From Nov. 5-8, OmniArts Nebraska will perform four shows of “Burn This” at the Johnny Carson Theater. “Burn This” is a 1987 play by Lanford Wilson. It is set in 1980s Manhattan and follows four people trying to figure out their lives after the death of their friend and brother Robbie.
The story follows Anna, Robbie’s dance partner, Larry, an advertising executive, Burton, a screenwriter and Pale, Robbie’s brother. It shows how each character is affected by Robbie’s death and how his death becomes a catalyst for them to evaluate their lives and relationships.
Sarah Zulkoski, who plays Anna, said performing with a smaller, simple set made it a lot easier to navigate COVID-19 restrictions. Having one set means there’s less chance of hassle and less crew movement.
“We have not had a show on stage since last January because of COVID,” Zulkoski said. “We really were excited for ‘Burn This’ because it is a small cast, only four people. It is a simple apartment stage where we don't have to change the set so we really felt like we could do the show safely for our audience.”
Dustin Witte, co-director of OmniArts Nebraska, said he was excited to get back to producing live shows. Having been out of work since January, he said he thought it was important for people to have some sort of entertainment during the pandemic.
“The last play that we produced was back in January of this year but that feels like forever ago, so much has changed since then,” Witte said. “For me, as a theater artist and a director, there is no substitute for a live audience in the same room as live actors. There's just no way to get that same shared experience.”
Zulkoski said the behind the scenes preparation for the show has changed in minor ways. The cast wears masks to every rehearsal and tries to spend a lot of time inside to keep healthy.
“We've really tried to lessen the amount of exposure we have outside of rehearsal,” Zulkowski said. “That means sticking to ourselves and not doing a lot of fun things, and staying committed just ensuring that we all stay well, so that we can bring the show to the stage and that we protect our audience too.”
Witte said the one thing people will enjoy about the play are the characters and how complex and relatable they are, even though they’re from a completely different generation.
“Each of the four characters are really fully developed. It's not like a melodrama where your villain is just a bad guy and everything is evil,” Witte said. “It's like, even people who, one minute they might be saying something that you disagree with or you find mildly offensive. And then the next minute, your heart is breaking for them because they're so sad. And so I really like that each of the characters really gets to show the sort of full range of their humanity.”