The Spirit of Shakespeare:
Celebrating 27 years on the Green
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 22:09
Shakespeare’s works are often performed more than any other playwright. His timeless tragedies, comedies and histories still touch the lives and hearts of many – including Nebraskans.
For 27 years, Nebraska Shakespeare has fostered the spirit of the famous playwright, with the free annual production of Shakespeare on the Green.
Since 1986, the Shakespeare on the Green staff has worked to produce two plays each summer in Elmwood Park – typically one tragedy and one comedy – that run for three weekends.
This summer’s production differed from past performances as “Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy, made its debut.
“This play was visually striking, emotionally compelling, and very well-received for the first time by our Nebraska Shakespeare audience,” Vincent Carlson-Brown, artistic director for Nebraska Shakespeare, said. He also added that the quasi-musical production of “Twelfth Night” was “a popular family hit. The audience came out in droves!"
The Shakespeare on the Green productions have continued to be well-received in the Omaha community and beyond, as audience size has increased enormously over the years.
“The first few shows saw crowds of a few hundred, but this year we had nights of 4,000 people in attendance,” said Carlson-Brown.
If it wasn’t for University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Cindy Phaneuf and Creighton University’s Alan Klem, the Shakespeare on the Green productions may have never seen such a large crowd, nor ever been possible.
Carlson-Brown said Shakespeare on the Green was founded by Phaneuf and Klem “as a partnership between both universities and the city of Omaha.”
“[The idea started from] Klem's tenure track to start a Shakespeare festival similar to the one he had established in Fort Worth, Texas,” Carlson-Brown added. “He took the idea to Phaneuf, as she had the idea for the space on the campus of UNO, in the Elmwood Park bowl.”
Since then, Nebraska Shakespeare has continued to provide attendees with unforgettable performances. It’s the Nebraska Shakespeare team, directors, design team, professional actors, and a technical staff of over 50 people that help make each production come to life.
The work starts early, as pre-production begins the previous fall with hiring directors and a design staff for the two productions. According to Carlson-Brown, auditions are held in January across the country and end in Omaha to seek professional actors.
Carlson-Brown explained the work put into producing the two plays: “The design team meets periodically January through May to work out the ideas and concepts for the productions; what is important about the plays, how are they connected, how the set will look – built new in the park every year, exclusive to each production – and the costumes.”
With 27 years of hard work put into Shakespeare on the Green, the production has grown into quite a success, yet future goals remain on mind.
“We would like to expand our artistic offerings, producing a third ‘Shakespeare-inspired’ play at some point in the year. Not necessarily written by Shakespeare, but including or inspired by his work,” Carlson-Brown said. “And we want to continue to produce some of the best, free Shakespeare in the country.”