University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumnus Alan Schuster returns to campus this week with the U.S. touring company of “STOMP.”
An off-Broadway producer with 30 years of experience, Schuster is a 1975 Nebraska U graduate. He was a dual major, mixing history and theatre, with minors in political science and English. His work in the theatre program and the Nebraska Repertory Theatre rank amongst his favorite memories of college life.
Professionally, he has produced more than 25 shows, including “Stomp Out Loud,” “Key Exchange,” “Oleanna,” “Marvin’s Room,” “Jeffrey,” “Vita and Virginia,” and “Shockheaded Peter.” After seeing the group in Canada in 1993, Schuster succeeded in bringing “STOMP” to New York City’s Orpheum Theatre in 1994. It is now entering its 30th year on the Orpheum stage.
Schuster has operated the Orpheum, Minetta Lane, Union Square, 2nd Avenue and The Cherry Lane theatres in New York and the Royal George Complex in Chicago. He was also responsible for building 37 Arts, which is home to the Baryshnikov Arts Center and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Nebraska Today reached out to Schuster ahead of the Nov. 3-4 run of “Stomp” at the Lied Center to discuss his career, time on campus and advice for Huskers seeking performance careers. You can also read more about his work in the Lincoln Journal Star.
What does it mean to you to be able to bring these major productions to life? And, does it have special meaning getting to bring a production back to Nebraska U?
The amount of time, effort and disappointment involved in any creative process is immense. I have to love the project in order to stick with it . Bringing something back to Nebraska, where in essence I started my professional career working with the Rep, has very special meaning for me.
What has been your favorite production and why?
I have three favorites. “STOMP” first of all, because of its originality and its impact on the zeitgeist. Martha Clarke’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” is next on the list, because of its striking movement and visuals. Third, “Shockheaded Peter,” because it was just so strange. Our London production of “Blues In The Night” introduced Maria Friedman as a musical force and “Marvin’s Room” was just so heartfelt. That would round out a group of favorites.
Talk about your role in the creation of 37 Arts. What was that process like and what is the key to its success?
The construction process in New York is a nightmare, with too many things out of your control. Its success is an ongoing process dependent on the people who help implement it.
“STOMP” features so many unique “instruments,” do you have a favorite? What is your favorite part of the show?
Clapping hands are my favorite instruments. My favorite part of the show is the rhythms that the audience learns during the course of the show and their involvement in bringing the circle of the evening to its conclusion.
Did you ever imagine you would have a production career that spanned 30 years? What do you enjoy about the work and what keeps you coming back every day?
I have a good imagination, but even I couldn’t have thought that far ahead. The work — when it works — is more fulfilling than you can imagine. When you watch something that takes you out of yourself and into its world, it defies time and place. I think some people might call it transcendent.
What is your fondest memory of Dear Old Nebraska U?
Working on the Rep and meeting my wife, Patrice Kamas, while doing a play.
What one professor or class made the biggest impact on you and your career?
I would say that Bill Morgan’s directing class and Bob Hall’s production of “Oh What A Lovely War” both gave me standards of professionalism that have carried me forward.
What were you involved in while a student on campus? How important was that involvement to your success?
I was involved in theater, the Rep, and the ant-war movement of the early 1970’s.
What was your favorite space on campus? Why was it important to you?
The Temple Building, without a doubt. It was an epicenter of creative thought and action.
What advice would you give to Husker graduates seeking careers on (or off) Broadway?
If you can do anything else, do it. A life in the arts is only for people that are compelled to pursue it. Pursuing excellence is a lifetime goal.