Community Players first main stage show this season highlights new inclusive opportunities through the classic tale of being different, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Following the Victor Hugo novel, Quasimodo is not allowed to leave the towers of Notre Dame due to a deformity. When Quasimodo sneaks out to attend the Feast of Fools, he meets the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda and complications ensue from there.
Jamie Ulmer, Community Players managing artistic director, said despite its Disney background, the show is more similar to the 2014 performance of ‘Les Misérables’ than their performance of ‘Mary Poppins’ from earlier this year.
“The writers wanted to bring the stage version closer in tone to the original novel, so you don’t have any cute animal sidekicks or wise-cracking gargoyles,” said Ulmer. “Instead, you have a beautiful story about the quest for acceptance.”
Ulmer said the theme of the show partially influenced the idea to do a sensory-friendly performance, scheduled on Thursday, Sept. 15.
“It’s open to everyone, but the show is making some modifications to be accessible and friendly to people who have autism or other sensory input things where they can easily get overwhelmed and overstimulated,” Ulmer said.
Ulmer explained that the show will be the same, but that the lighting and audio won’t be as intense, and individuals are welcome to enter and exit the theater as needed instead of waiting for intermission.
Ulmer said Community Players is the first theater in Nebraska outside of the Omaha area to attempt this.
This is the only sensory-friendly show slated for this season, but Ulmer said he’ll look into doing it in the future based on the community’s response.
With that inclusion, a new opportunity for high school students this season is joining Community Player’s ticket lottery. Students can register online, and three different students will randomly receive tickets for the opening weekend of each show.
Ulmer said the tickets were donated by a patron that lives out of state.
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The theater is also providing discounted tickets for the Saturday, Sept. 14 performance, which Ulmer says they plan to do for each show this season.
“We don’t want the price of a ticket to be a barrier to someone coming to experience the theater,” Ulmer said. “We can’t give tickets away, because the city likes us to pay our electrical bill…but by targeting that one performance we hope to continue on that effort to be inclusive in reaching out to all aspects of the community.”
The titular hunchback is performed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln opera student Connor Husa, and Norris Intermediate School music teacher Anna Erikson plays Esmeralda.
Largely contrasting his role as Mr. Banks in "Mary Poppins," Mike Fox plays the manipulative Dom Claude Frollo, Noah Snurr plays head cathedral guard, Phoebus de Martin, and Konner Kiesel is the leader of the gypsies, Clopin Trouillefou.
Ulmer said the roughly 30 person cast is one of the bigger companies Community Players has had since "Les Misérables," partially due to the choir singing cathedral music.
“There’s a choir loft built on the set, and they are sitting in the choir loft for the whole show,” Ulmer said. “They’re singing this gorgeous, gorgeous music that augments the action that’s playing out on stage.”
Ulmer said the show as chosen last fall, so the timeliness with the Notre Dame fire in April was accidental.
“And the cathedral is on fire in the show, as well,” Ulmer said, “but also the themes of the show itself about inclusion, acceptance of those who are different and looking at the root causes of our own prejudices. The show is just firmly ingrained in those. I can’t imagine a more topical time than right now to be looking at those issues…It’s just a powerful, moving show that the cast is just doing an absolutely tremendous job of bringing to life.”
The show runs Sept. 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students. The Saturday, Sept. 14 performance tickets are $10 and $8, respectively. Tickets can be reserved at the box office, located at 412 Ella St., online at www.beatricecommunityplayers.com or by calling 402-228-1801.