It was late summer of 1997. Community Players was about 17 years old and was experiencing some serious angst. Sudden personnel changes and unexpected financial challenges had sent the Board of Directors and other volunteers reeling into survival mode. A search committee was tasked with finding a new artistic director and at the October board meeting made a recommendation. From a pool of 20 applicants, the committee recommended Jamie D. Ulmer, a recent graduate of Doane College and a native of Sutton, Nebraska, for the position. He was young, educated, and a little pushy–a perfect combination to fish the theatre out of its teenage funk. The motion was made, seconded and approved to accept the recommendation. The rest, as they say, is Community Players history!
In 1997 Community Players had three shows in its season and one paid staff person. Since then, with Ulmer as Managing Artistic Director, the season has grown to six regular season shows and three family/educational shows; the theatre now boasts three full-time and one part-time staff, with multiple contract employees (guest directors, music directors, choreographers, stage managers, etc.); and (non-COVID) yearly attendance at CP events exceeds 8,000. It’s been an ambitious and exhausting masterplan–imagined, created, and executed by Ulmer and his staff, scrawled out on stacks of yellow pads and fueled by countless cups of crappy coffee.
It’s not all brainstorming, PR and grant applications, however. Ulmer has wielded his directing stick and creative vision over more than 100 productions at Community Players, including Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, Noises Off, Jesus Christ Superstar, Lend Me a Tenor, Proof, Children of Eden, Young Frankenstein, and Chicago. His ability to transform Beatrice’s black box into anything from a war-torn street in 19th century France to a 1920’s jazz club, using lights, levels and some well-worn flats, has helped to earn the theatre’s reputation for excellence in production value and performance.
Ulmer has flexed his theatre muscles on-stage as well. He has performed at Community Players and throughout the area, in shows such as Unnecessary Farce, Legally Blonde, Moonlight and Magnolias, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Foreigner, and Crazy for You.
His contributions to theatre and his community don’t end at the edge of the stage. Ulmer has been an adjunct instructor for Doane University, teaching theatre management, and has been an instructor for Southeast Community College. He has served as President of the Nebraska Association of Community Theatres and the Beatrice Area Arts Council, is a past member of the Main Street Beatrice and Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce boards, and is currently Vice President for Legislation with Nebraskans for the Arts. He is on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Theatre where he serves on the education, communications, and member engagement committees.
It might have been his credentials and youthful enthusiasm that caught the eye of that 1997 search committee, but it has been Ulmer’s czar-like tenacity and his un-wavering belief in the power of the arts (regardless of the size of a community) that have led Community Players through its 20s, 30s, and now into its 40s. During the last 25 years, Jamie Ulmer and Community Players have been working together to live their best life by (as their mission states) “deepening connections, utilizing inclusive programming, and producing quality live theatre” in this small-town Nebraska community and beyond.
The Last Twenty-Five Years, a concert celebration honoring Jamie Ulmer
To mark the auspicious occasion of Ulmer’s twenty-five years at Community Players, volunteers are
working together to stage a one-night-only retrospective concert, “The Last 25 Years.” The concert will
showcase veteran CP performers reprising songs from each of the last twenty-five seasons. This once-in-a-lifetime gala concert is set for Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. with a cash bar available beginning at 7p.m.
The box office, located at 412 Ella St., Beatrice, is open weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. and two hours
prior to the event. Reservations can also be made by calling (402) 228-1801 or online at
www.beatricecommunityplayers.com. Tickets are on sale now ($50/$25).
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