Preview of FloydFest 2019 - “Voyage Home”

With a plethora of festivals to choose from all across America this summer, the one DIBS will be packing up and driving 421 miles to take part in is FloydFest. We are excited to pitch a tent in the Blue Ridge Mountains (which is considered to be one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of American landscape ) of Southwest Virginia for the five-night festival in Floyd, Virginia that is promising to deliver a celebration of music and art from July 24th to July 28th.

What caught our eye was not only the location and it’s scenery, but also the varying music genres of Americana, roots, and rock and roll, sprinkled with bluegrass, R&B, soul, funk, country, newgrass, reggae, blues, and indie as well as a lineup that features over a hundred artists on more than 8 stages. Appearances will include The String Cheese Incident, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Grammy Winner Kacey Musgraves, Grammy Winner Brandi Carlile, Tyler Childers, Grammy Nominee Margo Price, Grammy Winner Fantastic Negrito, Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real and a whole lot more. Check out the full lineup here.

“We care deeply about attention to details, and wait until you see our stages, timber-framed structures designed to meld with the high-mountain landscape,” explained Sam Calhoun, the COO of the Festival and treasurer of it’s non-profit arm, Blue Cow Arts. “Our foundation is live music, outdoor adventure, and craft beer, but we are so much more than that.”

With outdoor adventures such as on the water cool down, mountain biking, a trail running race, hiking trail, and disc golf and a vibrant and varied vendors, quality brews and grub, healing arts, workshops, art installations, and even activities for the kiddos. Calhoun says, “You should expect the unexpected.”

With this year’s theme as the Voyage Home, Calhoun explains, “We feature new onsite art installations and surprises built around that theme.”

“It speaks to the journey to this point and underscores the culture of community created on that mountain,” says Calhoun. “This really is a voyage home for many of our patrons. This really is their festival; this is their home; and that catalyzes our energy toward making this the most indelible FloydFest ever. To boot, this voyage is about the music, and how some of our headliners are ‘voyaging home’ to their roots … back to where it all began,” Calhoun continued.

With this event being nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the “home” vibe will have it’s own homage paid on the very stage the artists perform on. FloydFest centers around culture and community, and we look forward to seeing that cultivated by the picture-esque scene on the mountain. “Our culture is about family,” said Calhoun. “We have had our children grow up on that mountain, and, after 19 years, they are now adults and stewarding a new generation of FloydFest Family. FloydFest is a place where children can run free, and parents feel safe letting them roam, as there’s an unspoken collective responsibility for all. Our culture is also about camping and outdoor adventure, discovering new music and being one with nature. It’s about meeting new friends and having an annual sanctuary to reconnect with old friends.”

We hope to see ya’ll at the mountain for music and magic!

Want to partake in the “Voyage Home?” Purchase your ticket and get for more information about FloydFest here. Rules and packing list for FloydFest here. Also, if you want a preview of what to expect check out FloydFest19 Voyage Home on Spotify.

Check out their social media Facebook | Instagram | Twitter for all their latest updates and information.

Poems by Siblings

Photo by Cristina Byrne | Actress Alyssa Lou Ann Allen

Photo by Cristina Byrne | Actress Alyssa Lou Ann Allen

I’m a warrior.

I’m a women with dark fire within.

I’m lifting up mountains and praising the gods under the sun while I sing.

This land’s an unfortunate gift we’ve been given,

One that we’ve squandered away.

I fight to define her,

I carry her,

and protect her.

Keeping the demons I can at bay.

- Larissa Nemeth

Photo by Andrew Tanglao

Photo by Andrew Tanglao

You think you’ve stared into my soul,

Do you?

            Watched me exchange trainers

for my teacher heels

under my desk;

            contrived to sneak

up behind me to snigger

                                         while I clicked

in haste to class, late for lesson two.

