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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Monday, July 05, 2021

Summer, Umer, and Shakespeare

From Executive Artistic Director Summer Lukasiewicz

Riding his scooter along the sidewalk, a little boy happened upon a production of Twelfth Night being performed in the park across the street from his house.

“What is this?” he asked a woman standing near the sidewalk. She happens to be Flatwater Shakespeare Company’s Education Director, Ashley Kobza.

“It’s a play,” Ashley answered.
“What’s a play?”
“Well, it’s sort of like a movie, but in real life.”

The boy lingered near the sidewalk a bit longer and Ashley encouraged him to go closer to watch.

I had seen this exchange from a distance and watched the boy approach a man sitting far back from the audience with his dog. I was sure the boy was going to ask to meet the dog, but instead he asked, “can I leave my scooter here?” Man-with-Dog gave his approval and the boy dropped his scooter and moved closer to the audience.

He sat on the ground behind a few chairs that remained open.

Sneaking up quietly behind him, I tapped his shoulder and told him he could sit in one of those chairs if he wanted. He thanked me but indicated he was okay on the ground.

Flatwater FREE Shakespeare, Trago Park, Lincoln, NE 2021

I moved back and continued to watch the show and take pictures from the back.
And slowly, the boy scooched nearer the chairs and then into one with a look over his shoulder at me.
I gave him a nod and a smile.

A few minutes later a couple girls who had been standing moved to occupy the two seats in front of the boy, impeding his view of the stage.

I snuck up again and had the boy move his chair over a bit–closer to some folks on a blanket–where he could once again see the action.

I continued my efforts to capture moments from the performance on camera from another area.

The boy approached me again.

“Thank you for getting me a chair,” he said.
“You are so welcome. What’s your name?”
“Umer,” he said.
“Umer! My name is Summer. Our names are kind of similar,” I said.
“Your name was in a movie I saw,” he told me.
“What movie was that?”
Napoleon Dynamite.”
“Oh that’s right. I forgot there was a Summer in that. You’re the only Umer I’ve ever met!”
“Hmm,” he acknowledged.
“How old are you?” I asked, and he held up seven fingers.
“What movie is this?”
“Ah! This play is called Twelfth Night. It was written by a man named Shakespeare,” I said.
“Huh,” he laughed, “that’s funny.”
“Shakespeare is a funny name isn’t it? Summer and Umer and Shakespeare! We make quite a group!”

He then shared, as children are apt to do when we are apt to listen, that he got two SuperSoakers and his friends were coming to visit the next day and he would tell them to share. He told me that his friends lived far away but still in America.

“Do they live in a different state?” I asked.
“Umm, no. They live over by Pioneers Park (a park across town).”
“AH! Yes. That is still in America.”
“I’m gonna go sit by those kids over there!” He declared.
“I’m sure they’ll let you sit by them. Go ahead!”

I fell back once again, my heart expanded three sizes, and joined Ashley to chat about this glorious child as he made friends with the kids in the front row and took in the sword fight happening on the stage. Looking across the street, we saw a woman in a colorful sari trying to get someone’s attention.
Ah! Umer’s mother.

I waited for some actors to make their entrance so as not to impede the performance, then tapped Umer’s shoulder and, pointing across the street, told him his mother was calling him. He dashed off to the edge of the park and we watched the exchange as they had a conversation across the street from each other. Soon, Umer was back by his new friends in the front row having gained permission to stay.

Trago Park. PC: Ashley Kobza

Following the play, I chatted with friends about the “play within the play” of Umer and his discovery of theatre. He approached once again to say thank you, and my friend asked him what his favorite part of the play was.

“When the brother and the sister hugged,” he answered.

This seven-year-old boy, who happened upon his very first play, missed half of the story between chats, moving, making new friends, and talking with his mom, most connected with the reconciliation–not the sword fight or the clowning or the music.

He then darted about the park talking with as many people as he could as the crowd dispersed and the company packed up.

Umer’s actions and interactions were noticed by many and moved many hearts.

This is why Shakespeare.
This is why FREE Shakespeare.

And it takes a community to make it possible.
Thank you for being ours.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

*Twelfth Night* Tour FAQ!


FSC Summer Tour 2021

Twelfth Night

Got questions? We have answers.



