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Women of a Certain Age

Omaha Community Playhouse Awards Night 2011

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“Omaha Community Playhouse, this is Dee, may I help you?”

Those words were repeated time and again during a visit to the Omaha Community Playhouse a few days after their Awards Night 2011.
 

Just how is a writer supposed to conduct an interview when his subject’s job is to answer the phone?
 

The President’s Award-winner for extraordinary leadership in activities excluding performance or production, Dee Owen is the woman who, along with her late husband Edward F. Owen, has contributed much to ensure that the curtain keeps going up on the storied stage on Henry Fonda Drive.
 
 

THIS IS MY SECOND HOME AND I’LL DO
ANYTHING FOR THE PLAYHOUSE.

~ DEE OWEN
 

THE FAMILIAR VOICE of the Omaha Community Playhouse, Owen volunteers in the humblest of fashions, but others may recognize the name as one associated with generous giving in the arts, the name that adorns the lobby of America’s largest community playhouse.
 

“I’m just delighted that they even put up with me,” Owen quipped in between phone calls. “This is my second home and I’ll do anything for the Playhouse except get on stage. They know that, but went and did it to me again anyway,” said she who admits to suffering from stage fright. “I almost had a fit the other night. Someone should have told me in advance because I would have at least worn a nice dress!”
 

THE ANNUAL EVENT that honors both volunteer and theatrical efforts was held June 27th. While youthful singers, dancers and actors had a spring in their step in a non-stop parade to the dais, “women of a certain age” were the main headliners that night, and Owen wasn’t alone in getting a surprise.
 

Not by any means for the first time in her illustrious stage career, Elaine Jabenis stole the show when a clever ruse was employed to coax her to the microphone so she could learn that the Clarence Teal Cameo award would now be known as the Elaine Jabenis Cameo Award.
 

“I bought the first brick for the Omaha Community Playhouse,” Jabenis beamed afterward in a lobby crowded with trophy-toting celebrants. The woman who was once on a first name basis with the Fonda clan– Henry, Peter and Jane – has attained almost legendary stature as the grande dame of the Omaha footlights. Elaine Jabenis And Dee Owen Steal The Show, But What Else Is New?
 

THE PLAYHOUSE HAS ADDED SO MUCH TO MY LIFE, BUT IT’S ALSO ADDED SO MUCH TO THE LIFE OF OUR COMMUNITY.

~ ELAINE JABENIS
 

JABENIS MADE HER PLAYHOUSE DEBUT in 1952 as the betrothed in The Father of the Bride, seven years before the first ticket was sold at the “new” location of the company founded in 1924 at the corner of 39th and Davenport Streets.
 

“No, silly, I’m not that old!” said the actress who also enjoyed a notable career in television and fashion. “I wasn’t talking about the original Playhouse. I meant that I bought the first commemorative brick when the Playhouse moved here. Come on, I’ll show you.”

So we wended our way through a rippling current of sequined gowns until… “Ah, here it is, here’s my brick!” she said in proudly tapping a toe on the floor near the lobby bar.
 

“The Playhouse has added so much to my life,” Jabenis said, “but it’s also added so much to the life of our community. The quality of performances here means that audiences can see Broadway-caliber work done right here in Omaha.”
 


 

-end- metroMAGAZINE

 

 

 

 

Jul 14, 2012 05:53 am
 Posted by  Dudley

Loved reading this. Thanks Cecilia Poon for adding it to Facebook. I still miss the Playhouse. I was in plays with Bill Bailey, Knew Echo Ellick and Clarence Teal, Elaine Jabenis and Mary Peckham...was on the board with them. Also on stage with Pete Fonda and met Dorothy McGuire one of the two years I won the award. What a nice walk down memory lane. Thanks.

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