 But rewind and you disappear like an overexposed ghost; it’s just me and my own two

feet in the dawn,


                             to socks

                             to soles

And that combination clicks

like a train

on rails

            I’m on my way, cushioned in sneakers

waiting for a bus in cold iron light, ground firm beneath my heels

 We’ve been trained

our whole lives to

bear the scars of these pink and puckered heels.

From Payless to red soles,

celluloid sneaks

stiletto spikes encircling our imaginations;

they corral, they protect, they beat us back into ugly cliques.

 You’re a woman?  You choose.

Stand out like two fingers clicked

at you with your tray of champagne in hand, or

                                                                               slide onto a last chance train

carriage unnoticed? sneak

or walk tall? fade to

chameleon gray or hobble through your night as the life and soul-

from which wounds will you faster begin to heal?

 Then there’s the fear, the Achilles Heel.

YOU CAN’T WIN is tattooed up your calf and it’s just clicked

that no matter what’s in your soul

or how hard you train

or how much you have to

give, you’re damned

at ground level or six inches closer to god, not safe in platforms or sneakers

  And whether sneakers

or heels,

or sandals, or square toes-

like the beating of an underfloor heart, the click-

the stomp – they reverberate, build me up as I train

to separate mind body and sole.

  Yes.  I see you sneaking your way up to the cliques

At the top, the eschelons of power, hell round a boardroom table,

Straining to appear alpha.  I may switch shoes when it suits. 

                                                                                                But you

                                                                                                Have swapped your soul.

-Leah Mullen

Photo by Cristina Byrne

Photo by Cristina Byrne

To whose fingers play the music

I bow for style

The rhythm upset my ears

The lyrics left me blind

Notes had me resigned

Neither matters

For in the end it is

The strum that has us combined

Twisted and rubbed

Take a look at these hands

They are not even mine

And yet here I am binded and blinded

Able to sway

Here, music for all.

- Thomas Byrne

1 (202).jpg

30 means,

Italian food,

Spanish wine,

French kisses,

And an Irish bar.

30 means,

live happily,

grow naturally,

dream freely,

And speak honestly.

30 means,

Less of over there

And more of over here!

30 means,

whatever I want it to mean

defined by me!

-Cristina Byrne


The Art of Directing With Artistic Director Beth Thompson

DIBS checks back in with Beth Thompson, Shelterbelt Theatre’s Artistic Director, in Omaha, Nebraska to chat about the art of directing.

DIBS: What is a director's job? 

To assemble the best possible people to tell the story. Whether you are able to pick your own design team or have one assigned to you, the director's job is to make that table a comfortable, exciting and inspiring place to work together. Casting is half the battle; if you are able to cast performers whom you see bring the story to life in auditions and carry that energy forward in the work, then your job will be much easier. This is not always the case but if you can help your actors grow throughout the process then you have done your job. 

DIBS: What do you think it takes to direct? 

A detailed eye of the whole picture. You should have a good idea of what you want the audience to feel when seeing your show. I love collaborating with the design professionals and working together to create what the show will look and sound like. I am a director who prefers to let the team’s creative juices fly and then discuss any issues that come up from there. Dictating what "I want" to designers can stifle their artistic expressions and that is not what theater, or any art form, is about. I also believe that you have to know how to talk to your actors and how to bring the most out of them. Each person responds differently to taking direction, working out a scene and notes so you have to be able to read early on what they need and adapt to each personality. This is tough and can be a lot of work but ultimately, I believe you will get the best work out of them when handled correctly.

DIBS: In your opinion, is the director suppose to adjust to how actors take direction or is it the actors job to adjust how the director gives direction?

That is a phenomenal question! Mostly, because you would get a different answer from each director you ask. 

