The list of Omaha professionals who make a living solely by acting is short.
Jerry Longe, who plays Scrooge in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” supplements stage roles with commercial voice work and touring part time, sometimes announcing at dance competitions.
Rob Baker, who joins Longe in the dance-event work, does some freelance writing as well. “With voice work, you build a clientele gradually,” Baker said.
Nils Haaland, a co-founder of the Blue Barn Theatre, works for Heartland Scenic Studio, which designs and builds scenery and commercial displays.
Amy Kunz and Laura Marr, talented actresses in Omaha, pay the bills with teaching work. Several actors on staff at the Rose teach classes to children and occasionally tour.
John Jackson Durbin, whose home is in Council Bluffs, has found work as a movie casting director. He worked on Alexander Payne’s recent movie “The Descendants” and lives part of the year in Los Angeles.
Scott Kurz, who performs with and is a co-administrator for the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre, has an agent in Kansas City and does regional acting and commercial work. “It’s mostly print ads and commercials,” he said. “If you want to make a living as an actor, you have to go someplace else. There’s not the support structure for it here.”
There have been no Actors Equity (union) theaters in Omaha since the Firehouse Dinner Theatre closed around 1990.
“It’s very common for Equity actors to take on second jobs,” said Kevin Lawler, another Blue Barn co-founder, who is an administrator with the Great Plains Theatre Conference. “It’s pretty rare for actors in other cities, too, to make their living year-round in theater.”
Lawler said one of the top stage actors he knows in Minneapolis has been a waiter for years.
“The important thing,” Lawler said, “is that we keep trying to make good theater.”
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