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'The Rainmaker' comes to Beatrice

The romantic comedy “The Rainmaker” opens this Friday at Community Players in Beatrice and brings with it a world set smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression.

The show runs Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. for the next week at the Community Players theater in downtown Beatrice.

While the Dust Bowl era and the drought and hardship it brought to farmers across the country might not seem like the ideal setting for a love story, “The Rainmaker” is full of relatable characters and situations that still ring true to modern audiences, director Jamie Ulmer said.

The story takes place on the Curry farm, set somewhere in the Great Plains. There’s been no rain in what seems like forever and the whole place is hot, dry and dying. A conman shows up, promising to make it rain in exchange for $100 and there’s family conflict as well.

“The daughter is of marrying age and they're concerned about getting her married off,” Ulmer said. “She doesn't see herself as beautiful. The arrival of this rainmaker really just sparks all kinds of things amongst the whole family. Not only her, in examining herself, but also between the brothers.”

A lot of the work the actors have done is to pull nuance and meaning out of the lines, he said, getting to the subtext that really hits home with the audience. Since it first hit the stage in the 1950s, “The Rainmaker” has returned in many forms, like the 1955 movie of the same name, the musical based on the show “110 in the Shade” and more recently, a TV movie.

“It's a show with a lot of staying power,” he said. “The reason it does is because it's got such great characters in it. These characters are all real people. You believe that these characters exist, you believe what they're struggling with, you believe what they find amusing.”

There are seven actors in the show, Ulmer said, but the drought serves almost as an eighth character. The characters talk about the heat and how they need rain, he said, and they’re thirsty. Thirsty for water, sure, but thirsty for something more in life. The drought is both literal and metaphorical, he said.

Mason Gustafson, who plays conman Bill Starbuck, said the show is a great fit for a place like Beatrice, and he hopes the audience will see parallels to their own lives.

“Some of the small-town hardships, how you work together as a community,” Gustafson said. “That's what I think people will gravitate to, they'll relate to this small town family and the hard work that goes into a day.”

Ulmer, who got his first taste of “The Rainmaker” back in high school while doing a two person scene in speech class, said he thinks it’s a show that Beatrice will really enjoy and appreciate.

Most of the show is set within the farmhouse, and the set lets the audience peer through the slats of the house. An almost literal fourth wall, the wooden studs open into the Curry family’s living room with a view out back of vast prairie land and the silhouette of a windmill.

There’s a lot of meat to the story, Ulmer said. For a romantic comedy, he said, it’s got a lot to say.

“It's a wonderfully layered show,” he said. “It's just one of those shows. They don't write good, solid plays like this anymore.”

“The Rainmaker” starts Friday at 7:30. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and can be purchased at the box office or ordered online.


Probation given in drug case

A Michigan man convicted of distributing Opana was sentenced to probation this week in Gage County District Court.

Jason L. Tyler, 51, was sentenced to 36 months of probation by District Court Judge Rick Schreiner on Wednesday.

Tyler was arrested last October after a confidential informant working with the Gage County Sheriff’s Office conducted a controlled buy of marijuana and Opana pills from Tyler in the 900 block of North Sixth Street in Beatrice, according to Gage County Court documents.

Prior to the buy, Tyler was contacted by phone and told the informant that he agreed to travel from Michigan to Beatrice to sell the informant one pound of marijuana and 81 Opana pills for $4,500.

Tyler was arrested immediately after the sale and was found in possession of the department’s $4,500 used in the buy.

The marijuana and pills were found on the ground near the informant.

Tyler consented to a search of his vehicle, which revealed 32.5 Alprazolam pills.

The controlled buy was the result of an investigation that lasted several months, and began after law enforcement received numerous reports that Tyler was traveling from Michigan to Beatrice for the purpose of selling controlled substances, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators also obtained evidence which led them to believe that Tyler was in possession of a large amount of marijuana at his residence in Michigan. Investigators coordinated an investigation with narcotics task force officers in Michigan which resulted in a search warrant being executed on Tyler’s residence in Michigan.

During the search, officers located an estimated 20 pounds of marijuana in Tyler’s residence along with harvested marijuana plants that were going through the drying process.

The press release stated Tyler was allowed to legally grow marijuana in Michigan, but he appeared to not be in compliance with the regulations regarding marijuana grow operations under Michigan law.


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Wymore man arrested after assault

A Wymore man is accused of false imprisonment after allegedly refusing to let a woman leave a residence.

Wymore police arrested Justis D. Barnhouse, 23, on Monday for second-degree false imprisonment, two counts negligent child abuse and criminal mischief.

Police were dispatched to the 100 block of East L Street, where a woman said Barnhouse had not let her leave the residence since Saturday.

According to Gage County Court documents, the victim said that on Sunday night her two daughters, ages 3 and 6, were woken up by Barnhouse, who was yelling at the victim in a manic state.

He allegedly yanked the victim out of a recliner while she was holding the girls, causing them to "go flying."

Barnhouse is accused of choking the victim in front of the two girls and was pulling her by the ears.

Red marks were observed on her ears. Multiple bruises were also visible on the victim.

He then allegedly got a knife, but court documents indicate he did not threaten the victim or children with it.

On Monday, the victim and children got to a car, and Barnhouse allegedly chased the vehicle as it drove away.

Barnhouse allegedly made claims to police and jail workers indicating he may try and harm himself, and was transported to the crisis center under emergency protective custody.

His next hearing is set for Nov. 7.


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Beatrice company part of Energy Department research project

A Beatrice company is teaming with a nationally known research institute on a project for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Beatrice-based Rare Earth Salts and Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle announced Wednesday that they are collaborating on a "potentially groundbreaking project" to recover rare earth elements from coal fly ash.

The project is for the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and is funded by an $875,000 grant.

The project will combine Rare Earth Salts' proprietary separation and purification process with Battelle's acid-digestion process to extract rare earth elements from coal ash in an environmentally safe manner, while converting them to a saleable product.

Rare earth elements are metals that have similar chemical properties and also tend to occur in the same ore deposits. Coal fly ash is a byproduct produced by burning coal.