I can only speak to my approach, which is meeting somewhere in the middle. I expect, and in some cases require, a lot from my actors and am clear from the beginning of the process what those exercises are and how they will be utilized to the benefit of the story later on. Actors require different things from you and I do believe a good director will pick up on those signs and direct accordingly. For example, my last show had 14 actors ranging from ages 14-31 with varied levels of experience. Some of the younger actors called for a more reassuring, confidence inspiring and back to basics approach to their character work while the more veteran actors found their voices through exploration and being encouraged to fly more free and give us some choices to work with. I prefer to collaborate on creating characters with my actors as I have cast them for a reason. Something about their artistic expression through this character intrigued me so why would I want to squash their voice with the performance that might have been in my head for a few months. While I hope to cast someone who shares my take, I am often pulled in by an actor who sees another side that I may not have seen and the idea of melding these together excites and inspires me. Actors are artists, not robots. 

 DIBS: Why were you drawn to directing? 

I fell in love with the idea of telling the entire story. As an actor, I was able to concentrate on my role and how to handle that but directing allowed me the challenge of the entire process from reading a script to opening night. I fell in love with the process of putting a project together from start to finish. 

DIBS: What qualities make a successful director? 

This is a big question! (laughs)

I believe a director is successful if their work speaks to people; this can happen in a variety of ways but if the work is not affecting audiences then what is the point. I also believe that the way they treat their actors, designers, and crew is important as theater is not made in a vacuum and while one can tell stories by themselves, it generally is not as electric to watch. Collaboration is the word that keeps coming back to me as it truly takes a village and if designers or actors don't want to work with you then you are sunk. Too many people confuse directing with dictating and thus the work suffers.

DIBS: How important is communication in a theater?

Communication is EVERYTHING in theater. The point of any art form, that is shared with the public, is to communicate something otherwise that artist would just stuff their art in a closet somewhere and let it rot. I believe it is an artist’s responsibility to keep the dialogue of what is happening in society alive and to use their voice to share that message. We also have the unique ability, in theater, to encourage empathy as our audiences “take a ride in others’ shoes” for a few hours. If you can relay a message while they are in your seats, whether they agree or not, they will most likely discuss and that is the greatest thing art can do. 

DIBS: What is a misconception people make about directors or directing? 

That the director knows it all, and from the very beginning. Preparation is key but I think that it is valuable to continue to discover things about the characters or story via your actors. Allow them to make choices and to show you the aspects that you didn't see before. I always say at the first read through that "right now, I know these characters better than you do but by the end of this process you will know them better than anyone" and that is exactly how it should be. I require my actors to make up their own character bios, whether we are working on a new script or an established one, as I find that this gives depth to what they are exploring and ultimately deciding. 

Also, the designers will pick up on things you may have missed as they are analyzing the script in a different way, so never disregard what they see or hear just because you didn't think of it. 


Beth Thompson is a director, actor and has been the Artistic Director of the Shelterbelt Theater in Omaha, Nebraska since 2013. She graduated with a BA in Theater, with a focus in acting and directing, from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2012. Favorite directing credits include Neighbors, Lovers and All the Others, Revelation, The Singularity, In The Jungle You Must Wait, The Other Sewing Circle, Abby In The Summer and Psycho Ex-Girlfriend for the Shelterbelt as well as Tigers Be Still and A Bright New Boise for the Omaha Community Playhouse’s 21& Over reading series. Favorite roles include Nan Carter in Exit, Pursued by a Bear (OCP's 21 & Over), Dale Prist in 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (Shelterbelt), Mom/Ms. Speigel in Dark Play or Stories for Boys (UNO), and Mrs. Hermannson in Eric Hermannson's Soul (Lone Tree Theater Project) which toured to both the Kansas City and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals in 2011.

Beth, and her work, has been nominated for both Theater Arts Guild and Omaha Entertainment and Arts awards. She is proud to head the “Before the Boards” reading series, at the Shelterbelt, which presents staged readings of local plays to assist in their development. Her love of storytelling, collaboration and development of new work keep her striving to improve with each new project and learn a little more about herself and the world around her in the process.

