Conversation begins for Great Plains Theater Conference
April 2nd, 2012
Omaha, NE – One of the largest regional theater conferences will take place in some interesting places in Omaha. That gets underway later this spring, but the theatrical conversation has already begun.
The Great Plains Theater Conference is heading into its seventh year this spring. Playwrights around the country, and around the world, submit their work for the annual event. Katie Cameron is the Event Services Project Assistant for Metropolitan Community College, which hosts the conference. She said out of over 600 entries this year, 35 were selected.
â€œSo itâ€™s a valuable experience for these playwrights,â€ Cameron said. â€œThey spend a week together and they really get to know each other.â€
The selected plays are read by local actors in daily workshops, while theater professionals listen in and give their feedback. In the evening, five plays by established playwrights from around the country will be performed â€“ at some intriguing places, including outdoors at the Union for Contemporary Art on Burdette and 24th St. in North Omaha.
â€œWeâ€™re going to invite the neighborhood and if we run out of seats, they can bring their blankets,â€ Cameron said. â€œKind of like the (Nebraska) Shakespeare festival, right?â€
The plays will also be hosted inside the Burlington Train Station downtown. â€œAnd how many people have lived in Nebraska all their lives and have never seen the inside of the Burlington but have wanted to?â€ Cameron said with a laugh.
The new locations were the idea of Kevin Lawlor, the Producing Artistic Director for the Conference. He said he wanted to move the productions out of the traditional theater â€“ and into the community.
â€œItâ€™s been building up for a long time for me,â€ Lawlor said. â€œA lot of it is in response to the way that American theater seems to have been moving, which has sort of started to develop this disconnect from community which it serves. Ticket prices are getting higher and higher, and fewer and fewer people are going to see shows.â€
Performances will also take place on a hill in Elkhorn overlooking the suburbs, the KANEKO in Omahaâ€™s Old Market, and even on top of a building downtown, overlooking the city.
â€œI was looking for locations that were socially, culturally and geographically diverse,â€ Lawlor said, â€œthat also might have a bit of connection to the play thatâ€™s being done, and maybe in the ideal world, the play and location has a connection to the part of the community itâ€™s in.â€
The Great Plains Theater Conference begins in May. And in the meantime, as preparations continue, Omaha can begin the conversation. Weekly â€œDialoguesâ€ are taking place each Monday night in the historic Presidentâ€™s House on MCCâ€™s Fort Omaha campus. Similar to a book club, participants can loan a copy of the plays from MCC and discuss them. Tonightâ€™s conversation features playwright Constance Congdonâ€™s selected work: Tales of the Lost Formicans. For a full schedule, click here.
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