Conceived by childhood friends Brian Botsford, Brooke Bradford and Steve Barth, Crane River Theater Company was established around the belief that lifting up the arts will only help in creating a richer and more vibrant community. These three grew up together in Kearney and could be found performing all over town, however it was not until high school that they shared the stage together in the 1992 production of Annie. Since then they have been performing, teaching and directing theater across the country. Their friendship has inspired them to pool their experience creating a project that will benefit the community that brought them together in the first place. That inspiration combined with Kearney’s wealth of performance venues, available talent and amazing arts support is the basis of this exciting new company.
The company was officially formed in 2009 under the umbrella of the prestigious Kearney Area Community Foundation. That summer Crane River Theater launched its Explore Theater Series in association with Kearney Park and Recreation with great success and held its first annual Benefit Gala at the Merryman Performing Arts Center with nearly 500 in attendance. The inaugural summer season featured the musicals, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and Godspell. Kearney audiences welcomed Crane River Theater and cast members with open arms and the company has seen nothing but growth ever since. There is now an established education program, a devoted audience base and a continuous effort to expand its impact on the community by creating new partnerships and new opportunities for theater involvement.
Crane River Theater’s mission is to serve the community of Kearney and surrounding areas as a professional theater production company providing a home for the presentation education and promotion of the arts. The company provides the unique quality of using professionals from across the country and mixing them with local artists to create innovative productions. There are few opportunities for resident performers to work alongside professionals, and Crane River hopes to afford them that opportunity. The Board of Directors is comprised of seventeen individuals from across the country all dedicated to the Kearney community. They bring years of experience in the business sector, non-profit management, secondary and post-secondary education, while sharing a love for theater at the same time.
Crane River Theater intends to produce a mainstream musical, play and children’s production each summer at various venues throughout the community. Children’s productions are held at the Cope Amphitheater located in Yanney Heritage Park in conjunction with Kearney Park and Recreation. The mainstream musical is hosted at the Merryman Performing Arts Center, a state of the art facility that is currently dark during the summer months. And the play series allows Crane River the flexibility to use a variety of Kearney venues from the High School to the newly renovated World Theatre. Crane River Theater has quickly become a major component to Kearney’s thriving arts community. Through productions and educational outreach programs, the impact of this company on the future of central Nebraska arts is strong. Crane River Theater would like to thank all of the local businesses, individual donors and audience members that have helped to guarantee the existence of locally produced, live, professional theater in central Nebraska.
As a new professional production company, Crane River Theater is constantly evolving and changing in an effort to expose a broader audience to the joys of live theater. We have learned a great deal in just a few short years, and always welcome the input of our patrons. If you have any suggestions or comments, please email us.