Without patrons, we wouldn’t have Michelangelo, Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Durer, or William Shakespeare. The arts need funding, and thankfully, certain individuals have emerged over the centuries who have used their wealth to make sure that theater, painting, literature, and art could thrive. In the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, one of those important patrons was Fred Simon, a fourth-generation family owner of Omaha Steaks.
When Simon passed away last September, at the age of 78, many in the arts community felt the loss. One of those hit hard by his death was Scott Kurz, one of the founders of and forces behind the Omaha-based theater Brigit Saint Brigit. “I felt the loss deeply,” he said. “Fred taught me the meaning of true philanthropy. He and his wife, Eve, have been longtime supporters of BSB – all around champions of the arts – but more than that, they have been friends. They always had kind words of encouragement, even when my focus shifted beyond Omaha, to wider pursuits in film and television. I can recall many afternoons spent with Fred, in his offices, where we sat and talked. He tutored me in becoming more business savvy with my art, and talked to me about other plays and operas he had seen that moved me.”
Although Kurz hasn’t been onstage at BSB for five years, he wanted to honor Simon, in the best way he knew: Through his art. “At his funeral, I decided to take a break from auditioning and filmmaking, and return to the stage to build something I knew he would enjoy,” he said. “It just so happened that Shakespeare’s Folio was set to tour the U.S. this spring, and BSB had put a Folio celebration on the bill. It was a perfect match.”
Kurz decided to craft something entirely new, and he did that by taking Shakespeare’s best known scenes, characters, and soliloquies and putting them into a self-contained story of their own. For about six weeks, he combed through the Bard’s vast cannon – from plays to poetry – to create Tyger’s Hart, a two-act, two-hour-long work that brings together more than a dozen works, including Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, Richard III, Antony and Cleopatra, Henry V, Henry IV part 1, and As You Like It. Kurz, who has starred in many of the Bard’s works, even wrote some of his own Shakespearean verse.
“The characters intentions remain the same, and yet they are thrust into a new world in which they are interacting with other characters from Shakespeare’s canon,” he said. “The reason it works is because Shakespeare wrote such beautiful plays and created such resounding characters that the universal human truths that he was writing about still hold even when the characters cross into another play. My idea was to use Shakespeare’s archetypes as characters – The King (Oberon, Benedick, Claudius), the Queen (Titania, Witch #1, Beatrice, Gertrude, Cleopatra), The Poet (Romeo, Banquo, Hamlet, Henry V), The Pure (Juliet, Witch #3, Ophelia), The Rogue (Petruchio, Macbeth), The Tempest (Kate, Witch #2, Lady Macbeth), and The Chorus (Puck). My hope was that people would embrace it. As though they were watching a new, unearthed Shakespeare play. And so far, they have.”
Omaha theatergoers who remember Kurz’s performances in past BSB productions, such as Dracula, which he wrote and directed; Hamlet, Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Compleat Wks of Wm Shakespeare abridged, Macbeth, Shining City, and many more, are in for a treat, because not only did he write Tyger’s Hart, but he’s also acting as part of the ensemble alongside such BSB regulars as Delaney Driscoll, John Hatcher, Ashley Spessard, Jeremy Earl, Anna Jordan, and Jackson Cottrell. Cathy Kurz co-directs.
“This play is dedicated to the memory of a great man, Fred Simon; and it honors the life of another great man, William Shakespeare,” he said. “For if it weren’t for patrons like Fred, William would be the greatest playwright that no one has ever heard of, waiting tables at the Old Applebee’s outside the Globe Theatre.”
Tyger’s Hart has a limited run of eight performances only on May 11, 13, 19, 20, 21 at 7:30 p.m., and May 10 at 8 p.m. The play is onstage at the Joslyn Castle, 3902 Davenport St. “This beautiful venue really sets the stage for a delightful evening of Shakespeare,” Kurz said.
There will be a wine and cheese reception in the Castle’s dining room after each performance. General admission tickets are $25 and $20 for students, seniors, and the military. Space is limited, and tickets are going fast. Get them online at bsbtheatre.com or by calling (402) 502-4910. The website is www.bsbtheatre.com.
Scott Kurz started his career on the stage, and while at Brigit Saint Brigit, he wore many hats (actor/director/designer/playwright). During his 20-plus years there, he was involved with more than 100 productions, and became a multi-faceted producer and artist, an accomplished fight choreographer and combatant, as well as an award-winning set and light designer.
Several years ago, he shifted his focus from theatre to film/TV. Even though, he has acted all over the country, he continues to produce film in Omaha and call this city his home. His most recent projects, both done in 2015, were a short film entitled Lucky Stiff – it debuted this winter at the Omaha Film Festival; and Bag.Lady, an award-winning short that he wrote, directed and starred. Prior to that, he co-starred as firefighter McFarland on NBC’s Chicago Fire, and he co-directed, wrote and starred in Muddy Water, a film created for the International 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles that garnered “Best Acting”, “Best Directing”, and “Best Film” awards.
He has also played the featured role of Trahaearn in the PBS docudrama The Legacy of Boilermakers, and Henry M. Stanley in the critically-celebrated film The Battle of Shiloh: The Devil’s Own Two Days. Early in his career, he had a small role in Alexander Payne’s first film Citizen Ruth, and auditioned for Scent of a Woman.
For more about Kurz, visit www.scottkurz.com.