What Is Your Inclement Weather Policy?

It is our desire to complete every performance, and we will make every effort to start, continue, and finish each show despite light rainfall or breezy conditions.


In the event of heavier rains or winds, however, we may delay the start of the show, or the completion of the show, in the hope that the weather will clear. Announcements will be made informing audience members of "holds." We may also pause to take precautions to ensure the safety and health of the performers and crew.


If severe storms are likely or imminent, shows may be moved to an indoor location or, if necessary, cancelled. To find out if a show has been moved or cancelled prior to showtime, please check our website and Facebook or Instagram accounts; you can also call our Information Line at 402-319-2895. www.flatwatershakespearecompany.org.


Do I Need a Reservation?


No reservations are needed. However, audience members are strongly encouraged to arrive 30 minutes before the performance to ensure a good place. This is particularly true if you plan on using a blanket, as space is limited. You should also come early for our pre-show activities, for The Waffleman's waffles at Cooper Park on Friday night and for wine (for those of age) at James Arthur Vineyards on Sunday. 


Is There a Cost to Attend?


No! Flatwater Shakespeare Company offers the summer touring production FREE of charge. A $10 donation is suggested, but everyone is welcome whether you can make a contribution or not. For some alternate locations due to weather, there will be parking costs.


How Long is the Show?

The show runs 75 minutes, with no intermission. All performances begin at 7:00 p.m.


Is the Show “Family Friendly?”

Yes! Our summer production is family friendly as the informal park setting is perfect for children as well as adults to have a taste of the Bard’s wonderful characters, exciting action, and brilliant language. Past audiences have included everyone from babies to people in their 80s, people from all walks of life, and even some pets.


You Mean Pets Are Sometimes Allowed?

Furry family members are welcome to attend any of the park performances with you! We request that pets be kept on a leash. Owners must clean up after their pets.


What Are the Remaining Locations and Alternate Sites?


Thursday, June 24 -- Rain site: Hilton Garden Inn, 801 R Street, Lincoln (Haymarket District). Chairs provided.


Friday, June 25 – Cooper Park, 8th and D Streets. Rain site TBD.


Saturday, June 26 – Havelock Park, 63rd and Ballard. Rain site TBD.


Sunday, June 27 – James Arthur Vineyards, 2001 W. Raymond Rd., Raymond. Rain site: Same Location.



Thursday, June 10, 2021

*Twelfth Night* and Its Questions

The love quadrangle of Twelfth Night includes Viola (Molly Davis), Sebastian (Scott Shomaker), Lady Olivia (Emily Martinez), and Duke Orsino (Tim Andersen). Photo Credit: Michael Reinmiller.


Hamlet has been aptly described as a "question-generating machine" -- brilliantly raising more questions and uncertainties as it goes and even as a production or a reader tries to resolve them.

Of course, it would be strange if that happened in no other play by Shakespeare. It is better to think of all his plays as Q&A sessions, including Twelfth Night. Here are just two for the play subtitled What You Will (which could be another question).

First, how much is too much? That is, how much festivity and foolery go past healthy or useful bounds (think of Sir Toby and Feste)? How much self-love (think of Orsino, as well as Malvolio)? How much devotion (think of Viola and Antonio -- and Malvolio, too)? How much grief (think of Olivia and Viola and Sebastian)?

Also, what is the best expression of love to be found in the play? (Or: which relationship appears to be the most loving?)

Every good production addresses such questions. Some try to offer clear answers, which are of course open for reflection and discussion. Others try to make the questions as challenging or unsettling as possible. Let us know what you think our approach has been with the play. 

Flatwater Shakespeare Company's Twelfth Night opens in exactly one week, on Thursday, June 17 -- and opening night is already sold out! Tickets for the remaining three shows in The Stables at Wyuka are available here:


After that, we are on the road for closing weekend. More on that soon! 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

FSC's *Twelfth Night* at Wyuka and On Tour


Flatwater Shakespeare Company celebrates twenty years of productions with Twelfth Night, the play that started it all for the ensemble in Wyuka Cemetery back in 2001.  Kathryn Cover directs this brisk, seventy-five minute version that is ideal for all ages. Paid performances in The Stables at Wyuka, 3600 “O” Street, are Thursday through Sunday, June 17-20. Flatwater FREE Shakespeare performances will tour Lincoln area parks the following week and finish at James Arthur Vineyards in Raymond. Show time is 7 p.m. for all performances.