Matt Jacobs, Marine and Actor

Matt Jacobs is a Active Reservist Armorer for the United State Marine Corps who has a passion for acting. DIBS talks to Matt about when it started, what happened along the way, and what has he learned.

DIBS: From my understanding, you want to be an actor? How far back does this passion go?

MATT: My passion for acting goes all the way back to my childhood days. I’ve always loved movies and did some high school plays. I’ve always imagined being in movies and becoming “BIG”, being able to have an impact and being role model to people around the world. 

DIBS: Why did you do Plan B and not Plan A?

MATT: I was choosing a path for film in college when I was going for a film degree at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

While I was there, I interned as a Camera’s Assistant on a 50 Cent music video, Philadelphia Flyers Commercial, and a USA Network Commercial. While I was on set of the USA Network Commercial, I ate lunch with Jeff Goldblum and Matt Bomer. We talked about their acting careers and it turned into talking about the military.

DIBS: How did that conversation go with you, Jeff Goldblum and Matt Bomer?

MATT: The conversation started with just wanting to know how they started in the acting business and where they got their foot in the door. From there, it turned into them saying that they wished they had joined the military to help give them a way to serve their country and they advised me to do the same. It would transform in how I see the world, help me become a better man and have a better respect towards authority.

It was a unique experience and an ironic situation. Never had any intentions or desire to every join the military but one day, after eating out with a Marine recruiter, God changed my mind and course and I decided to join the Marines then. 

DIBS: What sort of acting debuts have you made so far?

MATT: I have debuted in the new upcoming M Night Shyamalan’s Glass (Coming January 18th 2019) starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and James McAvoy as the “Sniper.”

I also followed that up by appearing in the new Sylvester Stallone’s Creed 2 (Coming November 21st 2018) starring Michael B. Jordan as a Russian Officer. 

DIBS: Has the service taught you anything about working in the "Film Industry”?

MATT: The service taught me how to listen to authority and have patience and maturity through all circumstances

Also, the longevity of days, adapting and overcoming situations as they come and to stay positive when things don’t go your way. 

DIBS: Are there any similarities between being in the service and the film making world?

MATT: There are some similarities in the two businesses.

Speaking in front of an audience and being a leader type role in any situation are some major ones. Long days are another one and adapting to changes constantly. 

DIBS: Were you able to do any acting singing or dancing in the service?

MATT: My two acting debuts were while I’ve been in the service. No major singing or dancing opportunities yet. However, that won’t stop me from keep pursuing them all. 

DIBS: So you have been behind the camera and in front of the camera, is it safe to assume you prefer in front?

MATT: Oh most certainly in front of the screen. It’s been my life passion ever since I was little and being able to start my journey has become more than I expected.

DIBS: What do you like to do on your free time?

MATT: Hang out with my 3-year-old son, sing and record songs, watch movies, play sports and all around explore new places with my beautiful wife.

Cartoonist Joe Patrick

Joe Patrick is a freelance cartoonist doing his best to make his hobby into a career. He currently fills his days designing websites and scheduling ads for the Omaha World-Herald. To the delight of his wife, he also spends way too much time obsessing about comic books.

Cristina Byrne and Joe Patrick possibly met in 2015, in Omaha, Nebraska. It was on the 6th floor of the Omaha World-Herald building downtown.

DIBS: So, Joe, we meet on the 6th floor. You are what is called, Ad-Ops, an ad trafficker for the Omaha World-Herald. I would say that we became friends fairly quickly.

JOE: That's sounds right.

DIBS: It was probably because I needed something from you guys. I feel as if most work-relationships start that way. 

JOE: We met fairly early on - you were buddies with my cubicle mate [also named Joe], and you stopped by to ask a question about one thing or another.

But the thing that told me we'd end up being pals - is when I took a couple days off and came back to a picture you made with Joe's and my faces Photoshopped onto Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat. It's still hanging up in my cubicle today!

