Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

The Curtain Rises on Nebraska Shakespeare

Jul 01, 2022 11:07AM ● By Sean Robinson
tyrone beasley sits backstage

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“To be or not to be …”

Shakespeare posed that question centuries ago, and it rings true today. It’s one of many Tyrone Beasley must ask himself as Nebraska Shakespeare’s new artistic director and director of education. In this role, he’ll help prove whether the organization can rise to the occasion to be a space of creativity and inclusivity—or not.

“My focus is to bring in more people from the community and show how Shakespeare’s stories are relevant today,” Beasley said. “We’re working on ways to show humanity in those stories and be more accessible, inviting, and welcoming.”

Beasley took the position last summer, getting hired around the same time as Brett Bernardini, Nebraska Shakespeare’s executive director. Together, the two of them have worked to create a greater culture of belonging within the organization and for everyone who interacts with it. 

This all comes on the heels of last year’s cancellation of Shakespeare on the Green amid controversy over racial diversity. At the time, production members resigned due to a belief that Nebraska Shakespeare wasn’t doing enough to be equitable and inclusive. The company’s board of directors issued a statement, including an action plan to improve. 

That statement was more than just empty words—it was the beginning of immediate change, ushered by Beasley and Bernardini’s hiring. “There was a restructuring of our internal culture, and Tyrone offered incredible perspective as we wrote a contract with the community,” Bernardini said. 

“These are commitments on how we plan to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. This includes short and long-term goals, like the hiring of diverse staff, educational programs for underrepresented areas of our state, and creating events safe for open dialogue.”

Under Beasley’s creative leadership, Shakespeare on the Green makes its return to Elmwood Park this year. Beasley not only helped lay the foundation for creating a more welcoming space, but he’s also directing this year’s tragedy, Othello.

“After two years away, it’s going to be so exciting to get back in the park and have an audience,” Beasley said. “I’m thrilled to be directing, for the community, and that my father is a part of it performing in a show.”

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Born in Omaha, Beasley is the son of nationally known actor John Beasley, who is known for roles in the film The Mighty Ducks and the TV show Everwood. It was his dad’s career that inspired him to pursue theater and gave him his first taste of directing.

“I would watch him as a kid growing up, and he would ask me after a play, ‘How do you think I did? I know you’ll be straight with me,’” Beasley said. “And I’d say something like, ‘When you first came out, it felt like you were acting. Then you got more into it and became the character.’”

What followed from this was a career as storied and impressive as his father’s. 

Among his many accomplishments, Beasley studied acting, earning a graduate degree in theater from California State University-Long Beach, and performed at Chicago’s esteemed Goodman Theater under director Peter Sellars. He returned to Omaha to hone his directing skills at the John Beasley Theater before joining the Rose as its artistic associate director of outbound programming. 

During his time at the Rose, he created workshops for incarcerated youth—a program he would like to emulate for Nebraska Shakespeare.

Beasley said, “I’m really looking to expand educational opportunities because Shakespeare doesn’t exist within a bubble. His works should be accessible to everyone, beyond drama classrooms and ticketed theaters.”

Another way Beasley has worked to make poetry and plays from the 16th century more approachable is by reframing stories with a modern twist. Prior to accepting his full-time staff position at Nebraska Shakespeare, he worked with the organization directing a hip-hop version of Romeo and Juliet.

“As a director, I love to work collaboratively,” Beasley said. “I love facilitating the creativity of other artists—I aspire to do that as an artistic director as well. I want everyone to bring what they have to the table, different ideas and then let’s talk those ideas through.”

The spotlight is on

Balancing stage directing duties with helping to enact large social change within an organization seems like a lofty job—and one that doesn’t happen overnight. But, if his previous experience and determination are any inclination, Beasley is sure to earn a standing ovation. 

“One of the things that nonprofits make a mistake of is they think everyone from the outside has the right answers,” Bernardini said. “But this—the theater—is Tyrone’s world. This is the space he inhabits. Success will come because this is his universe.” 

Visit for more information.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Evvnt Calendar