BEATRICE, Neb. – The Community Players theatre group was literally born in a basement.
Way back in 1975, a group of Beatrice residents with a love of live theatre gathered together in the basement of the city auditorium. Today, 42 years later, Community Players produces 10 full-length shows per season.
"One of the things Community Players really prides itself on is the quality of the work, the focus on professionalism, but also the ability to have a good time," said Jamie Ulmer, the managing artistic director of Community Players.
Ulmer is in his 21st year in his role at Community Players.
"We do put a lot of variety into our programming. We always make sure that we're not just doing the exact same thing every single show," Ulmer said.
The Sutton native is the leader of a four-person team that works as a paid staff, which speaks to the commitment of the organization.
"There's only six community theatres in the entire state of Nebraska that employ full-time staff, and we're one of them, so the fact that that's happening here in Beatrice is really amazing," Ulmer said.
"My husband and I don't have family that lives in Beatrice, so this has really become our family," said Morgan Tunink.
Tunink is a York native who knows first-hand the great deal of work that it takes to keep Community Players running smoothly.
"I get a little teary-eyed thinking about all of the work and the dedication that our volunteers put into this, because that set that you see is all built by volunteers. All of the costumes you see put together are volunteers, all of our actors are volunteers," Tunink said.
Sterling Johnson, originally of Fairfield, is one of those volunteers.
"The fact that it's such a small community that the community itself has really latched on to Community Players and, like, kept it rolling. It's very impressive, it just shows how much this town enjoys Community Players," Johnson said.
The Community Players Theatre is located in downtown Beatrice, but it's enjoyed by thousands of people outside of Gage County.
"We consider our marketing radius to be about a 60-mile radius from Beatrice and, in fact, only 58 percent of our audience is from Beatrice. The next highest percentage is Lincoln," Ulmer said.
Last year, Ulmer said 16 new, first-time actors appeared in Community Players productions.
"This year, our goal is to get 20 new actors in," Ulmer said.
Ulmer likes to see new faces on stage and said, "they bring a new bit of energy, they bring new audience and also it's just more fun for people to meet new friends."
Community Players is currently in the midst of a 2-week run of its hilarious Christmas show. The next production will take place in early 2018 when a family-friendly musical version of 'James and the Giant Peach' takes the stage in February.