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Community Players brings Christmas comedy to life

It’s Christmas Eve and the whole family is gathered around the tree, including mom, dad, aunts, uncles and a couple of guys who just robbed a liquor store at gunpoint.

“In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should Be Shot)” opens this Friday at Community Players in Beatrice. While it might not be your traditional Christmas story, the farce hits all the Yuletide high notes.

The show tells the story of the Douglas family who receive a knock at the door while they are preparing their Christmas Eve dinner. At the door, the family meets Tony and Vinny, two men who have just robbed a nearby store. They are on the run from the cops and are looking for a quiet place to hide.

A good hiding place isn't easy to come by, said Director Brandon Clark, as the Douglas family isn't exactly what you’d call serene.

“This is not a quiet family,” Clark said. “Or an easy to control family.”

But, if nothing else, the Douglas family is relatable, he said. For inspiration, Clark and the actors in the show drew on memories from family dinners and holiday get-togethers to create characters who the audience will recognize from their own lives, he said.

This is Clark’s first time directing a main stage production at Community Players. He directed the musical “First Date” for the theater’s young adult program for actors ages 16 to 24, but this is his first time directing a full, adult cast. Several years of studying theatrical production have prepared him for it, though, he said.

Clark’s been onstage, backstage, in the audience and in the light booth at Community Players, he said. Hanging lights, painting sets, stage managing and appearing on stage gave him a view of the process from several different perspectives, he said.

The set for “In-Laws” is quite a bit bigger than most other shows at Community Players and it expands all the way to the walls, which was necessary, Clark said.

“I'm happy where it's ended up at this point, because this is a really big set,” he said. “With my first show, that was only nine people, but this is a cast of 15 people, where by the end of it, all 15 are on stage at once, so you need that kind of stage space.”

The show contains a lot of the emotional tropes of a traditional Christmas show, said Jeff Porter, who plays the excitable robber Tony, but it’s definitely not “The Nutcracker,” and nobody’s sitting around waiting for Santa.

“It's very family-friendly,” Porter said. “It's a show where people can bring their kids, grandma and grandpa, whoever. It's funny and it's heartwarming at the end.”

“It's got a perfect ending,” added Bruce Hahn, who plays Uncle Leo. “We won't spoil it, but it's got a great ending.”

Hahn said he and Shelley Keebler, who plays his wife, Rose, modeled their characters somewhat after Edith and Archie Bunker from “All in the Family.” He said that, while there are 15 actors in the cast, everybody gets a solid part and a few sturdy laugh lines.

“It's so fun,” Hahn said. “It's a great ensemble piece. Everyone has their moment to shine. Throughout the process, people just keep coming in, but nobody leaves. Once they're on, they're on for the most part.”

The show runs for the next two weekends with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students.

During the Saturday night shows, there will be an incentive for audience members to embarrass themselves just a little, said Jamie Ulmer, managing artistic director at Community Players.

Anyone who shows up in an ugly Christmas sweater will get $1 off at the concession stand, he said, and the audience will decide whose sweater is the worst.

“At the intermission, the audience will get to vote on who has the ugliest Christmas sweater and that lucky person will win a Community Players t-shirt to cover the ugly sweater,” Ulmer said. “Everyone else must live with their shame.”

For most people, the Christmas season doesn’t start until the day after Thanksgiving, but for Clark and the cast, they’ve had to get into the Christmas spirit when they started rehearsing the show back in the middle of October.

Their Christmas spirit hasn't dampened yet, Clark said, but they could stand a break in the carols.

“Last weekend, I went to put all the sound cues together and I spent five hours listening to Christmas music,” he said. “At some point, they just all start sounding the same.”

Tickets for “In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should Be Shot)” are available at the Community Players box office at 412 Ella St. in Beatrice. Tickets may also be purchased by phone at 402-228-1801 or online.

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Winter wonderland coming to YMCA

On Friday, the Beatrice Police Department will be heading to the Beatrice YMCA in full force.

Officers have about 200 presents to deliver that they collected during the Stuff the Cruiser event outside of Wal-Mart the weekend after Thanksgiving, and the YMCA will be working with officers to get the gifts to local children in need.

On Dec. 12, children from around the area who are in need of a merry Christmas will come to the YMCA to pick out a free gift. But before they get there, the whole place needs a fresh coat of Christmas magic.

On Tuesday night, volunteers and employees of the Beatrice YMCA were on hand in an upstairs room, getting everything ready for the kids, building giant lollipops, snowflakes and candy canes.

Callie Lamkin, Brandel Riekenberg and Missy Lamkin were standing at a table building a fire to put inside a fireplace that was still being constructed in the corner.

Cutting out various shapes of paper, Callie Lamkin had built about three flames of the total four they needed for the fireplace.

“And we have to make six stockings,” she said.

They’re expecting about 100 kids to show up next Wednesday, which is about the same as last year, Shely Bauman said.

So far, 85 children are signed up for the program, which means there are still about 15 spots open. They’re hoping to have all the applications turned in by this Friday, she said.

