Ghosts aren’t just for Shelterskelter anymore.
For years, your best chance of seeing a ghostly presence at Shelterbelt Theatre was either during Shelterskelter or a late night set build. However, the ghost of Nebraska’s greatest writer will haunt a new original musical this spring at the Shelterbelt.
“Catherland” is the story of Jeffrey and Susan, a contemporary young couple who agreed that once Susan finished her first novel they would exchange their hectic life in Chicago for Jeffrey’s home town of Red Cloud, Nebraska. Dreams of a simpler life and starting a family shatter as a slew of mysterious guests prove that there is nothing simple about small town living.
The musical is a collaboration between Becky Boesen and David von Kampen, both of whom lived in Nebraska as children and moved back to Lincoln as adults to raise their respective families. Boesen (book & lyrics) is a writer, lyricist, director, actor, and teaching artist. She has been honored as a “Playwright of Merit” by the Nebraska Arts Council and is a two-time Mayor’s Arts Award recipient in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has also received a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Von Kampen (music) is a six-time Downbeat Award winner in graduate-level jazz writing categories, a three-time winner of the Vancouver Chamber Choir Young Composers Competition, and the recipient of a 2015 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer award. His creative work spans a wide variety of genres, including jazz, choral music, chamber music and musical theater. This range is apparent in the musical, which incorporates a variety of influences into the score.
By the time Ellen Struve brought the script to the Shelterbelt reading committee a staged reading of “Catherland” had been produced at the Red Cloud Opera House followed by a workshop at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln. The show’s stage director, Roxanne Wach, immediately saw its potential. “It’s not the usual musical theatre story, and I think that’s significant. And I really loved the music. I often find myself humming the tunes, which is always nice with a musical. For auditions, we asked actors to learn a small snippet from the score. Many told me that the music really made them want to be a part of the production.”
Wach was also excited with the story. “I like that there are three strong women in this story (played by Jennifer Gilg, Sara Planck and Laurel Rothamel), whose paths collide. And I have a soft spot for Willa Cather and the prairie. This is a fictionalized Willa, based on her personal letters and touching on some of her characters. So, though there are ties in the script to several Willa Cather works, this is a modern story.”
Peggy Holloway music directs, and an exceptional design crew includes Bill Van Deest (set), Carol Wisner (lights), and Erienne Wrent (costumes)
“There’s something so thrilling about going to a new play, and investing in the unfamiliar,” says Wach. “Just knowing that you’re a part of a group of people all experiencing something for the first time, together.”
Experience the Shelterbelt’s production of “Catherland” from April 21 through May 14. Curtain is 8 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Curtain on Sunday nights is 6 pm except for a closing Sunday matinee time of 2 pm. There will be a TAG Night Out on Thursday, April 20. April 22, there will be a post-performance talkback with the playwright and composer. The house opens thirty minutes before curtain. Tickets for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances are $25 for adults and $20 for students, seniors and TAG members. Thursday shows are only $15! They are available for purchase at: www.shelterbelt.org (click box office), by e-mail at email@example.com, or by calling the box office at (402) 341-2757.
. Shelterbelt Theatre is located at 3225 California Street in Omaha.