov makes you examine yourself with his characters.

2.       Did your past experience with Chekhov add to the interest in this show for you?

I already loved The Seagull before I knew about this play. I saw Stupid F@#%ing Bird in Chicago at Victory Gardens Theatre in 2015 and it made me think for days. I laughed, I cried, I contemplated what art was and what art I should be doing. When I saw that OCP was producing it I was ecstatic! It makes fun of Chekhov but in the most loving way. It still has the heart of a Chekhov story, but the language and characters are a little more accessible. 

3.       Do you think the script for Stupid F@#%ing Bird makes Chekhov more relatable to people who may not be familiar to his works?

This script is definitely more accessible than The Seagull but honestly, only in language and maybe time period. The characters are still incredibly dramatic and the ideas are the same (even some of the lines are nearly identical to the lines in The Seagull.) I think placing the characters in modern-ish day with modern-ish language helps make the play more accessible to people who aren't into classical theatre. It is a modern show with modern language and dress, but it still has all the flair and drama and feeling of a Chekhov original.

Stupid F@#%ing Bird - Director's Thoughts on Chekhov

By Director Suzanne Withem

I read The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard in undergrad and I'd skimmed Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, but I'd never really connected with the stiff language or strange characters in such foreign situations dealing so poorly with what appeared to be relatively mundane problems. People told me Chekhov was funny, but just reading the text, I didn't get it. I felt dumb and irritated, so I just gave up on it and joined the "I Hate Chekhov" camp.

Then, in 2006, I auditioned for the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre production of The Seagull and was cast in the role of Nina. My vanity and being cast in a lead role allowed me to put aside my dislike of the playwright and I dug in trying to understand. It helped that the Artistic Director, Cathy Kurz, chose Tom Stoppard's translation of the play. It was much more accessible than others I'd read, and after having compared different translations of Molière's Tartuffe, I realized how important a good translation can be. A translator attempting to do a literal translation ends up with a product that sounds awkward and stiff - as if Google Translate did half the work. A literary translation, on the other hand, sticks to the spirit and intention of the original while allowing freedom of interpretation and providing space for the actors to play. That's what I found in Tom Stoppard's translation. 

That was one of my first big roles out of college, and I took it very seriously. I applied all my training and watched and listened to the more experienced actors in the group. Doug Blackburn, Charlene Willoughby and Jeremy Earl, just to name a few, were in that production. Each had training and experience far beyond mine, and I did all I could to keep up with them. Nina's zest for life in the first two acts and her passion in pursuing her dreams in the third really resonated with me, and I found it easy to get caught up in the character, riding the wave past intermission. However, she returns in the fourth act, having had her soul, career, reputation and heart crushed. I struggled every night to relate to that state. Portraying someone so world-weary at such a young age, having lived a relatively sheltered life, was a real challenge for me. But it was a beautiful experience and production all the same. 

When I first read Aaron Posners "sort of adaptation" of The Seagull, I immediately fell in love. His love/hate relationship with Chekhov and his plays was immediately apparent and right in line with where I was, more than a decade after my first encounter with The Seagull. Posner doesn't just riff on the story; he plays with the original text. He quotes Chekhov, mocks him, undermines him and points at him with a flashing neon sign and composes love songs to him. Only someone with a deep love for the story and the history of American attempts to produce the play could get inside the work in this way. 

Not only does he modernize the texts and situations, he modernizes the perspectives. Chekhov, through his character of Konstantin demands "new forms" of theatre from 1898, when declamation and oratory were considered high art. Chekhov and Stanislavsky, at the Moscow Art Theatre were attempting to break with tradition by doing innovative things like having the actors speak directly and naturally to one another or doing mundane things like eating, sitting, and blowing their noses on stage. This was revolutionary at the time. In 2017, Aaron Posner screams through his character of Conrad that we again need "new forms" of theatre, then has us break the fourth wall in new and surprising ways, invites us to try out new ways of expressing emotion through music, movement, poetry and improvisation. 

Yet, while both Chekhov and Posner challenge their audiences to consider new types of art that encourage new ways of looking at the world, they still provide for fun, humor and the opportunity to experience empathy. These ridiculous characters who move and talk in ways that surprise the audience are still surprisingly relatable and lovable, despite their flaws.