DIBS: Ha! I remember that! I actually had Rex do it for me because I didn’t have Photoshop on my computer at work. I couldn’t figure out which Joe was who. I could only identify you as Things 1 or Thing 2 not Joe McCampbell and Joe Patrick.

Since I've known you, you had this new year’s resolution, correct? Something like every day you would post a positive thing that happened that day? Could you go into detail about how that started?

JOE: Okay, you are sort of right. This all started back in 2015, when I made a New Year's resolution to write and post one haiku every day on Facebook. It started as something silly to do, but people really seemed to enjoy it, and then started asking me how I was going to top it for the next year.

DIBS: I remember reading those and I really liked them.

JOE: So for 2016, for better or for worse, I decided that I would resolve to draw something every single day. I did this partly because, like you said, I was trying to recapture a love for making art that I had kind of lost over the years. At first, I thought they'd just be quick pencil sketches, but as the year went on, the drawings got more and more elaborate, transitioning from pencil to ink to full color - some small, some large. It ended up being a huge undertaking, but I did it!

DIBS: It’s nice to hear that you stuck with it. You said you were going to do it and you did. There is a sense of hope and or motivation to that.

JOE: This year's resolution has been more vague - not a daily task but a more general commitment to expanding my art into new areas and learn new techniques; to basically better myself artistically however I can.

DIBS: What has changed in your cartoons from last year to this year? What sort of cartoons do you draw?

JOE: Well to start, I hope I've gotten better! Most of the characters I draw are existing characters from pop culture - movies, comics, etc.

DIBS: How do you decide what you are going to draw each day?

JOE: I don't really know what I'm going to draw each day, but I will run with "themes" that cover several days or weeks. For example, I spent a few weeks just drawing characters from The Venture Brothers, then several days doing characters from old Hanna-Barbera cartoons later that year. This past August, I did an entire month of characters created by the famous comic artist Jack Kirby (creator of Captain America, among many others), in honor of what would have been his 100th Birthday.

DIBS: What responses have you gotten with all this?

JOE: I've been lucky enough to sell several pieces from my 2016 batch, and I've also been hired to do various logo and t-shirt designs. In 2016 and 2017, I also helped Legend Comics & Coffee collect donations for their annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Nebraska by "selling" original sketch commissions during their Free Comic Book Day event in May.

The response to these art experiments has been really great, and even if I never sold anything, just getting back into creating art on a regular basis has been really rewarding.

DIBS: Please feel free to add anything else.

 JOE:  In addition to the art thing, I also have a podcast that I produce with local rockstar/chef Matt Baum (drummer for Desaparecidos and Montee Men, head chef at The Blackstone Meatball).

Matt and I are lifelong comic book fans and started working together in local comic shops over 15 years ago. We decided to take the daily nonsense we talked about and share it on the Internet with everyone. The show is called The Two-Headed Nerd Comic Book Podcast -- we started in January of 2011 and have been going strong ever since!

Were to find Joe Patrick socially:

Art Work Created by Joe Patrick

Filmmaker Samantha Paradise

Samantha Paradise, a candy-corn-binge-eating, giggling-at-poop-jokes, writer and filmmaker from the Philadelphia area focuses on strong, nontraditional female characters with her production company, FrankNBeans Films.

 Their most recent film, Homewreckers (a short), is currently in post-production.

DIBS: Could you describe the Independent Filmmakers of or in Philadelphia. Is there a scene? Do local filmmakers hang out together? 

SAM: The great hub of the Philadelphia film scene is our very supportive film office ( This is where filmmakers, actors, crew all find each other and can also keep up to date on what’s going on (festivals, productions, etc). While our film scene may be smaller than NYC, the size really does allow for knowing one another. I’ve met some really great people!

All filmmakers are different, but I love hanging out with other film folks. Great people who help one another out. 

DIBS: What’s harder: Getting started or being able to keep going?

