Theatre Directing Is My Livelihood

The Drowsy Chaperone at Omaha Community Playhouse.  Photo by  Christian Robertson

The Drowsy Chaperone at Omaha Community Playhouse. Photo by Christian Robertson


Hilary’s Story


The word “livelihood” comes from a combination of two Old English words that translate to “life” + “course.” My lifecourse centers around theatre and the use of creative imagination.

When I look back over my lifecourse, it comes together as a narrative about the examination of story, of people, of our lives here together through the medium of theatre. A lifecourse must have purpose, the reason for continuation forward, the verb behind the noun of life. The purpose that moves my life forward is to give back.

I see stories as the main way that we orient ourselves in our timeline; stories are a tool through which we understand where, why and how we are. Theatre provides an opportunity to step into other timelines, to see from other perspectives, and to safely examine consequence and difficult narratives.

…it was clear from early in my childhood that theatre somehow spoke to me in a way that made it more than an entertainment, more than something that I could visit on occasion.

Theatre was something I have been fortunate to have access to my entire life. My mother and her mother were both avid theatre, opera, ballet and symphony attendees. It was their intention to cultivate and appreciation for the arts, not necessarily that I’d go into it as my vocation, my life’s work. However, it was clear from early in my childhood that theatre somehow spoke to me in a way that made it more than an entertainment, more than something that I could visit on occasion.

Since I started acting when I was five, which makes it almost four decades of theatre being the center of my world. It is a rare thing, I feel, to be able to do what you love as your way of providing your daily bread. Now in Omaha, I am finding a new community of theatrical artists to create, collaborate, make glorious fictional worlds with. It is my hope that I can give back to this incredibly artistic city, using theatre as a tool for not only artistic growth and achievements, but also community development, social and personal growth, and as a catalyst for dynamic conversations and engagement with arts in all forms.

About Hilaryhilary

Hilary Adams joined the Omaha Community Playhouse as its Artistic Director this June, where she’s directed The Drowsy Chaperone, Hands on a Hardbody, and is about to direct Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Prior to joining the Playhouse family, Hilary was based in NYC where she worked for 18 years as an award-winning professional director. Highlights include a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Director of a Play, a Drama League Fellowship and receiving five Manhattan Theatre Club Directing Fellowships.  On Broadway, Hilary assisted Richard Jones (Titanic), David Henry Hwang (Flower Drum Song) and assistant directed for Robert Falls (Aida) and Mark Brokaw (Reckless). She has a Master’s in Applied Theatre from CUNY, School of Professional Studies. Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and League of Professional Theatre Women.

Click here to read more about the Omaha Community Playhouse.



Theatre Is My Livelihood

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Recommended Reading For Girls – Two Dogs Photos

I sometimes have trouble throwing things away.  I still have this ratty (but exceedingly comfortable) t-shirt that I picked up in high school.  The lettering on the front reads, “If you love me, tell me a story.”  I like the simplicity of it.  It sounds like the truth.

While I identify professionally as a playwright, I have tumbled through a few art forms on my way here.  I was deeply serious about music (but not so deeply talented).   Music is a beautiful foundation for any rigorous discipline.  There are no shortcuts. It requires daily commitment and offers opportunities to be part of something greater than oneself.  Music teaches listening.  It is excellent training for writing.

I studied creative nonfiction in undergraduate school, which was excellent training for arts administration.  I studied that at an art school– while learning about voice.  In visual art, it is easy to see the individual.  Even when the still life is the same for everyone, the interpretation and line is unique to each artist.

It is a story and a present; it is an expression of love.

Working in arts administration has taught me to appreciate the entire collective.  Making arts accessible to everyone is a group project.   I am proud to live in a state that supports the arts and am exceedingly grateful for the Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment.  The cultural landscape of a state requires a chorus of unique voices working together.

I love that theatre makes use of all these skills.  I can have music, language, and art together.  I can keep everything and get a little bit extra.  There is a generosity in our theatre community that continues to astound me.  When we make a new play, directors, actors, designers and writers collaborate.  Ultimately, the play is a series of gifts, much like our cultural endowment.  The playwright gives the play to a director, the director gives it to the actors and designers, everyone works together to give the play to an audience.  It is a story and a present; it is an expression of love.  For me, it is an art form that wears well.

About Ellen

Ellen Struve is an Omaha-based, Omaha-raised playwright.  Her TAG and OEA award-winning play, Recommended Reading for Girls, was part of Omaha Community Playhouse’s 2012-13 season.  She is a Great Plains Theatre Conference StageWriteEllenStruve Headshot(11) (2) and Mainstage playwright.  She is a WhyArts? Resident Artist and Literary Manager at Shelterbelt Theatre.  Her plays have been produced in five states.  She is a Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist Fellow.  She has degrees from University of Iowa and School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  This fall she will be working with Great Plains Theatre Conference and Omaha Community Playhouse to develop a new work.

To read more about Ellen’s projects: