? the orpheum | ? courtesy of omaha performing arts
Whether on stage or screen, entertainment here is more than an avenue for diversion; it’s one of the ways we strengthen community. Engaging, laughing, crying and clapping – together.
When the lights go down and the curtains rise, our many stages crackle with the power of shared experiences perfectly produced. Our historic Orpheum Theater welcomes Broadway’s biggest blockbusters, including Hamilton (September 2019), Les Miserable (January 2020) and Dear Evan Hansen (March 2020). High-energy and high-acclaim are also hallmarks at Omaha Community Playhouse (the nation’s largest community theater), Blue Barn Theater and Bellevue Little Theater. Early next year, our child-and-family-centered Rose Theater will host the world premiere of “Howie D: Back in the Day,” a semi-autobiographical play starring “Backstreet Boy” Howard Dorough.
Also next year, we’ll add another venue to our ensemble when the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center opens in downtown Council Bluffs. It will serve as the permanent home for the Chanticleer Community Theater, the Kanesville Symphony and American Midwest Ballet, the region’s only professional dance company.
From stage to screen, our community’s love for film is evident both behind the scenes – and front and center.
Night Fox Entertainment, an Omaha-based finance and production company, is turning a packed production schedule into a growing filmography. Night Fox released CIA-thriller “Against the Clock” in mid-January. Its second feature, the horror story “Wilding,” premiered at South by Southwest in 2018. Post-apocalyptic “Z for Zachariah” debuted at Sundance three years earlier. Night Fox’s latest – a mystery-horror film called “Stoker Hills” – stars Omaha’s John Beasley and horror movie legend Tony Todd (“Candyman”).
? eric francis
“We don’t want to tell a story that you’ve heard a million times. We want to figure out a way to tell stories that are unique and will resonate,” says CEO Timothy Christian says. “At the end of the day, a good story is going to drive everything else.”
“Nebraska is a place where we have almost any landscape you could want, which tells me that no matter what kind of film you’re doing, there’s probably a way you can shoot it here,” Christian says.
Rachel Jacobson built a thriving nonprofit around her love of film as an art form. Film Streams oversees two local cinemas: the Ruth Sokolof Theater, a two-screen venue that opened in 2007 in north downtown Omaha within the Saddle Creek Records complex, and the historic Dundee Theater, Omaha’s longest surviving neighborhood cinema.
“It’s a different experience coming to one of our venues versus a traditional multiplex,” says Jacobson, Film Streams’ executive director
“The films we play make you think or say something provocative about the world or show you a completely different lifestyle and way of existing.”
Committed to sharing the art of film with as many as possible, Film Streams regularly partners with other nonprofits and community groups, and offers year-round film-education opportunities.
Inspired by their own love of movies, Bill Barstow and his wife Colleen launched Main Street Theatres Inc., a company that oversees eight theatres in Nebraska and Iowa, including flagship Aksarben Cinema. The family’s guiding principle is simple: treat moviegoers like guests in the family living room.
“Our job is to welcome you, get you everything you need to enjoy the show, and get out of the way,” Barstow says.
The advantage of being locally owned, he says, is the ability to connect authentically with local guests: “We get excited about Berkshire weekend and all the people it brings to Omaha. We organize field trips with local schools, open caption shows to welcome all movie-goers, and hold fundraisers for local charities. We strive every day to be a valuable member of the community because Omaha is our hometown.”
In 2020, the Barstows will open the newest addition to Main Street Theatre’s “midwestern circuit” – state-of-the-art ACX Cinema 12 in southwest Omaha.
? rebecca s. gratz
When Omaha Film Festival (OFF) opens its next run on March 3, 2020, it will mark 15 years of elevating our community, filmmakers and the arts.
“If you like movies, there’s going to be something that you’ll enjoy. We have comedies, dramas, action-adventures, animated shorts…”
Over the course of a week, OFF showcases over 100 films selected from an average of over 1000 annual entries. If you think you don’t like documentaries, come and see at least one of ours. I think it will change your mind pretty quickly,” says Marc Longbrake, OFF co-founder and program director.
Over the years, OFF has also made great strides towards becoming one of the Midwest’s premier teaching festivals, offering opportunities for filmmakers, students, and film enthusiasts to learn more about the craft of filmmaking through panels, lectures and workshops, including OFF Academy, which connects high schoolers with filmmakers and the screenwriters.
“It’s all about educating, entertaining and inspiring – and it is a super-rewarding part of what we do,” says Marc Longbrake says.
We are home to a vibrant mix of artful entertainment and entertaining arts.
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Celebrating their 30th anniversary season, The Bluebarn Theatre distinguishes itself as the only professional adult community theatre in Omaha.
“We love living in Omaha and competing here with other theatres. Omaha is at its best – and movie-going is at its best – when every theatre is competing to make the experience as good as it can be.” – Bill Barstow, co-owner, Aksarben Cinema
Omaha native Timothy Christian dabbles in fantasy – a necessary part of the job for a busy, genre-spanning movie producer. But he’s serious about the potential reality of making Nebraska and Omaha true players in the film industry.
Omaha Film Festival (OFF) will mark 15 years of elevating our community, filmmakers and the arts when it opens its next run on March 3, 2020.
Rachel Jacobson learned the value of “art sharing” from her father, the late David Jacobson: “He created this vibrancy around art sharing within our family. He was so excited about music and film and literature.”
Opening on May 31, Director Kimberly Hickman and her cast of 37 volunteer actors have tirelessly been preparing to bring Ragtime to life at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Set in New York in the early 20th century, the plot explores the serious issues of class struggles between immigrants and suburbanites while touching on themes of family, immigration, and integration.