SAM: I think most filmmakers would agree that keeping things moving is the biggest challenge. Making a movie is a lengthy process with various elements. It’s easy to want to quit if you’re knee deep in a part of the process that you don’t enjoy.

Lots of folks have great ideas and start the conversation about storyline, production, etc. However, it can be tough to weather through all the small projects that need to happen prior to shoot day (script planning, storyboarding, shot lists, casting, budgeting, etc). 

DIBS: That is true, there is a lot of planning, staying organized and communicating efficiently that happens in filmmaking. The audience only sees the final product but don’t realize or know about the amount of work that actually goes into it, the behind the scenes.

How much do you think commerce affects your art? And how much do you have to compromise as a filmmaker because of financial restrictions or business?

SAM: I'd rather be an independent filmmaker with zero creative restrictions (although there are financial ones) than a fully funded Hollywood director who is only allowed to make what will sell. Like all independent artists, I have hurdles when it comes to finances. My biggest frustration is usually that I'd like to be able to pay the cast and crew what they truly deserve, but that just isn't feasible without funding. 

A small, silver lining of having financial restrictions is the ability to flex a certain kind of creativity. It can be rewarding to figure out things like "how do I find a creepy house to shoot in for under $100?  Can I make my house look a certain way? Can I shoot in something abandoned? Do I know anyone?" It's a fun challenge.

DIBS: I would have to agree with you, I think there is a sense of resourcefulness or critical thinking that comes out when you have to work with what you got and or can afford. You expand your brain a bit, stretch it out and find solutions in places you might never have known until you were limited. You had to find another way to get what you were looking for and every once in a while, in most case when you do, you find a better solution.

What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?

SAM:  You can never plan enough! We started pre-production on Homewreckers over a year ago, and despite my OCD databases and a phenomenal Assistant Director (such a blessing!), we still ran into some serious snags. Two production assistants canceled on the day of a shoot, a script supervisor ducked out the day before and the weather created a last minute schedule change. 

Back up plans are a must. 

DIBS: Do you think there are few women in filmmaking and, if so, why?

SAM: There are plenty of women in filmmaking, but very few of them end up directing (or in positions where they're calling the shots, like the Dir. of Photography). I love this question. In fact, I've answered it so often that I wrote an article about it (Unicorns with Baseball Hats: The Mythological Female Filmmaker). 

It always baffles me that I've seen male directors be completely unorganized on set, but the crew will only label them as being "eccentric" or "just really artsy." Any female director who has a rough shoot is "emotional" or a total mess.

Unfortunately, I've had male crew members direct over me every shoot because they don't trust me to handle the actors. Those are the moments I personally want to quit and fade into the background. I think this is why there's so many women in the "background" jobs (screenwriting, editing, makeup, etc.) 

DIBS: What do you mean by “can’t handle the actors” is there a way to “handle the actors?”

SAM:  Ahh, I suppose I should clarify. Direct them. The main job of the director is to focus on the actors to ensure they’re delivering the story & character correctly.

I’ve always been a fan of “not overdirecting.” I don’t direct just to hear my own voice, so if an actor is nailing it, let them keep going! Talented people don’t need to be micromanaged or you’ll kill their spirit.

I think this silence is when others may try and jump in. Almost as if they’re concerned I forgot to direct. That’s silly.

DIBS: Do you think any story can be told in a film? Is there a certain element of the storytelling that film does better?

SAM: I think the best films are the ones that were specifically written for film. Filmmakers focus on imagery and we want to tell you a story with colors, costumes, special effects and lighting we see in our heads. 

Sure, some books adapt nicely. But writers are gifted at weaving together words and you miss their magic by adapting it into a movie. 

DIBS: Does this Homewreckers say something about the world that we live in? and how or why.

SAM:  I'm hope it does. Although Homewreckers is short and fairly "light" in terms of content, I'd love to start a dialogue about the modern workplace. It's very broken. 

DIBS: So does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

SAM: I feel like I need to drink a nice whisky or smoke a cigar before answering this.

