Crane River Madagascar

Crane River Theater is one of six Nebraska arts organizations that has received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Crane River is known for productions such as “Madagascar,” which was presented in 2018 at Yanney Heritage Park.

KEARNEY — Crane River Theater is one of six Nebraska arts organizations — and the only one outside of Lincoln and Omaha — that has received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The gift was announced by the Nebraska Arts Council. The funds can be used for salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel, and facilities costs from May 1 through Dec. 31.

“It’s an honor to be recognized,” said Steve Barth, the artistic executive director of Crane River. He said the grant helps curb some of the loss incurred when Crane River canceled “Cinderella,” its annual summer musical at Yanney Heritage Park, and the rousing musical “Mamma Mia,” which was set for early August at the Merryman Performing Arts Center.

“This $50,000 allows us to have operational funds to create programming for next year and continue to create our educational program. We believe that program is critical because not many programs like it are happening right now,” Barth said. “This grant allows us to keep the doors open.”

Crane River is moving ahead with “Celebrate Broadway,” its annual late-summer revue of Broadway tunes. Set for July 31 and Aug. 1 at Yanney Park, it will include performers from past summers and some who were on tap to join Crane River this summer.

They include Crane River alumna Brooke Myers from Kansas City; Matthew Carter, a Kearney High School alumnus and student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney; and Kami Grave, Ashley Brock and Maximus Wohler, UNK theater students.

Also joining the cast will be Morea Nichols of North Dakota, who was to be Crane River’s educational director this summer. She also will participate in two virtual theater camps Crane River is offering.

“We’ve never done ‘Celebrate Broadway’ at Yanney,” Barth said. “In no way will it accommodate our financial loss, but it’s an opportunity for us to get a performance in and thank our supporters.”

This funding comes through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a federal program through the NEA that supports Nebraska’s nonprofit arts community as it faces the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 health crisis.

Other Nebraska organizations to win this round of grants include the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra and four Omaha groups: El Museo Latino, the Omaha Symphony, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and The Rose Theater.