Before our series celebrating Kearney’s Sesquicentennial, Kearney Creates had already given some attention to Jon Bokenkamp, Claire and Shelley Fort, Javi Fox, Jerry Fox, Jenny Homan, Tom Miles, Jim and Chuck Salestrom, Diane Sciachitano, and Nathan Tye. Another of our recent discoveries is Candace Imming who grew up in Kearney but currently resides in the Northeast. Her clever representations of Kearney are memories of her joyful early years in Kearney. Imming’s Sesquicentennial is a recent celebration of Kearney’s “growing up.”
Recently this site featured locally grown harpist Bonnie Caplan. That served the editors as a prod to focus a while on how lots of locally grown artists, raised or educated here, have made a name in the arts, some staying here, some moving elsewhere for opportunities to match their talents. Some moving back.
Locally grown but prized elsewhere, as well as here, that would surely include from far back the Anderson Sisters, Miriam Anderson Worlock who stayed here and painted and her sister Ruth who gave the world her photos of the Spanish Civil War. Javier Fox, Kearney potter, immigrated from Columbia as a youth and became part of the Jerry Fox family. The new Plains environment brought insights and visions that inspire his pottery designs.
Pat, Phil, and Rick Marlatt virtually grew up not only on Rick and Kerri’s farm but also in Kearney Community Theatre. Son Rick Marlatt is now found far off, teaching and writing poetry in New Mexico State University. The Marlatt family still engages in acting and producing; all of them just home for a holiday visit with long-time pillars of KCT, Rick (Sr.) and Kerri.
More recently are Kyle Kuyper, who performed in shows on the Miriam Drake Theater stage at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (The Rocky Horror Picture Show UNK), and Natalie Burling who starred in Kearney Community Theatre’s Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street. After Kyle and Natalie graduated, Chuck and Nancy Peek found them as adults engaged in theater in Columbia, Missouri.
If you want contemporary theater, Shelley Fort and Claire Fort continue to appear in television, films, and on stage, sometimes playing several roles in one show. Claire just became a Professor of Drama at the North Caroline School of the Arts. The Fort siblings as well as their dancing mother, the late Wendy Fort, and poet father, still writing Charles Fort, are featured on this site.
Jessica Dart continues to direct and produce, Rita Vreeland and Mary Park work theater in Chicago; Mary in the screen Chicago of Chicago Fire. The Butters family, Tom and Velda, lay claim to Darin Butters, animator for Disney, and Kevin Butters, who was stuck up a tree in On Borrowed Time for Kearney Community Theater, as a kid and most recently appeared for Crane River Theater. And they are living proof that sometimes that locally grown crop continues to produce for another generation, with their granddaughter Julia featured in recent Oscar and Golden Globe award ceremonies. Crane River Theater’s director is locally grown Steve Barth. Also Brook Bradford, raised here, recently performed in Crane River Theatre’s The Miracle Worker.
Not that there are not enough bands in Kearney now but we could have made a large ensemble of those who played here, left, and took their voices, guitars, keyboards, or other instruments where they now live. That would include Tim Anderson, Blake Benzel, Steve Lungrin, George Peek, Axel Sandburg, and David Scott. Did I hear the name Salestrom? Jim and Chuck were at the Merryman Performing Arts Center not long ago on tour for the 50th Anniversary of Timberline.
It would surely also include Craig Greeno. Son of Florence and Joe, long-time coach and teacher at Kearney High School, where Craig graduated in 1962. He also graduated from Kearney State College, then went on to play for the Tommy Dorsey Band and we hear with the Basie Band and Woody Herman. Maybe even that was not quite as much the claim to fame as the Silver Star for bravery earned as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam.
Tom and Mary York’s son Jim still plays the cello in Denver and his and his wife Beth’s daughter is pursuing a promising string career in Boston, the same Boston where Tom and Nancy Hansen’s son Chris graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He spent two years at University of Nebraska at Kearney and when he was in high school was asked to perform with the UNK Wind Ensemble. While Chris was in Boston, he worked at H & M and met some fashion stylists and went on to work on photo shoots as an assistant stylist for layouts in magazines. He’s gone on to work for Intermix and now Tommy Johns, where he’s in the marketing department and continuing to use his Music Business degree.
Writers include Amy Anderson Guerra and Ramona Vreeland McCallum, along with Rick Marlatt Jr. and Gary Dop. And even as Executive Producer, Jon Bokenkamp continued to write scripts for episodes of The Blacklist, add those to his array of films. Jon was one of the first people featured on this site.
Leslie Easterbrook, of course, was really in films, think Police Academy, and at Bobbi Gail Lowenberg’s invitation, returned to help launch the first real home of Kearney Community Theater. And Stephany Vogt was Anne O’Brien Wilson in Gloria, the US Newsreader in Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw, and Christy Bryant in Strike Back. But it’s not always a matter of stardom. Dr. Helen Stauffer had a cameo as the secretary in Terms of Endearment and Chuck Peek had the bit part of a teacher in The Hazing.
Photography? Mary Haeberle’s grandson Joe, John and Yvette’s son, is a photographer and works in advertising. And photography is nothing new to Kearney, either now with Bryan Baer, Kerri Garrison, and Kristina E Photography, or, as we began, long ago with the Anderson sisters.
What of the culinary arts? Kearney’s own, Mike Park, has run and cooked for several Kearney places, including currently Full Circle Bakery. Meanwhile, our own Amy Northwall Schicke and her husband Dario own Avoli in Omaha, where they for many years also ran Dario’s. Shaun Theye, Larry Theye’s son, enjoys a career as a chef, and Mike Anderson, along with Jusef Gamedi, is responsible for Cunningham’s on the Bricks, Cunningham’s by the Lake, and Fyre in the Crown Plaza. Sometimes the arts take a turn. Ed Tatum, who directed The Mystery of Edwin Drood for Kearney Community Theater, now is in the restaurant business in Lincoln.
So far all this would seem to suggest that growing up and being nurtured in the arts in Kearney is a good start for a lifetime in the arts here or elsewhere. And sometimes, the arts are a family affair, help us get the information for future Star Family entries. Star Family? Think for instance of the Bill and Jeanne Ross family. An entry featuring the Ross family will soon be posted.
Also while continuing to add Locally Grown entries, we will sometimes add entries in which some of the “Offspring” parents speak of their children’s talents and their nurture. Of course, the children are now adults…and some of them have been for quite a while now.
We will surely have missed someone you may recall. We’d love to hear from you about others we should feature and how to be in touch with folks who can help us do that. [email protected]
* Written by Chuck Peek.
* Sesquicentennial drawing by Candace Imming.
Look forward to a Kearney Creates article featuring the sisters and the Anderson Studio in which they were raised and meanwhile follow this link to an exhibit of her work in New York: Hispanic Museum and Library
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