Don’t want to give away too much, so lets just say I hope no one experiences (or imitates) a Homewreckers scenario in real life. 

DIBS: So often we hear about the lack of original stories. That we’ve all “seen it before.” How do you stay fresh in the face of an idea like that? Or do you think its okay to tell a story that might have already been told but in a different setting or perspective?

SAM:  There is a ton of original content out there. Unfortunately, main stream media only funds movies that are remakes or based on superheroes. 

DIBS: Is it okay to produce stuff that isn’t that good? Or at the time might have been unexperienced.

SAM: Absolutely. No ones first film is going to be great. The important part is finishing the movie. You’ll learn from the process and be able to make a better one next time.

DIBS: Does how much money a film make, defines its success?

Success to me is if I made someone (even if it was just one person) feel something. Ideally the feeling of “Me too” or “I’m not alone.” My third flick, Conscious aimed for this and when anyone told me that movie helped them or impacted them, it was priceless. 

Homewreckers is targeting anyone in the working world. If you’ve ever felt like “shit, this isn’t fair” at work. Well, this one is for you.

...did I mention my day job is in Human Resources?

DIBS: What does independent filmmaking bring to a local community?

SAM:  New perspective, fresh ideas. We live in an era of unlimited access to entertainment, so if you’re bored with the mainstream, this would solve that problem.

Image by Cristina Byrne

Filmmaker and Director Samantha Paradise on the set of Homewreckers. 

Artistic Director Beth Thompson

DIBS got a chance to chat with Beth Thompson the Artistic Director of the Shelterbelt Theatre, Omaha Nebraska's home for new plays. We discussed taking chances on new work, the misconception of Nebraska, and the incredible talent that lives in the middle of the country.

DIBS: There is a risk in producing shows that people have never seen before. . .

BETH: Absolutely! For some reason, people accept "new work" in a film but are much more skeptical when it comes to live theater. The forms are VERY different and perhaps film trailers ease some of that as people have some idea of what they are getting themselves into but I adore audiences who consistently take a chance on new work. Every play or musical was new at some point so give it a shot, be brave and open your mind to a new story being told live in front of you! 

DIBS: What challenges have you faced with producing new work and what's rewarding about it? 

BETH: The biggest challenge I find is that people do not seem to appreciate how valuable fostering new work is. Big money donors and arts supporting organizations are more interested in supporting proven material. Actors are more excited about playing a well-known role. Truthfully, I think that they are scared of the work it requires but for me that is what is so rewarding. Anyone can produce/direct/act "proven" material but to dive into something completely new is brave and terrifying but ultimately important to continue to add to the canon. 

DIBS: What compels you to do that? 

BETH: My favorite element of what I do is the process. To read a script that is in it's early stages and be moved by something in it, is exciting. I ask myself how can I be useful to this piece and if I am invested from this early draft that can only grow. I am not a writer but I deeply love storytelling and to be a part of how a piece comes together is exciting for me. I also love watching a playwright as each element comes together; the casting, design elements and workshopping of the script. As each collaborator spins their magic their play/musical comes to life and it is a really special thing to be a part of.

DIBS: As an Artistic Director when you read through the scripts, what sort of elements do you look for? 

BETH: I am specifically looking for material that can be produced in our space. We have limited resources but a lot of heart and creativity so if something absolutely requires a fly system or a car on stage it is not for us. If I read a script and I can picture it in our space, then I will pass it on to the reading committee. If I can't, I don't.

DIBS: As a Director, do you have a certain style of plays you prefer to direct? 

BETH: I don't have a particular style that I prefer but the play/musical has to have a strong point of view, characters that I can relate to (whether I like them or not) or see someone I know in, and a story I feel is important to tell. My first question to young playwrights is often, "why do you need to tell this story?" as I believe that makes all the difference in their delivery of the story.

DIBS: Could you describe the Theatre scene in Omaha? 

