LA-based director teaching workshop to support Omaha comedy theatre owned by Hooper native
OMAHA, Neb. – A Nebraska comedy theatre is trying to raise money to both survive and thrive, and an accomplished screenwriter is lending a helping hand.
Brian James O’Connell -- who has written multiple films and TV shows and directed the likes of Matthew Lillard, Pedro Pascal, Matt Berry and Nebraska native Amber Ruffin – is teaching an online screenwriting class on Saturday to raise money for the Backline Comedy Theatre in Omaha.
Dylan Rohde, a Hooper native and Wayne State College grad, started the Backline in 2011 after moving back to Nebraska from Los Angeles.
The theatre has hosted national acts and trained performers who have gone on to act on HBO.
But now the theatre’s building has a new landlord, which plans to designate the facility as a historic structure, meaning rent will be going up more than 200 percent.
Rohde said he not only wants to make sure he can pay the rent, but also improve the existing facility to make it more sustainable long-term. He said the new building owners are helping, but the up-front cost remains significant for Rohde and the theatre.
“You’ve got to look at everything as an opportunity,” Rohde said. “You’ve got to take those moments that sound bad and figure out how to make them work.”
O’Connell, a North Carolina native living in Los Angeles, teaches improv across the country and sees several different theatres each year. He reached out to Rohde, someone he knew from Rohde's time in LA, to ask how he could help.
“I try and keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on nationally and internationally in comedy, and improv comedy specifically,” O’Connell said. “I just started reaching out to theatres systematically and saying, ‘What do you need? What do you need help with?’ A high tide raises all ships.”
For more information on the theatre and the fundraising campaign, visit the Backline’s website.