People turned out in droves for the Stuff the Cruiser event at Wal-Mart, Bauman said. There were people who remembered the event from last year, as well as some new faces, wanting to give kids in need something good for Christmas.

Bauman commended the Beatrice Police Department, saying that the police do the heavy lifting and the hard work, while the YMCA handles the fun part of doling out the gifts.

Next Wednesday, when the children come in, she wants them walking into a winter wonderland. Toys will be separated into different age groups and unwrapped so that children can pick out exactly the gift they want.

“We hope that it's an event that they'll remember,” Bauman said. “That's what we're trying to create here.”

Applications can be picked up at the front desk of the Beatrice YMCA at 1801 Scott St. in Beatrice.

The first candidate has filed for a seat on the County Board

Erich Tiemann is the first to file for a seat on the Gage County Board of Supervisors in the 2018 election.

Tiemann is seeking a second term representing Gage County’s third district. The district covers the general southeastern portion of Beatrice, and includes Belvidere, the country club and Beatrice High School.

He said working toward economic development improvements has been a highlight of his first term, and something he plans to continue if reelected.

“Other than working with people, what I’ve enjoyed along with that is the economic development part of it,” Tiemann said. “Things finally seem to be making the curve in the right direction again. If I’m elected, I’m going to continue to push the economic development side of things. There are so many things in the works for potential new businesses coming to town.”

Tiemann, a Republican, is the county’s representative on the NGage economic development group, and is also a member of the Southeast Nebraska Development District’s executive board. He’s a board member of the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce and is currently the vice president of both R.L. Tiemann Construction and Beatrice Lawn Care.

He said his experience in the construction and road industries has been an asset to the county, since he’s familiar with the equipment and processes.

“It’s nice being a contractor and doing dirt and road work from the county side,” Tiemann said. “We work with equipment all the time and asphalt, concrete, gravel and rock. Say the one day there was an issue, I called the highway superintendent because I knew we had an issue with a gravel supplier and we took a look and made adjustments. Sometimes, you can head things off before they become a problem.”

One of the biggest issues facing the county is the looming Beatrice 6 case, currently progressing through the court system after a $28 million ruling against the county.

Tiemann said the board is hoping for the best, but preparing for whatever verdict comes down in the appeal.

“We think in the beginning of 2018 we’ll probably have a verdict on the Beatrice 6 case,” he said. “With that coming, we’ve gone through so many situations trying to figure out if this happens, then what? I can’t say I’m looking forward to it if it’s not the decision we want, but there are several ways we’ve been preparing for outcomes.

“There’s no silver lining if it doesn’t go the county’s way in court, but we have to play the hand we’re dealt, and the best thing is be ready, no matter what the decision is.”

Overpopulation at the Gage County Detention Center has been another hot topic for the county in recent years.

The board recently signed agreements to reserve jail beds in other counties due to lack of space in Gage County.

While housing inmates elsewhere is running up a tab, Tiemann said it’s the best option for the time being.

“We’ve done some cost analysis to see where our costs are," he explained. "Housing them in-house costs $96 per day because of staffing, food and everything. When (we) have someone in-house, we have all the liabilities with holding someone who doesn’t want to be held. With outside contracts at $35-$60 per day, and you also have transport costs on there, but even with transport costs at the current time, it’s cheaper to outsource our prisoners.”

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Youth programs to continue in Gage County

Officials are continuing programs aimed at helping Gage County youth, and also exploring new options under a community-based juvenile services grant.

The County Board approved the grant application during its regular meeting Wednesday.

Christina Lyons with Gage County MAPS explained to the board what services are featured in the grant, including a new program she hopes will decrease suicide rates.

It’s called Hope Squads, and the program is in place at Beatrice Middle School and will be coming to Beatrice High School next year.

“The middle school kids are nominated by their peers,” Lyons said. “They’re people they would go talk to if they were having a problem. Those kids are trained to help kids and get kids to adults, to professionals. Most of the time, if a kid is suicidal, they will tell a peer and the peer will never tell an adult.”

The evidence-based program was started in Utah, and is being implemented across the country.

The grant will provide $74,798, roughly $3,000 more than the previous year. The county is required to provide a match of $8,300 for the funds, though Lyons said programs the county is already funding can qualify as the match, so there’s essentially no additional cost to the county.

A large portion of the grant will work with truancy programs.

“The other part that we ask for, the $28,000, was for the truancy program,” Lyons said. “We still have student staff advocates in Beatrice Public Schools. We’re serving about 60 kids there right now and we also have a family advocate we work with serving about four families with that right now.”

Alternatives to detention are also included in the grant, which supports 11-18-year-old youth.

County Board member Dennis Byars said it’s important to support these programs, which make a difference in the lives of Gage County youth.

Juvenile diversion, coalition, 4-H enrichment, training, and other programs are also included in the grant.

“These grants and this program are absolutely fantastic,” he said. “If you work at all with young people in this county, we’ve had suicides, we’ve had issues that are so important for us to work with these kids.”