UNO alum Aaron Butler shines in Omaha Community Playhouse’s ‘Clyde’s’ and beyond

Aaron Butler as Montrellus in Omaha Community Playhouse’s “Clyde’s.” Photo courtesy Christian Robertson

In his days after graduating from UNO, not much has changed for Aaron Quinton-Thomas Butler. That is, give or take a piece of paper.

“I don’t know, It’s hard trying to find a job with your superior education and your superior piece of paper,” Thomas said. “I don’t feel superior at all… I’ve been doing some films here and there. There’s been so many where it’s like, ‘I don’t care what the title of it is, just put me in it.’”

Thomas keeps himself busy, as it will say on the playbill, alternating between the screen and the stage. Most recently, he’s had a turn at the even-keeled Montrellus in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s staging of “Clyde’s”, a show where ex-convicts are given a second chance under the dictatorial thumb of the restaurant’s proprietor, the aforementioned Clyde (played by Kerri Forrester). Where people from all backgrounds, union man Jason (Josh Peyton), single mother Letita (Olivia Howard), and hot-headed Rafael (Angel Hernandez) all come together to try their shot at impressing Clyde with the perfect sandwich, among interpersonal strife and trying to make ends meet.

“I feel like I’m not comfortable when I’m not the only minority in the room,” Butler said. “I saw Clyde’s and I was like, ‘yes!’, I feel like I want more opportunities like that… I love little shows where it’s not a real huge cast, and it doesn’t feel like everyone in the group is battling to stay relevant. There’s only five people and we all have to be friends or the show’s gonna be bad. There’s been lots of love and joy.”

Just don’t ask him if he’s really that good at making sandwiches.

“You have no idea how many times I’ve been asked that,” Butler said. “Every night, I’d go into the atrium, and everybody’d be like ‘Oh, that’s so amazing! How did you do it? How good were those sandwiches?’… The specialty sandwich I made was tofu and provolone. Everyone that had a bite of it hated it.”

In his time at UNO, Butler was a staple of the stage in the basement of the Weber Fine Arts Building. Embodying characters from as far back as “Blood at the Root”, to his final role as King Duncan in “Macbeth”. In that, the process has changed time after time, but when you get Butler, you can’t take him entirely out of his characterization.

“[In developing Montrellus] I looked at all the older figures in my life,” Butler said. “Like my grandpa, who’s just like me but this old man version. He’s the life of the party, but he has a particular cadence in his voice. He makes everybody in the room like him. Like black guys who talk in a barbershop.”

In his future, Butler looks to the silver screen, for convenience’s sake, but there’ll always be a part of him that looks to keep himself on the stage.

“Sooner or later I want to get back on stage. I guess I’d want to switch between the two. I’ve just been doing so much stage that ‘give me more film, more and more’, but I don’t want to stay still.”