After a shipwreck, Viola is separated from her twin, Sebastian, and finds herself alone in Illyria, not knowing whether her brother is dead or alive. For self-protection, she dresses as a boy and becomes an attendant at the court of Duke Orsino, with whom she quickly falls in love. Orsino, however, is in love with the Countess Olivia and sends Viola – in her disguise as Cesario – to court her for him. Olivia, who had been mourning for her own brother’s death, falls for “Cesario” instead. Malvolio, steward of Olivia’s estate, is also in love with Olivia. Maria, Olivia’s lady-in-waiting, teams up with Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch, and with another suitor for Olivia’s hand, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, in a plot to trick Malvolio into thinking that Olivia already returns his as-yet-unspoken love. Sebastian arrives on the scene, attended by Antonio, a mariner who saved him from the shipwreck. Sebastian’s presence leads to one case of mistaken identity after another. All this confusion is overseen by Feste, a wise and witty jester.

Molly Davis and Tim Andersen make their Flatwater Shakespeare debuts in the roles of Viola and Orsino. FSC veterans in the cast include Emily Funkey as Maria, Keith Ghormley as Sir Toby, Katie Hoppe as Sir Andrew, Emily Martinez as Olivia, Paul Shaw as Malvolio, Scott Shomaker as Sebastian, and Reed Westerhoff as Antonio. Other FSC newcomers include Laura Lippman as Feste, Holden Meier as Valentine, and Sam Pynes as Fabian. Fred Vogel appears as a Troubadour accompanying Feste and performing original music.

Kathryn Cover is Costumer, Set Designer, and Prop Master, as well as Director. Michelle Zinke is Stage Manager and Amelia-Marie Altstadt is Assistant Stage Manager. Stephen Buhler is Dramaturg and Text Editor.

Seating (chairs provided) will be limited in The Stables at Wyuka. Adult admission is $18 and children under 12 (accompanied by an adult) admission is $5. Please bring lawn chairs or blankets for the Flatwater FREE Shakespeare performances at city parks and at James Arthur Vineyards.

Flatwater FREE Shakespeare in the parks is made possible through support from Union Bank & Trust, Ameritas, and the Lincoln Arts Council.

June 17-20: The Stables at Wyuka, 3600 “O” Street, Lincoln.

June 23: Trago Park, 22nd and U Streets

June 24: Henry Park, 44th Street and Prescott Avenue

June 25: Cooper Park, 8th and D Streets

June 26: Havelock Park, 63rd Street and Ballard Avenue

June 27: James Arthur Vineyards, 2001 W. Raymond Rd., Raymond, NE

Visit flatwatershakespearecompany.org for details and tickets.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Ayanna Thompson on the Deep History of Shakespearean Blackface

Professor Ayanna Thompson is a leading Shakespearean authority, with special expertise on Shakespeare and Race. She is the Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University.

In this recent piece for Smithsonian Magazine, Dr. Thompson explains the long and damaging history of blackface performance. A key passage:

European blackface and American minstrelsy alike assume that performing blackness is a white birthright -- that the stage is a white domain in which blacks are not allowed to tell their own stories, or even enjoy basic dignities.

Theater institutions across the country and around the world are being asked to come to terms with their often sad history and inaction when it comes to inclusion and, yes, even basic dignities. A good place to start is with essays like this, which shed light on harmful practices and the attitudes they perpetuate. A "return to tradition" is rarely, if ever, a real solution. 


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Toast to 20 Years!


When considering how to celebrate twenty years of producing Shakespeare and other classics in Lincoln, I kept returning to the idea of honoring our roots and spreading our wings. Our plans for Flatwater Shakespeare’s 2020 season included a new approach to a classic tale, an 8-actor Romeo & Juliet that blended both Renaissance and modern feel; a summer tour of Lincoln’s parks, a Short Shakes summer tour for Flatwater Free Shakespeare, a program originally launched in 2011; and a project that acknowledged the role of our founding artistic director by having him walk the boards as Shakespeare’s troubled monarch, King Lear.

