As much as we might wish it, local theaters cannot be everything to everyone.
All the Lincoln-area theaters, though, try to be what they can to as many people as they can. I thought it would be a fun idea to find out what Lincolnites are looking for from their local theaters and compare that to what is offered.
Of course, like most of us, I tend to live in a bit of an echochamber. Most of my friends are already active in the Lincoln theater scene. To get a wider audience’s opinion, I went down to the Railyard on a recent evening and interviewed strangers. I must have had my most approachable smile on display, because dozens of people were willing to stop and chat with me about theater.
Early in the evening, my interviewees tended to be older, mostly retired folks heading to dinner. The majority of these people said they would go to the theater more often if they could see more classic musicals, like they remembered from their youth.
Interestingly enough, The Lofte Theatre in Manley is currently performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s "Pirates of Penzance," and The STAGE Theatre in Hickman just finished casting "South Pacific."
While most specifically mentioned musicals, I had to mention that Nebraska Repertory Theatre will be producing "The Glass Menagerie" in November as well. It doesn’t get much more classic than Tennessee Williams.
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As it got later, I ran into more college students and young professionals, who either confessed to absolutely no interest in theater or wanted to see more trendy or experimental shows. I told them that Lincoln Community Playhouse will be presenting "Be More Chill" in October and November, which seemed to excite the trendy crowd. I also told them that Angels Theatre Company has a salon reading series that will be focusing on newer plays for their monthly staged readings starting in the fall. They were especially excited that those readings are free.
Experimental theater is a bit harder to find in our area, depending on the definition, but it is not impossible. Haymarket Theatre has a new, young managing director (Christian Novotny), who is planning to take the theater in a fresh direction, beginning with Annie Baker’s "The Aliens," debuting this week. UNL’s Theatrix is a student-run production company that often produces more off-the-beaten-path theater. The 2019-20 season has not yet been announced, but past seasons have included experimental plays like Duncan Macmillan’s "Lungs" and a contemporary adaptation of Chekhov’s "The Seagull," titled "Stupid F***ing Bird."
As I was getting ready to head home, I ran into a large not-entirely-sober group of young women who wanted to talk about how there weren’t enough “truly artistic” shows in Lincoln. I’m still not certain what they meant by that, but I was happy to inform them that Omniarts Nebraska believes in incorporating literature, music, visual arts, and performance into all their shows. This seemed to satisfy them as they boarded a group bike to head to another bar.
It was an interesting evening. I met retired chemists, stay-at-home parents, young nonprofit workers, sorority sisters, and service workers.
Surprisingly few people had no interest in theater at all, and surprisingly many were happy to discuss their opinions on it. What I realized is that Lincoln theaters provide a variety of shows that could satisfy the majority of the population, if only they knew about them.
There was one gentleman, however, who simply wanted to see more nudity onstage. He was not amused when I told him he had just missed "Calendar Girls" at The Lofte.