Carson School announces new production structure

· 4 min read

Carson School announces new production structure

Nebraska Rep performers rehearse in Howell Theatre on the UNL campus.
University Communications File Photo
Nebraska Rep performers rehearse in Howell Theatre on the UNL campus.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film has announced changes to its production season that will enhance opportunities for its students to produce quality theater for community audiences.

Expected to begin in fall 2016, a new collaboration between the Nebraska Repertory Theatre and University Theatre will expand the experiences for audiences and students to engage with professional artists over a nine-month season.

“We want to embrace the traditions and history and build upon the success of both organizations while strengthening our mission to better serve Lincoln and UNL,” said Paul Steger, director of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. “Our focus is to provide the best experience possible for our theater students and give them as many opportunities as possible to interact with theater professionals.”

While the changes will mean the end of the summer Nebraska Repertory Theatre seasons, Steger said what they are building will be a better theater experience for both students and patrons.

“What we envision is bringing in professional artists and directors during the academic year to work with our students and faculty on higher quality productions than what we can currently do now during the academic year or summer,” Steger said. “By combining our resources into one season, we will enhance the theater we produce to make sure students and patrons are getting the very best experience we can offer.”

The season will consist of four productions each year, two per semester, with the possibility of additional productions in collaboration with the Lied Center for Performing Arts or other community or regional partners.

Guest actors, designers and directors potentially can come for extended periods of time during the academic year, when all students and faculty would benefit from their presence, Steger said. Guest artists also would be available to teach classes.

“This model combines and strengthens the missions of the Johnny Carson School and the Nebraska Repertory Theatre,” Steger said. “We want all of our students to benefit from the professionals we bring in for productions.”

David Landis, a member of the Rep Advisory Board, a frequent actor for the Rep and the director of Urban Development for the city of Lincoln, said he was excited about the new direction.

“The idea of ‘Rep all year’ sounds great to me,” Landis said. “Linking professionals with students is maximized during the school year rather than the summer, and the city could enjoy home-grown, professional Equity theatre beyond the touring shows at the Lied over nine months instead of three.”

Steger said he envisions the guest actors working under a University/Resident Theatre Association contract to allow students and stage managers to gain valuable Equity Membership Candidate points that are necessary to gain eventual membership in Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents the world of live theatrical performance.

A name for the new production season has not been chosen. A national search for an artistic director and additional planning will take place during the 2015-16 academic year. The University Theatre season will proceed as planned next year while work continues to build and market the new production program.

Charles O’Connor, endowed dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, acknowledged the loss of the summer repertory theater season, but said the future of theater in the Johnny Carson School is bright.

“This is just the next logical step in building upon our successes and creating an even better production experience for both students and patrons,” O’Connor said. “People will be impressed with the improved quality of these combined seasons. Theater remains a vital part of our college and the university, and these changes ensure a continued quality experience for our students, faculty and the community for years to come.”

Ron Hull, senior advisor to NET and professor emeritus of broadcasting and a member of the Rep Advisory Board, said the move has several benefits.

“Combining the strengths of the University of Nebraska Theatre with the strengths of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre is a 21st century merger that will enrich the academic careers of the students in the Johnny Carson School, and it will bring enhanced theater productions to audiences,” he said. “I’m looking forward to many evenings of great theater.”

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