Roots and Wings.

Of course, like all theatre companies around the world, our wings were clipped by the pandemic.
Romeo & Juliet had to close the night before it was set to open; the summer tour was pushed to the fall then into the new year; and King Lear was postponed with its future indefinite as we faced ever-shifting circumstances.

Flatwater Shakespeare will return to rehearsals in a few short weeks to begin work on
Twelfth Night, now a year later than its original production schedule. There are still safety measures in place to protect the health of everyone involved and our audience when opening night arrives, but there is also a giddiness brewing in the possibility of creating together once again and offering our work to a live audience.

2021 brings the additional excitement of new programs and a new education director joining our team. Ashley Kobza joined FSC in February to take the helm of our education offerings as we strive to bolster that branch of our mission, and creativity and possibility are absolutely bubbling around the work being done and the plans being hatched. FSC is also launching our first ever Two-Actor touring production which will hold public performances and tour schools to bring a fast-paced, kid-friendly version of Shakespeare’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream to hundreds of young people. And we are launching what we are confident will be the first annual UNSHAKEN Festival of Shakespeare-Inspired Solo Pieces. These projects were birthed out of the challenges of the pandemic and we believe carry a wealth of possibility. Flatwater is striving to throw the doors open wide -- bringing Shakespeare into our community and inviting the community into Shakespeare, reaching new audiences and inviting new voices.

There is a lot of excitement around the new, but we long for the packed-house-theatre experience as well. And though we fully intend to return to full-length Shakespeare in 2022 (in- and outdoors), the 20th anniversary capstone production of
King Lear won’t be on the schedule. However, the intention behind the production was to honor our roots as we celebrated 20 seasons of Shakespeare. That desire remains, so we want to do that here and now.

In 2001, Bob Hall teamed up with Stephen Buhler and an ensemble of daring actors to see if an audience would show up for Shakespeare. Bob, FSC’s founding artistic director, helmed the inaugural production of Shakespeare’s
Twelfth Night at the historic Stables at Wyuka Cemetery, a beautiful, open-air, simply-Shakespearean venue. From those roots, Flatwater Shakespeare was born and officially incorporated in 2004. Bob served as artistic director for FSC from 2001 through 2016, producing thirty-six plays and directing nearly all of them. Those sixteen seasons included Shakespeare’s best known works -- Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet -- as well as other classics such as Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, and Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America.

The question as to whether an audience would show up that first year was answered, and you have continued to show up year after year, enduring the Nebraska summer heat and October’s early arctic blasts. You bought tickets and brought friends and helped build this small Shakespeare Company on the foundation that was started by Bob Hall, Steve Buhler, and the ensemble of 2001’s
Twelfth Night.

Bob stepped down from FSC at the end of 2016, and you -- our audience -- stayed with us through transitions of leadership, through new pursuits and traditional projects. As we step into the new decade, building on tradition and exploring new territory, we are immensely grateful to Bob Hall for his 16 seasons of directorial vision and scenic ingenuity; for Steve Buhler who has been involved in all 20 seasons in one role or another (and sometimes several at once); for the outpouring of effort, creativity, and love by the company of artists who have worked with Flatwater these last 20 seasons and those who are ready to launch season 21. And to the audience, the supporters, the corporate partners, the funding organizations, and every individual who contributed to make the work possible, we extend our humble thanks.

Here’s to our roots!

Here’s to spreading our wings!

Here’s to the journey!

Thanks for joining us for the ride.

~Summer Lukasiewicz, Executive Artistic Director

Monday, April 19, 2021

Happy Birthday, Will! (Whenever It Is!)

It's William Shakespeare's Birthday Week!

We don't know for sure his date of birth -- the parish records at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon (which still survive) indicate that he was baptized on April 26, 1654. Parents usually waited a few days before bringing their newborns to church for the ceremony, so it might be that William (or Gugliemus in the Latin of the record book) was born on April 24 or even April 22. But because April 23 is the feast of St. George, the patron saint of England (just ask Henry V), it made sense for early fans of Shakespeare to choose that day for one of England's greatest playwrights and poets. 

We do know a fair amount about Shakespeare's life. The Folger Shakespeare Library has gathered together information and documents in one virtual place. Please visit and explore.