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How To Build An Ark

By Ellen Struve
Inspired By The Life And Work Of Joel Sartore

National Geographic photographer and Nebraska resident Joel Sartore is on a mission. For years, he has created stunning photographs of animals. His unique artistic eye and sense of humor have been focused on endangered species as well as some more common creatures. The centerpiece of Joel’s work is his “Photo Ark” project, which is a groundbreaking effort to document species before they disappear.

In this all-original wild onstage adventure, a young girl named Vita sets off on a magical journey to find Joel Sartore through his photographs. She wants to ask him which species is the most interesting on earth. What she finds along the way through friendly encounters with bears, frogs and even sea turtles, is a much bigger truth about humanity’s role in solving seemingly intractable problems. Funny, heartwarming and visually rich, this play by Omaha playwright Ellen Struve is sure to inspire your entire family!

  • Run Dates Jan 22 - Feb 21, 2021
  • Appropriate Ages All Audiences
  • Duration 60 minutes
  • Ticket Price Single Tickets on sale August 1, 2017

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Show Program

Cast

  • Vita – Nivi Varanasi
  • Mom/ Omniscient Narrator – Sarah Lynn Brown
  • Camera – DJ Tyree
  • Frog/ Naked Mole Rat – Maddie Grissom
  • Bear/ Sea Turtle – Jackie Kappes
  • Naked Mole Rat/ Monarch Butterfly – Tamia Renée
  • Joel Satore – Gaven Rames
  • Vita Understudy – Maddie Smith
  • Understudy (adult roles) – Katie Otten

Artistic/Production Credits

  • Director – Matt Gutschick
  • Playwright – Ellen Struve
  • Resident Stage Manager – Lisa Krabbenhoft
  • Scenic Designer – Bill Van Deest
  • Projection Designer – Brittany Merenda
  • Lighting Designer – Matt Benes
  • Sound Designer/Engineer – Christy Hernandez
  • Costume Designer – Sherri Geerdes
  • Hair & Makeup Designer – Zach Kloppenborg
  • Director of Production – Erin M. Solemsaas
  • Technical Director – Hunter Andrews
  • Props Mistress – Devon Denn-Young
  • Scenic Charge Artist – Savannah Savick
  • Master Carpenter – Jackson Curtright
  • Stitchers – Sherri Geerdes, Zach Kloppenborg, Audio Helkuik
Nivi Varanasi

Nivi Varanasi

Vita -

Nivi is a freshman at Gretna High School. She has performed as Anna in Frozen. Jr, Mrs. Lanford from Show N' Spell, and the Mayor from Homeschooled, along with some other roles in small skits. Nivi is an Indian classical dancer and likes to sing and act. She enjoys being on stage, and hopes you all enjoy this heartwarming show!  

Sarah Lynn Brown

Sarah Lynn Brown

Mom/ Omniscient Narrator -

Sarah (she/hers) has worked in Omaha as a Shakespeare-focused director, actor, and educator for the past 20 years. In 2016, she founded an all-female production program, Juno’s Swans, which produced adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, Richard 3, Julius Caesar, and All's Well That Ends Well. Through her work with Juno’s Swans, Sarah explores gender performance using creative character/movement development techniques, unlocking a personal understanding of gender performance and how our current culture has shaped and defined gender roles in society.  

As an actor, director and educator, Sarah has worked for Nebraska Shakespeare, Utah Shakespeare, NTC productions, Folger Library Theatre, The Blue Barn, Omaha Performing Arts, Omaha Symphony, Opera Omaha, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton University, and The Rose Theater. Sarah has also taught and directed in numerous Omaha Metro High Schools and Middle Schools. She has a Masters of Arts in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado and a BA from University of Nebraska at Omaha in Theatre Performance. Most recently, Sarah adapted/directed It's A Wonderful Life for The Rose Theater. 

DJ Tyree

DJ Tyree

Camera -

Dj Tyree is an Omaha native. He graduated from Omaha South High. He attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC from their integrated program. Dj Tyree is no stranger to The Rose Theater. As a teen, he was part of the Young, Gifted and Black troupe.  He has also done productions in Omaha over the years and is very happy to be part of this awesome show. He’d like to thank his Mom Shirley Tyree and Aunt Kathy Tyree for always encouraging and pushing him to go for his dreams.  

