I just finished a contract here, and overall I really enjoyed my time. I would definitely go back; the contract is short, the people are very nice, the pay is good, and they take good care of you. Nebraska Shakes is a good place to work, especially for those of us who are still early in our careers and looking to build a good resume.
The company rehearses and lives on the campus of Creighton University (on the edge of downtown Omaha). You rehearse on an indoor stage (with a green room and studio theater nearby), and you live in one of the residence halls. The residence hall was a five minute walk to rehearsal. This summer, company members were housed in either large studio apartments or 1 bedrooms that are nicely furnished and equipped with dishes and some linens. There was a free gym in the residence hall, but it was small and rather sad (although you could get the basics done). For $8/week we got access to one of the university gyms, which was nicely equipped and a 5 minute walk away. There was a company car available to us, so we could run errands/entertain ourselves around town at will.
Nebraska Shakes does two shows in rep. Rehearsals are Monday-Saturday; 12-4 is for the play that opens first, and 6-10 is for the show that opens second. I liked the directors; they respected and communicated well with the cast. Stage management was very strong- attentive to production and actor concerns, and always on top of things. The cast was 80% college students or recent grads, but everyone was focused and professional. It was clear that I was working with people who truly cared about the product and were there to do good work.
The shows are free outdoor theater at a large park. They attract big crowds (600-1500 people depending on the play and weather) that appreciate the productions. Overall production values are good. The only constructive criticism I have is for the wardrobe crew; they always got things done, but sometimes it seemed like they needed more solid organization. Aside from that, it was unusually hot the second week of our run, so that was a bit of a beast (not the theater's fault); otherwise the weather was pleasant. If you've rehearsed outdoors for a musical in summer heat, you can definitely perform Shakespeare outdoors in the heat!
The company manager here was really sweet; she worked consistently to schedule company events so we didn't have to spend all our free time at the residence hall. There was a delightfully trashy college bar across the street where we'd go drink; it became a tradition to spend our Saturday night there playing the lame frat bro's in a few games of volleyball. Omaha isn't the most exciting city, but there is enough to keep your free time occupied. Company housing is on the edge of downtown, so you're only a 10 minute walk to wellness providers, coffeehouses, restaurants, bars, museums and a nice farmer's market (definitely beats being in the middle of nowhere).
Nebraska Shakes doesn't audition in NYC, so send them a video if you are interested in working with them. Take the contract if they offer it to you!
Thanks for the in-depth and very helpful review!
A few questions...
Are they a Shakespeare-only situation? Or are they like some of the other festivals that are not strictly Shakespeare and do contemp. plays and musicals as well?
Were you on an Equity contract? If so, what contract do they use?
And also, if you were on a non-eq contract, did you get points? And how much was the pay?
Thanks so much!
To answer your questions:
1) As of now they focus primarily on Shakespeare plays. A couple of seasons ago (2010?) they did the McDermott musical version of "Two Gentlemen of Verona".
2) I am Equity, so I was on an URTA contract (minimum pay scale is listed on the AEA website). I unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a higher rate. After I arrived, I was told by someone in admin that they don't pay above minimum.
3) Nebraska Shakes hires a lot of non-Equity actors. Out of a cast of approximately 40, only three of us were Equity (all of whom were leads). Three other lead roles were played by non-Eq's. I never asked what the nonunion pay scale was, but I think it was around $500/wk (don't quote me on it). This company participates in the EMC program; if you don't want to earn points while you're on this contract, you don't have to.
Yeah, the non-eq pay is nowhere near that high. It's about $300/week for non-eq leads.
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