Doane alumni, students and staff pose at Elkhorn North High School, where they participated in the Elkhorn Community Theatre's production of "Beauty and the Beast."
John Celesky, Bill Pulte '99, Boston Reid '23, Jessica Pulte '00, Paige Pulte '25, Shelby Fischman '20 and Autumn Galloway '21 (l-r) pose together after their final production of "Beauty and the Beast" with the Elkhorn Community Theatre. All seven either attended or currently attend Doane and held major roles both on and off the stage of the musical.

Jessica Pulte ‘00 has been involved in the Elkhorn Community Theatre since 2002, and a member of the board since 2004. Pulte is one of Doane’s admissions counselors, focused on the Omaha metro.

She co-directed the theatre’s recent production, Beauty and the Beast, which showcased the skills of her spouse, Bill Pulte ‘99, in his first on-stage role as Maurice, and her daughter, Paige Pulte ‘25, who choreographed the musical.

In fact, of the more than 65 members of the cast, crew and pit — seven are Doane Tigers.

“Actually, I’m slightly using it as a recruitment tool, if I’m going to be honest,” Jessica said. “All these kids, these middle and high school kids that are adoring Bill and John [Celesky] and Boston [Reid ‘23], and I’m like, you know where they went to school?”

Celesky, who played the titular role as the Beast, attended Doane for two years until 2020, then switched gears to barber school. Reid graduates in December 2022. He held a major role as well, as the production’s music director.

Hyping up Doane’s theatre program might be part of her job, but it’s also a way to give back to the program that she loved as a student. As a mom, she’s also highly impressed at how far Doane’s theatre program has come since then.

Take Paige for example, who started her first year at the university focused on acting. But Doane’s theatre faculty and her peers encouraged her to become involved in all aspects of a production, not just the parts seen on stage. In the past year, she’s explored — and found a love for — light design, house management and stage management.

That exploration helps develop students into well-rounded professionals, and is just one of the reasons so many Doane theatre graduates find success on and off the stage.

And another reason? The mentorship and friendships made through the department among students, faculty and staff. In fact, mentoring Paige is what led Reid, a graduate of Omaha’s Burke High School, to be involved in the Elkhorn production.

“He has really taken my daughter under his wing in the theatre department,” Jessica said. “She [Paige] was saying, ‘hey, my mom’s going to be directing a show.’”

And Reid was on board like that, hired as the production’s music director. As part of the directing team, he and Paige began working on the production starting in April with auditions, even as they completed their spring semester.

It’s an exciting change to have so many Doane connections in the Elkhorn productions — Jessica co-directed Beauty and the Beast with Jack O’Connell, a Midland grad, and a little rivalry has started. But it wasn’t until a few years back that she began to see more Doane faces in the cast and crew.

“Two years ago, actually, I was backstage as an actor and I saw a green coat run by,” she said, and thought, ‘hey, wait a minute — I have a green coat just like that!’

Turns out there wasn’t one, but three Chi Delts involved in the community theatre — Jessica, Shelby Fischman ‘20 and Autumn Galloway ‘21. Fischman was assistant stage manager in the recent production and Galloway ran the soundboard.

“And then a bromance kind of happened between John [Celesky] and my husband, because they’re both APEs,” Jessica said.

Several other Alpha Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers even came to the production, to snap some photos with the two and give congratulations for stellar performances. Jessica also recognized many other Tigers in the audience throughout the show, which ran June 17-19 and 24-26.

“It’s so cool, because we talk about the relationships you build at Doane,” she said, as part of her role as an admissions counselor. “But it really is like that, you do build these lifelong friendships and I love to be able to show that with our productions.”