Maddie Grissom

Maddie Grissom

Frog/ Naked Mole Rat -

Maddie Grissom is a second year Teaching Artist at The Rose Theater. She is a 2019 graduate of The University of Northern Iowa, majoring in Theater for Youth. She is so excited to finally make her mainstage debut in How to Build an Ark. Her previous acting experiences include A Bucket of Blessings, You and Me and the Land of Peas, and The Tail of Two Wolves at The Rose Theater, The Crystal at The Apollon Arts Space, and To Touch the Moon at The University of Northern Iowa. Along with Acting and Teaching, Maddie has a love of Stage Management, Animal Crossing, and Reading Books. 

Jackie Kappes

Jackie Kappes

Bear/ Sea Turtle -

Jackie began at The Rose as a summer education intern and is delighted to return as the Director of Education. She has had the privilege of working as a theater artist and teacher in communities across the country and world, including with Disney Musicals in Schools, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Bay Area Children’s Theater, Shanghai Children’s Art Theater, 7 Stages International Theatre, San Francisco Playback Theatre, Chattanooga Theatre Centre and StageWrite. Her work at The Rose Theater ignited her passion for theater for social change and she went on to receive her Masters in Counseling Psychology and Drama Therapy at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Since she has utilized theatre to facilitate dialogue for communities and organizations around topics such as harassment, immigration, veterans’ issues, LGBTQ+ pride and much more with San Francisco Playback Theater. Jackie has also brought drama therapy practices into schools in order to support students and families in building feelings of confidence, working through trauma and grief, fostering more positive relationships and preparing for big life transitions. Jackie is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the vibrant artistic community that so graciously and fruitfully supported her in her first steps out into the professional world of theater education so many years ago.   

Tamia Renée

Tamia Renée

Naked Mole Rat/ Monarch Butterfly -

Tamia Renée is a full-time undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is currently obtaining her degree in Studio Arts and will graduate in May 2021. In her spare time, she enjoys creating digital art, playing video games, and taking acting courses. Over the last 4 years, she has become involved with acting, taking classes at UNO, the Omaha Community Playhouse, and most recently the Identity School of Acting. This will be her acting debut and she is excited to help bring this play to life! 

Gaven Rames

Gaven Rames

Joel Satore -

Gaven Rames is in 6th grade at Loveland Elementary where he performed as King Louie in Jungle Book Kids and a narrator in Aladdin Kids. He has attended multiple camps at The Rose and is excited to perform here. In Gaven’s free time, he enjoys playing hockey, watching anime, writing, singing, hanging out with friends, and working on/annoying his family with dialects and accents. His family usually puts up with him, and is always supportive of him. He has also received incredible support from Raydell Cordell III, who directed plays at Loveland. 

Maddie Smith

Maddie Smith

Vita Understudy -

Maddie is excited to return to The Rose Theater.  She recently played Actor 9/Janie in the 2020 holiday production of It’s a Wonderful Life.   A freshman at Marian High School, Maddie is a member of the Mock Trial and the Speech Teams.  Maddie made her Rose Theater debut in The Doll Maker’s Gift in 2019 as Nora and played her dream role of Matilda in the June 2019 production of Matilda the Musical.  Her previous theater credits include Shawanda in Elf the Musical at The Rose, as well as productions at the Omaha Community Playhouse: Little Fiona in Shrek The Musical (2018) , James Trotter in James and the Giant Peach (2018) , Chip in Beauty and the Beast (2017) and A Christmas Carol (2015 – 2018) playing the roles of Girl with Sled, Belinda Cratchit and Fan.  In her spare time, Maddie loves to read, play her guitar and ukulele, listen to her favorite music on Spotify and spend time with her beloved dog, Mori.  

Katie Otten

Katie Otten

Understudy (adult roles) -

Katie Otten received her MA in Theatre Performance at the University of Nebraska - Omaha, and her BA in Theatre Education at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. At The Rose Theater, she has acted in: A Child's Garden of Verses, The Cat in the Hat, The Grocer's Goblin & The Little Mermaid, among others.  Some of her other favorite roles include: The Glass Menagerie (Brigit Saint Brigit), and She Kills Monsters (Creighton University).  She's also worked on several short and feature-length films and commercials.  As a voice actor, she has narrated audiobooks, voiced characters in video games, and educational videos.   

Show Photos