Omaha Mobile Stage

Mobile architecture as post-pandemic creative placemaking

  • Type Cultural
  • Location Anywhere
  • Status Built
  • Date 2023
  • Project Partners

    Partners for Livable Omaha:
    Jessica Scheuerman, Founding Director

    Brendan Greene-Walsh, Technical Director in Theatre, Nebraska Wesleyan University

    Nebraska Innovation Studio:
    Jerry Reif, Assistant Director

FACT 25

Omaha Mobile Stage is a creative placemaking project designed and built by the team as a portable stage serving as a cultural and economic catalyst in public spaces and main streets throughout the Omaha metropolitan area. A converted box truck serves as a fully functional mobile small-capacity venue bringing all forms of performing arts to communities and schools.

During the long pandemic, cities saw a collapse in the cultural and commercial activities that make urban life exciting. The pandemic created a vacuum in cultural districts and severely im-pacted employment in the live entertainment industries, which retreated online. While physical distancing saved lives, social isolation and loneliness have emerged as serious public health concerns. Now that a vaccine circulates and the pandemic wanes, the creative and public realms have a unique opportunity to work together to breathe life back into cities. In response, Omaha Mobile Stage is a prototype for a new model of outdoor venue providing a fun and flexi-ble, but safe and serene, place for people to re-engage with each other, reactivate public spac-es, and reanimate social, creative, and economic life in the city. The project is inspired by the long history of pageant wagons and the original Omaha Show Wagon, built in 1952 and used for many years thereafter.

The team transformed a used 18’ diesel box truck into an all-inclusive mobile, expandable stage with multi-functional curtain, built-in storage, sound and lighting equipment, battery pow-er, and acoustic treatments. All elements of a versatile small venue are integrated with an overriding, unique aesthetic capable of being set up by 2 stagehands in less than 30 minutes.

See the project website: www.omahamobilestage.org for information about events and support. A printed book about the OMS published by Actual FACT Books is now available.

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Design goal: Omaha Mobile Stage shall require only two stagehands and 30 minutes to set up

Omaha Mobile Stage as a talent show stage (rendering)

The left side of the truck folds open with several operable components into either a flat stage or a set of risers (future addition).

Section perspective through the deployed stage and hidden storage cabinet
Omaha Mobile Stage as a neighborhood outdoor screening room (rendering)

OMS is designed to support several theatrical stage configurations

Plans showing the various possible configurations of the stage

Color: The razzle dazzle camouflage pattern on the exterior and the OMS logo use light blue and coral hues reserved by the US Department of Transportation for future road sign categories - FACT and OMS are staking a claim for these colors for the arts.

OMS configured for the road.

Steel rods hold the open doors in position and defend against Nebraska winds

The paneled backdrop of the stage conceals a wall of storage cabinets and a backstage door

The backstage door offers a discrete way to access the stage

Two double-sided stage curtains (one side red, one side black) run on a continuous, recessed track

Lights can be mounted on two lengths of unistrut channel running the full width of the stage. All audio-visual equipment is powered via onsite power, a set of large batteries, and/or a backup generator

Designbuild process: the truck arrives at Nebraska Innovation Studio

Many FACT projects start with (careful) demolition

Working on the stage doors at Hessheimer's beverage truck and trailer in Lincoln, NE

Panel mock-up for the interior of the doors and upstage walls & storage cabinets

The "Judd pans" as we call them - cladding for the inside of the doors and backstage storage doors.

The stage is assembled for the first time

FACT designed and fabricated a custom hinge for the stage

The stage is raised and lowered using a remotely operated winch mounted in one of the storage cabinets

Installing the curtain for Season Two.

Tour: A free, live performing arts tour of Omaha’s green spaces

Beginning in Summer 2022, Omaha Mobile Stage operates as a mobile, public venue for performing artists of all ages. By working in partnership with a diverse range of public space managers, property types, local performers and arts nonprofits, our programming will respond to the local heritage, culture and tastes of Omaha’s unique neighborhoods.

Arts and culture act as “civic glue” when they animate gatherings across generational, cultural, and economic lines. Within our collaborative framework, the arts play a critical role in curating and strengthening neighborhood identity. Through performance, Omaha Mobile Stage brings people together in a neutral, safe space that can serve as a springboard for further community and economic development.

A special ribbon cutting event was held on June 25, 2022 at the Joslyn Castle with a performance by TBD Dance Collective and others.

Follow this link for details of the 2023 Performance Tour events.

Omaha Mobile Stage at the Culxr House Block Party (rendering)

2022 Performance Season: River City Rodeo, Juneteenth Joy Fest

2022 Performance Season: tbd Dance Collective

2023 Performance Season: Omaha Earth Day, Youth Talent Show

Omaha Mobile Stage's five creative placemaking goals

1. Promote an arts-based response to public health concerns such as social isolation, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health disorders.

2. Increase access to the performing arts in low-income and underserved neighborhoods.

3. Increase vibrancy and intergenerational social connection.

4. Support performing artists and neighborhood businesses.

5. Build social capital among designers, performers, and public space advocates.

Published in The Brookings Institution Placemaking Postcards, “How mobile placemaking in Omaha, Nebraska is supporting the city’s Black commercial corridors

FACT 25 Team
Buy the Book!

A detail book exploring the Omaha Mobile Stage is available from Actual FACT Books.

Recognition

SARA National Design, Honor Award (Omaha Mobile Stage) October 2023

ACSA Design Build Award (Omaha Mobile Stage) 2023

The Brookings Institution Placemaking Postcards, “How mobile placemaking in Omaha, Nebraska is supporting the city’s Black commercial corridors” by Jessica Scheuerman and Kaylea Kuhlman, October 31, 2022

KETV Omaha, “Omaha Mobile Stage hit the road” by Alex McLoon, June 3, 2022

The Reader, “Here Comes a Stage on Wheels: A box truck is being converted to deliver free, live performances to Omaha neighborhoods”, by Courtney Bierman, April 22, 2022

Nebraska Public Media, “Mobile Stage Seeks to be Force in Socialization, Entertainment & Community Development for Omaha Neighborhoods”, by William Padmore, Dec. 31, 2021

Project 2021 Symposium, presentation and panel discussion, “Omaha Mobile Stage”, November 11, 2021

Consider This | Nebraska Public Media, television feature with interview, FACT’s Omaha Mobile Stage, Oct. 30, 2021

KPTM Omaha, “Design revealed for Omaha’s first mobile stage”, by Chandler Farnsworth, October 22, 2021

WOWT Omaha, television feature & interview, “Omaha Mobile Stage brings live performances in neighborhoods, communities”, October 19, 2021

Project Team

FACT Fall 2021 students:
Al Mundhir Sultan Saif Al Mahruqi
Essa Alouisi
John Andersen
Jarod Bengtson*
Payton Betzold
Ethan Boerner*
Mason Burress*
Brendan Colford
Thomas Gerdes*
Audrey Huse
Dariya Krestovsky
Xander Parker*
Natasha Pierce
Cameron Spengler
Eden Vanarsdall
Alyssa Villarreal

*continued into phase 2 construction

project advisors & fabricators
Kevin Lawler, Theatre Artist
Kat Fackler, Choreographer / Dancer
Kevin McCarthy
Dereck Higgins, Musician
T.J. Roe, Sound Engineer
Dan Brennan, Sound Engineer
Hessheimer’s Beverage Truck & Trailer Body Service (stage doors)
Rivers Metals (specialty metal fabrication)
Callyann Casteel (curtain)
Robert Webber (electrical systems)

Photography By Completed photos by Colin Conces, process photos by FACT, performance photos by others as noted
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