You never know if you don’t ask.
The board of the Benson Theater took a chance and asked author Stephen King for rights to adapt his book “The Shining” for the stage as a fundraiser toward purchasing, renovating and reopening the 1923 theater at 6054 Maple St.
King said yes.
A staged version of “The Shining,” directed and co-written by Jason Levering, is slated to run March 21 and 22 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St. Auditions are at 7 p.m. Thursday and at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Image Arts Building, 2626 Harney St. The cast calls for 11 actors, many playing multiple roles.
“The Shining” centers on Jack and Wendy Torrance and their young son, Danny. The Torrances become winter caretakers of an isolated hotel. Danny sees disturbing visions of the hotel’s past, using a telepathic gift known as “The Shining.” Jack, a writer and recovering alcoholic, slowly slips into insanity as a result of cabin fever and whisperings from ghosts of former hotel inhabitants.
Director Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie version, which King did not like, starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall as the Torrances.
Levering, a co-founder of the Omaha Film Festival, is on the Benson Theater’s board and is its artistic director, in charge of programming. The theater is not yet up to code for a public performance, so the Sokol was rented for “The Shining.”
Levering wrote the script with a friend, short story writer Aaron Sailors of Omaha, starting in June. Levering said King approved the script in October, waiving all fees or royalties on a limited option for production. Revisions and edits continue on the script to shorten it, Levering said.
The theater board’s discussion about mounting a play came out of a desire to raise $250,000 by the end of April toward purchasing the theater. The board wanted to do a show that hadn’t already been done in Omaha. An adaptation of a familiar title was one option.
Levering said “The Shining” is set in one location, a plus for stage adaptation.
“What better way to introduce the Benson Theater to the world of performing arts than with a big, bold, innovative new work from and for our community?” the theater board posted on Facebook.
Helping to advise the project are Kevin Lawler, a co-founder of the Blue Barn Theatre and producing artistic director of the Great Plains Theatre Conference; scenic designer Kit Gough, who has designed for the Rose Theater; and J&S Audio Visual on sound effects and video projections.
Amy Ryan, executive director of the board, said she’s thrilled at the opportunity to help the Benson Theater come alive again. She said Benson is underserved in what it offers senior citizens, special-needs groups and children, and a programming mix at the theater could change that.