contentsGreater Omaha NE Chamberads

Entertainment

Imagine each weekend as a blank canvas; your palette, Greater Omaha’s spectrum of world-class attractions. Before long, splashes of beauty, laughter, ovation, drama, culture and history will, inevitably, blend into a series of personal masterpieces and a priceless collection of memories will emerge.

BEAUTY

Perhaps nowhere does beauty more literally come alive than Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanical Center, a natural sanctuary that’s been evolving since it fully blossomed almost ten years ago. “We’ve tried to add something new and different to the gardens every year since 2001 to encourage our visitors to come back and see us again,“ said Executive Director Spencer Crews. “The garden is always changing.“

In 2003, it was the woodland trail; in 2004, a rose garden staircase and woodland waterfall. In 2007, the model railroad garden made its debut featuring Omaha’s most notable landmarks—from First National Tower to the Desert Dome at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.

Earlier this year, the garden welcomed its one-millionth visitor. All of next year will be spent celebrating a decade of success and serenity.

“When a guest leaves and feels like they have really experienced the beauty of our unique region, that is the biggest compliment to us,“ said Crews.

LAUGHTER

Greater Omaha also has the beauty of The Rose contributing to its creative landscape. For decades, the landmark Rose Theater has been enriching young lives with professional theater, dance and arts education.

“When families come to The Rose, they get the rare opportunity to see the best professional actors in the region perform live theater with full scenery, lighting and costumes for a very low price in family-friendly, gorgeous surroundings,“ said Artistic Director James Larson. “Everything we do at The Rose is designed for the well-being and fun of young people.“

The Rose, and its resident Omaha Theater Company, is one of the largest professional children’s theaters in the nation. Productions are staged almost year-round, and, over the next year, will have included The Sound of Music, The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Peter Pan–The Musical, “with actors soaring out windows and across the stage for this show,“ said Larson.

To help make the magic of its productions even more accessible to children, The Rose partners with the metro’s almost 90 elementary schools, offering field trip opportunities, classroom performances and workshops.

OVATION

Omaha Performing Arts has earned a standing ovation in Omaha. Formed in June 2000, this nonprofit reaches nearly 350,000 people every year, including 35,000 children. Under the leadership of its president, Joan Squires, Omaha Performing Arts manages the majestic Orpheum Theater and the acclaimed Holland Performing Arts Center and fills both with a varied mix of world-class performers and productions—from Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma and Kathy Mattea to Legally Blonde and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

The 2010-2011 Broadway Across America series will continue the trend, bringing blockbusters that include Tony® Award-winning Mary Poppins and two favorites back by popular demand, Les Mis¸rables and Wicked.

Education and community involvement are also a key part of the mission, as Omaha Performing Arts works to connect children and adults to Omaha’s vibrant arts community.

DRAMA

For 85 years now, the Omaha Community Playhouse has been acting out its mission of “enriching the community through great theater.“ Its history—and historic trivia—is every bit as rich as its productions. (Dodie Brando, Marlon’s mother, starred in The Playhouse’s first “real“ play, The Enchanted Cottage. She later recruited a friends’ son, 20-year-old Henry Fonda, to play a juvenile lead in You and I, which opened the Playhouse’s inaugural six-play season.)

“The Playhouse has grown by leaps and bounds,“ said Betsye Paragas, former director of marketing and public relations.

Today, the Playhouse features two state-of-the-art performance spaces—the 558-seat Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre and the more intimate Howard Drew Theatre. Paragas said the Playhouse shines season after season because of “our attention to production values: costume making, set designing and directing. The way our shop builds sets is amazing.“

The Playhouse relies on hundreds of volunteers every year, both on stage and behind the scenes. It also has a professional touring wing, the Nebraska Theatre Caravan, which has carried the Playhouse banner to more than 160 communities in Nebraska and more than 600 communities in the U.S. and Canada.

“We have two people who went on to win ’Tony’ awards on Broadway,“ said Paragas. “We’re kind of like a Broadway farm club.“

The Playhouse also offers a variety of classes, camps and workshops, as well as a theater technology apprenticeship program for high school and college students.

CULTURE

The Omaha Symphony, under the musical direction of Thomas Wilkins, enjoys the stunning acoustics of the Holland Performing Arts Center. It presents more than 200 live orchestral performances from September through June. In addition to its MasterWorks, Symphony Pops, Symphony Rocks, Chamber, Sights and Sounds and Family series concerts, the orchestra tours both Nebraska and Iowa, providing education, community engagement concerts and other special events.

With an eye (and ear) toward education, the Omaha Symphony offers a suite of options for students. Musicians bring their music into the schools and school buses bring students into the concert halls. And, Carnegie Hall’s “LinkUP! The Orchestra Rocks!“ program lets students get in on the action—with instruments in hand, they become part of the orchestra.

HISTORY

The Durham Museum has the drama of history in the spotlight everyday—whether you’re walking through an earth lodge designed by the Omaha Indians, stepping on the actual railcar used during President Harry S. Truman’s historic campaign or taking a trip in time to the Buffett family grocery store.

The Durham makes its home in Omaha’s one-of-a-kind, art deco Union Station and boasts an extraordinary array of permanent exhibits including restored train cars, 1940s storefronts, numerous regional artifacts and the Byron Reed collection of some of the world’s rarest coins and documents. The Durham also features impressive temporary exhibitions through the museum’s affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution and close ties with the Library of Congress, National Archives and Chicago’s Field Museum.

During the holidays, the Durham sparkles with excitement – and thousands of ornaments – as it hosts a colossal Christmas tree, a tradition that began in 1931. And, along with all this tradition and history comes heart. The Durham is one of the few places where you can still buy a phosphate or a milkshake at an old-fashioned soda fountain.

So, where should your tour begin? The roses or The Rose? A historic drama or the drama of history? That is the beauty of it all—you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. And, when the time comes to refresh your palette, you have no shortage of additional options: Joslyn Art Museum, Boys Town, the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Love’s Jazz & Arts Center, El Museo Latino...

In the summertime, Omaha’s calendar is brimming with free outdoor events, like the Playing with Fire music series at Lewis and Clark Landing along the Missouri River and the downtown Summer Arts Festival. In the fall, the community saddles up to celebrate its western heritage with the annual River City Rodeo. And, on Thanksgiving night, we herald the arrival of the holidays with the lighting of the Gene Leahy Mall, a brilliant event that signals the start of the weeks-long Holiday Lights Festival.

previous topic
next topic
Town Square Publications