Born and raised in Omaha, Stephanie Kurtzuba performed on Omaha’s Good Fellows Show Wagon in her childhood years. She is now an actress, Broadway star, and co-creator, and executive producer of a digital series for the largest parenting website.
Kaylea Kuhlman reached Kurtzuba this week for an exclusive interview to discuss her memories on the Good Fellows Show Wagon, her passion for acting and community engagement, and working on and preparing for TV roles and live performances.
Beginning in 1952 and lasting for 59 years, the City of Omaha Parks Department operated the Good Fellows Show Wagon as a youth talent competition. In its heyday in the 1970s, the Show Wagon drew hundreds of contestants and thousands of audience members from the Omaha area and beyond.
Do you have any memories of performing on the Good Fellows Show Wagon? What was the experience like?
I have so many fond memories of Show Wagon. It was something I looked forward to every summer. I loved meeting in the different parks around Omaha, sitting on blankets with my family and friends. I remember dancing with my sister on the Show Wagon stage and feeling the stage sway with the rhythm of our music. I tried my very first root beer float after performing one evening in Show Wagon, and I felt like I’d discovered the perfect food.
Do you have any advice for children that might perform on the upcoming Omaha Mobile Stage next year? Enjoy the opportunity to share your talent and passion with your city! It is a gift to be a part of a community that supports and nurtures young people’s dreams.
How important do you believe community engagement with performing arts is today especially post-pandemic?
I believe deeply that community engagement in the performing arts can offer transformative experiences. There is an undeniable effect when a community gathers around a live performance. The need for connection through a shared event is even more significant post-Covid. The ability to get out amongst our own community and bear witness to a song, a dance, a story—any act of expression, that collectively pulls us together for a shared moment—is the balm we all need after the past 15 months.
When did you realize you wanted to perform as your career?
I realized I wanted to make my life as an actor when I was 18. I had an epiphany that set my course, and I have never wavered.
How do you prepare for movie or TV roles in comparison to performing live?
The preparation for the two mediums is similar, but the biggest difference is in rehearsal time. The rehearsal period for a live performance is significantly more protracted than for a film or TV show.
What was it like working on the set of Grey’s Anatomy? (I am a huge fan so I love seeing someone from Omaha on the show!)
Ha! I’m glad you are a fan because I’m happy to report that the cast/crew of GA are some of the kindest, most lovely people I have worked with on TV. A truly gifted and generous gang of humans. They deserve the fans they have all over the world.
Stephanie Kurtzuba has appeared in many movies, including Wolf of Wall Street, Annie, Bad Education and Away We Go. She also had roles in TV shows such as the mini-series Waco and had recurring roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Dynasty, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife and The Leftovers. Her many guest appearances include Station 19, The Good Cop, Bull, Chicago PD and Elementary. She has appeared in Broadway shows such as Billy Elliot and The Boy from Oz, Mary Poppins, and off-Broadway in Our Lady of 121st Street, Bat Boy and A Mother, and A Daughter and A Gun.