South-central Nebraska’s Red Cloud has collected fame for having been the home of novelist Willa Cather. Thus, at Shelterbelt, when Catherland  takes the stage bearing her name, you could wonder if it’s about her. It isn’t…exactly, although advance publicity mentions “mysterious guests” and Cather’s “looming shadow.” 

At the heart of this 2015-debuting musical by Becky Boesen and David von Kampen, a contemporary couple, Jeffrey and Susan, move to his home town of Red Cloud as a way to slow down from their more intense life in Chicago. Susan aspires to become a successful writer. Perhaps feeling, that in the shadow of another woman writer, the spirit of inspiration will enter her life. Evidently dreams shatter, plans change and their lives start to unravel with what Boesen calls “an immediate life or death problem.” A ghost materializes. Susan hopes to make it out alive.

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm,” Cather wrote. That too seems to be part of the territory.

Re territory, Boesen had been a teaching artist in Red Cloud. “You’re driving in Nebraska and all of a sudden you feel like you’re on Mars, because the prairie is like an ocean out there,” she says. She feels that the prairie could be a character in some of what Cather wrote.  

Boesen is a writer, lyricist, director, actor. This is her script. These are her lyrics. She was honored as an “Individual Playwright of Merit” by the Nebraska Arts Council and is a three-time Mayor’s Arts Award recipient in Lincoln. Her play Snowcatcher  debuted at Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff last month. Other recent works opening in her home state are Bullet, In My Daughter’s Name  and What the Wind Taught Me. Her scripts have been performed at the New Orleans Fringe Festival and at Trustus Theatre in Columbia, South Carolina.

Composer 30 year old Von Kampen, a UNL grad, is a six-time Downbeat Award winner, a three-time winner of the Vancouver Chamber Choir Young Composers Competition, the recipient of a 2015 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer award, winner of the 2014 San Francisco Choral Artists New Voices Project, winner of the 2013 National Band Association’s Young Jazz Composers Competition, the recipient of a 2015 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award and winner of the 2014  San Francisco Choral Artists New Voices Project. A man of note.

They are both from Lincoln, but not-too-distant Red Cloud has become a big part of their lives. 

Catherland runs April 21- May 14, Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Thurs-Sat.: 8 p.m. Sun: 6 p.m. 5/14: 2 p.m.  Tickets: $15-$25

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