When illusionist Kevin Jeffrey decided to take over the lease on the old TMCC theater in the Keystone Plaza Shopping Center, he found himself returning to one of his favorite mantras. “Everything old can be made new again,” Jeffrey said.
The building was once a cinema in the 1960s and later become the home theater of TMCC’s theater department but has sat vacant for the past few years. After completely remodeling the interior—including repairing damage from the elements and squatters alike—Jeffrey and his co-owner and stage partner, Caruso, remade the property as We The Theatre, a 199-seat live venue and the home of their new house show Magique for at least the next year.
“When we saw [the building] was for lease, and basically abandoned, we did some research, met the owners of the building and invited them to come to Reno—they’re from Portland,” Jeffrey said. “We told them what we wanted to do with the place, and they gave us a really generous deal for the building in exchange for us kind of getting it back on track.”
Jeffrey was born and raised in Reno and got his start performing street magic in town in the late ’80s and early ’90s. After a few breaks, he moved to Miami, where he and his silent partner (think Penn to his Teller) found success as stage illusionists for a Florida-based cruise line, performing in places like Mexico and Jamaica, as well as their own theater, for 10 years. In 2012, they made the move back to Reno to perform in casinos around the state—a revenue stream that disappeared when the Covid pandemic hit.
“We got the double hit—the casinos were gone, the cruise ships were gone too,” Jeffrey said. “So, we hit the road last year, and we spent nine months on the road, and we toured the country and kind of researched all the mom and pop theaters, comedy clubs, dinner theaters, little venues, magic theaters. And we wanted to see how other people were doing it with long-term resident theaters in a town that’s not known for tourists and, believe it or not, there’s a lot of them in this country.”
The renovated space now includes a front box office, atrium, and 199-seat theater with raised VIP seating. The venue’s new house show, Magique, which is a scaled down version of their long-running signature show arranged by award-winning choreographer Mistinguett. Magique, Jeffrey said, focuses more on bringing the large-scale production value inherent to their cruise and casino shows to the smaller stage of We The Theatre.
“We understood very quickly that people wanted to be entertained, not deceived,” Jeffrey said. And there’s a fine line in the middle that I like to think we’re on. We don’t do the most complicated, newest, magic tricks out on the market. We’re doing a lot of classic illusions, but the way we do it with the showgirls and the lighting and the lasers and the costumes, it makes it all fresh again.”
Magique will premiere this Saturday, Aug. 28, and run every Saturday night for at least a year, Jeffrey said. But the new operators also envision We The Theatre as a bigger part of the Reno theater scene—a clean, modern, local venue that’s available for rent for productions and event hosting alike. The space has already hosted private events like dance recitals and an aerial silks performance, and Jeffrey and Caruso hope to strengthen their ties with the theater community in the coming months.
“We really approached this wanting a venue that we could share with the community, and do our resident show once in a while, but mainly have it be a rental facility for all those people that are priced out of doing performing arts because you can’t afford to rent the big showrooms at the casinos,” Jeffrey said. “The Reno arts community has been very welcoming to us. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people—I’m sure there’s hundreds more that we’ll end up meeting.”
We The Theatre is located at 505 Keystone Ave. in Reno. Magique premieres this Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets (either general admission, front row or VIP box seating) are available at We the Theatre’s website.