By Beaufield Berry
Images by Debra S. Kaplan
When The Apollon Art Space opened in Omaha in the spring of 2013, there was no place in town like it. It filled an entertainment niche that wasn’t on the radar in other art spaces.
Combining a collaborative theatrical experience with themed food and visual art to showcase Omaha’s underseen talent, The Apollon was an anomaly. In our tight-knit theater community, it’s rare that someone makes a move without everyone knowing about it. So when founder and director Ryan Pozzi landed a beautiful brick-and-mortar spot on the corner of 18th and Vinton, some people wondered, “What the hell is this?” And the answer was simple: Something new.
The Apollon acquired the reputation of giving its audiences something to talk about. With groundbreaking, from-the-ground-up theatrics that have ranged from the sinking of the Titanic to the yearly favorite Holiday at Hogwarts, The Apollon has never been afraid to experiment, and that’s what has made its tenure in Omaha so fascinating. Earlier this year, The Apollon was facing closure when Ryan Pozzi and art director Elizabeth Pozzi decided to focus on other passions (see Oracle Arts Supply across the street). In the midst of their decision to close the doors, a new champion emerged. Not an actor or writer, desperate to hold on to another endangered theater storefront, but a fan. Someone who saw the theater’s value and stepped into the shoes of executive director, taking on the challenges of operating a creative space financially and artistically.
That person is Carol Danigole, a low-key, passionate, focused woman. Danigole is unassuming. She isn’t the flamboyant or eccentric benefactor eager to have her vision executed. She is an advocate for the arts and for artists. She wants to give artists a place where they can do what they do best, while continuing to pursue the collaborative and innovative heart that The Apollon brings to Omaha entertainment.
What makes a person who comes from the business world eager to take on something like this? Danigole’s humble nature insisted on keeping the focus on the artists who work in the space. That said, let’s meet the woman who rescued one of Omaha’s most special places.
What IS happening at The Apollon? Currently, The Apollon is preparing for the Holiday at Hogwarts production which runs from Nov. 29 through Dec. 22. This will be another fun audience interactive production where audience members will be transported to the Wizarding World at the time of the founding of Hogwarts for an engaging performance as well as themed activities, food and artwork. This is also the first production of our season which runs through August of 2019. We are also pleased to be one of the three spaces hosting the staged reading of Flora and Fauna, where all donations for admission will go to the Women’s Center for Advancement to support victims of sexual assault.
How did you get involved? I had attended performances at The Apollon in the past and absolutely loved the uniqueness of the experience from the engaging performers, the art activities, the food and even the interaction with other audience members. I learned that there was a plan to shut down operations as the founder was moving on to pursue other adventures in his life after being recently married. I was so disheartened at the loss of such a unique art space in our community that I asked what I could do to help. Fortunately, there were others that were also interested in seeing The Apollon continue. So, with their support, I stepped in as the new executive director.
What’s it been like? A lot of work has been done and still needs to be done in order to re-establish connections, establish new connections and ramp up programming again. Many people have said how thankful they are to see The Apollon continue, and when people walk in, I love the reactions of how charmed they are with the space and their enjoyment of the artwork and the performances. It has been a true pleasure getting to know many talented individuals in the arts, music, comedy and theater communities. Omaha and the surrounding communities are fortunate to have such talent and a wide range of artistic and performance programming. The Apollon is proud to play a small part of that community in its own unique way.
What do you want people to know about The Apollon and your mission? The Apollon is an intimate, immersive and often interactive art and performance space. Every time someone walks into The Apollon, we want their imagination and emotions to be stimulated through art, music, theater, comedy, dance, poetry and more. We want the artists and performers to have fun in the creation of their art, to have experiences that allow them to grow as an artist, to receive payment, recognition and appreciation for their talents and hard work. We also want the audience to be a part of that fun, enriching artistic experience. Our shows have and will continue to support local artists and performers in all aspects of a production. The Apollon is a creative space where artists from different disciplines — writing, visual art, performance, music, dance, etc. can collaborate to develop a production from the creation of the concept to the final show. This collaborative element that starts from the creation of the concept often before a script is written is unique to the Apollon. Finally, we are proud to be a place where young and less experienced artists can explore and develop their artistry.
What are some exciting developments in what’s next? Next year, our season will consist of six main stage productions, including a project inspired by StoryCorps, Rumors in the Kitchen, Vietnam Ghosts, Once for Yes-Twice for No, Pokenon (not a typo) and of course our annual magical Wizarding Holiday production. In addition, we will have a comedy show series, living room show series of acoustic sets of local musicians, visual art shows, and classes for both the artists and the public. This is an exciting time for The Apollon as we look forward to our sixth season in Omaha.
How can people support you? There are so many ways that a person can support The Apollon. We are always looking for volunteers to help with various aspects of productions, including creative and build to help with many things such as painting, something simple as making floating candles or other props, organizing the space or even other administrative things such as filing, helping to respond to calls, etc. We also have a few leadership roles on our board of directors open. Finally, as a non-profit organization whose mission is to support and give back to the artists, we rely on financial support through donations and sponsorships.
Who are some people you want to highlight at The Apollon? I would like to recognize Ryan Pozzi, our founder, for his vision and all of the hard work that went into growing The Apollon these past years. It all started with a vision back in 2009 in Lincoln. With a little blood, sweat and tears, Ryan helped The Apollon into our art space on 18th and Vinton with over 1,000 guests each year and a diverse lineup of artistic events. I would like to recognize our board for their leadership and support. I would also like to recognize a core team of individuals who are there whenever a need is identified. I have recently started to refer to them as my Fab 4 — Heather Alston, Edward Clary, Kaitlin Maher and Bridget Mueting — because they are truly fabulous. No matter what craziness is going on in the world, they are consistently the first to respond to any need at The Apollon and, outside of productions, they have volunteered their time and talents in order to make the magic of The Apollon happen. They are fabulous artists and performers and they are just wonderful people. I would like to recognize all of the artists and performers who have given a part of themselves with each show to make the experience truly special There are many that have participated in several productions over the years and contribute to our monthly collaboration activities. They are the face and the heart of The Apollon. Finally, I would like to recognize and thank all of the guests and Apollon fans who are sometimes not too sure what to expect when they walk into the Apollon and who come back time and again.
Holiday at Hogwarts runs through the 22nd. Tickets sell faster than you can say “Lumos!” It’s a don’t-miss event and one-of-a-kind experience for wizards and muggles alike. Check our review of last year’s Hogwarts at Reader.com and get your tickets at ApollonOmaha.com.