BETH: Omaha has a lively, supportive and varied theater scene; we have professional companies like The Rose and Nebraska Shakespeare, we have the largest community theater company in the United States with The Omaha Community Playhouse which also supports a professional touring company of their legendary A Christmas Carol. We have groundbreaking regional companies like the Blue Barn which produces scripts coming off Broadway as well as the regional scene and Brigit St. Brigit which is dedicated to classic work such as Shakespeare, Shaw and their annual Irish Festival. The Shelterbelt shares space with SNAP! Productions whose mission began with LGBTQ stories as well as those that dealt directly with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and has since broadened to include all underrepresented voices. There are a ton of improv, comedy and smaller companies that devise their own work. Combined with our music and visual arts scenes Omaha is a really busy place for anyone interested in live entertainment!

DIBS: As a state of Nebraska, people seem a little surprised that there is anything going on there. Omaha is a hidden gem with a theatre scene. Please describe it for those who have a misunderstanding about Nebraska.

BETH: The biggest misconception people have of Omaha, or more specifically Nebraska, is that we are all creating theater in a cornfield somewhere. I have directed for the Great Plains Theater Conference ( the past 7 years and earlier this fall directed a new musical for ASCAP's Build a Musical program both of which bring playwrights and composers from all over the country come to Omaha or Lincoln to workshop their work and receive a public reading. EVERY single time, no matter how many emails and detailed conversations are exchanged prior to their arrival, these artists are BLOWN AWAY at the talent that exists here. Some even complain when they are given local actors and end up eating their words by the end of the process. Here is one of my favorite stories: Stephen Bray, co-composer/lyricists for The Color Purple, was one of the respondents for the musical reading I directed this past September and he has worked with the best of the best all over the country and came up to one of my actors after the performance and told him that he should be doing this professionally. Talent exists everywhere and most of those that "make it" was not born on the coast. 

DIBS: Have there been plays produced at the Shelterbelt that have gone elsewhere? If so, where? 

BETH: I believe there have been a few things we have premiered over the years that have gone on to be produced elsewhere but the one I know of for sure is Monica Bauer's My Occasion Of Sin, which had an off-Broadway run after we did it a few years ago. Also, Sara Farrington's Mickey and Sage was published after our production, in which she contacted me personally to say that us picking it up was a tipping point for the publishing house. 

DIBS: Why is it important to produce local scripts? 

BETH: Because again talent is not designated to any particular area and we have some amazing voices writing in Omaha.  Audiences need to feel connected to the material and growing up or living (or having lived) in Nebraska is a specific experience that they enjoy relating to. I believe that every city should be supporting their local artists, of all mediums! 

Beth Thompson is a director, actor and has been the Artistic Director of the Shelterbelt Theater in Omaha, Nebraska since 2013. She graduated with a BA in Theater, with a focus in acting and directing, from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2012. Favorite directing credits include Neighbors, Lovers and All the Others, Revelation, The Singularity, In The Jungle You Must Wait, The Other Sewing Circle, Abby In The Summer and Psycho Ex-Girlfriend for the Shelterbelt as well as Tigers Be Still and A Bright New Boise for the Omaha Community Playhouse’s 21& Over reading series. Favorite roles include Nan Carter in Exit, Pursued by a Bear (OCP's 21 & Over), Dale Prist in 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (Shelterbelt), Mom/Ms. Speigel in Dark Play or Stories for Boys (UNO), and Mrs. Hermannson in Eric Hermannson's Soul (Lone Tree Theater Project) which toured to both the Kansas City and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals in 2011.

Beth, and her work, has been nominated for both Theater Arts Guild and Omaha Entertainment and Arts awards. She is proud to head the “Before the Boards” reading series, at the Shelterbelt, which presents staged readings of local plays to assist in their development. Her love of storytelling, collaboration and development of new work keep her striving to improve with each new project and learn a little more about herself and the world around her in the process.