"The Show Must Go On" was the topic presented by Bill Stephan, the Executive Director and Chief Artistic Officer for the Lied Center for Performing Arts at At Lincoln South Rotary Club on Friday, August 7.
What did they do at the Lied Center when the pandemic hit? They planned and focused on how they could continue with their mission ". . . to educate, inspire and entertain the people of Nebraska through the performing arts".
Bill shared that during the time they had to close their doors - with no performances or practices - they used the time to plan. They planned how they could change the facility and procedures to keep everyone safe. They planned for an online performance series which launched within 2 weeks of closing. They planned how they would survive without ticket sales which generally provide about 50% of their income. And, they planned how they could take entertainment out to the community.
Something that makes the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln unique is the variety of programming. They don't schedule just stage plays and musicals, but also orchestras, ballet, and musical and dancing performers.
Reviewing some of his favorite events and opportunities, Bill told stories of spending time with Yo Yo Ma, a high profile cellist who has performed in Lincoln a number of times. In the online movie "The Music of Strangers", Yo Yo Ma  discusses his philosophy on music and culture. Much of that was filmed at the Lied and people in the floor seats at his performance can be seen in the video as the camera panned the audience.
Bill stated that he believes anything is possible because of the generosity of the people of Nebraska - the individuals, corporate community and also the grants made available to the Lied.
But, this last season "it was the best of times . . . it was the worst of times".
Phantom of the Opera was the largest engagement in Lincoln's history with nearly 30,000 patrons. One of the performances was on a Husker Football Saturday, but was still a full house. The Phantom lead player will be returning to Lincoln for a solo musical performance.
Another highly successful performance was the Misty Copeland ballet with the music of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra. Though ballets are not terribly popular this one drew nearly 6,000 in attendance.
With the pandemic, the final 1/3 of the 30th Anniversary season was cancelled. They started offering online performances through Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/LiedCenterforPerformingArts/). They also created Music on the Move which puts artists on a portable stage pulled by bicycle through Lincoln neighborhoods.
The Lied is now open again and have put a number of things in place to ensure a safe experience.
  • UNL guidelines apply as the Lied is part of UNL.
  • They are using only 500 of their 2000 seats per performance.
  • Face Masks are required.
  • Refund procedures changed and include day of performance.
  • To reduce crowding there are no intermissions / no concessions.
  • The lobby opens earlier to allow for arriving patrons to spread out.
  • They have a new air handling system in place.
Bill gave us a preview of some of the upcoming performances.
  • Step Afrika! known for the lightning-fast footwork, percussive chants and incredible synchronicity create a lively experience and celebrate the African American tradition of stepping.
  • Derrick Davis returns to the Lied following his unforgettable performance as The Phantom in the 25th anniversary tour of The Phantom of the Opera in 2019. 
  • Dixie's Tupperware Party with a fast-talking, gum-chewing, gingerhaired Alabama gal has audiences howling with laughter as Dixie demonstrates the many alternative uses for the iconic plastic kitchen staple. 
  • On Broadway - an ever-changing set list highlighting the music from Broadway’s newest blockbusters.
  • Mike Super, Illusionist - the winner of NBC’s hit show Phenomenon, finalist on America’s Got Talent, and featured magician on Penn & Teller’s: Fool Us.
See these and more at https://www.liedcenter.org/
Bill Stephan has been serving as Executive Director at the Lied Center for Performing Arts since 2009.  Prior to that time, he was Director of the Nampa Civic Center in Idaho for ten years and the Managing Director of Idaho Dance Theatre.  Over the past two decades, he has presented hundreds of the greatest artists in the world ranging from Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis to Harry Connick Jr. and American Ballet Theatre. During his career, he has founded several non-profit arts organizations and created major performing arts programs. In 2012, he was recognized as an expert in the public facilities management industry when he was awarded the designation of Certified Venue Executive by the International Association of Venue Managers.  Mr. Stephan is a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in music and business.  Bill is an active member of the Major University Presenters Consortium (MUPS), Broadway League, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, International Association of Venue Managers, Arts Midwest, Rotary Club 14 and is the past President of the Plains Presenters.
Under Stephan’s leadership over the past ten years, the Lied Center has more than doubled ticket sales & contributed income, built the Lied Commons, renovated the Carson Theater, created the Glenn Korff Broadway Series and many other achievements.   The Lied Center for Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska is one of the top 100 theaters in the world (Pollstar Magazine) based on annual tickets sold.  
Bill is the great, great grandson of Adam Hedrick who was a Nebraska Homesteader in 1882 in the area Edgar/Deweese, Nebraska area.