It felt like it would never happen. As we lived through phase after phase of the pandemic, through capacity limits and cautious re-openings of businesses in a wide variety of industries, local performing arts companies stood on the sidelines, waving their arms and crying, “Hey, don’t forget about us!” And largely, they feared that had happened.
But with nary a word of notice and with almost no fanfare, local stages were granted permission to open in June. Though most are taking their time, dipping their toes in slowly to test the post-pandemic waters, and some are still video-streaming for (fingers crossed) what may be the last time, I can happily report that stages are set and the performing arts are back, baby!
Here’s a roundup of what you have to look forward to this summer from local theater, dance and music companies. Be sure to check companies’ websites for schedule and ticketing details.
One of our region’s leading ballet troupes, A.V.A. has the distinction of being one of the only performing arts companies in Northern Nevada that performed indoors before live audiences during the pandemic closures. Renowned for offering the preeminent production of The Nutcracker each holiday season, A.V.A. managed to stage a performance at The Pioneer Center before an audience of just 50 lucky patrons, and its production of The Little Mermaid in early May for a crowd of 250.
Now that all capacity limits and social distancing rules have been lifted, the company can happily resume playing to a full house, starting with its Vortex: The Ballet That Rocks, July 16-17 at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch. A locals’ favorite, Vortex consists of a series of original, classical-style ballet dances set to contemporary music by popular rock artists, featuring guest dancers Justin Hughes and Madeline Bay of Ballet Idaho. And the best part? It’s totally free, thanks to generous donations from several charitable foundations.
Summer concludes for A.V.A. with a classical ballet, Sleeping Beauty, at The Pioneer Center, Sept. 18-19. It contains what many professionals consider the most difficult piece of dance in all of ballet: the Rose Adagio. It’s a perilous moment in which Aurora’s four suitors each hand her a rose, twirling her as she remains en pointe on one foot for the duration — a test of classical technique to be sure. The show will also feature live orchestration by the Reno Philharmonic, with conductor Jason Altieri, and even wire work that will help our fairy to fly.
Hesitant to dive in head first, the team at Brüka is starting off slowly, with no Artown offerings. Instead, it will present its 11th annual summer youth intensive for kids, an original theater-creation workshop for ages 12-18.
The company’s new podcast, Brüka Bridge, is still offering its listening plays, including its rendition of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.
Brüka will launch its new season in mid-September with its long-awaited, previously planned production of Waiting for Godot.
In the meantime, donations still could help. What better way to offer them than through a fun night out? On June 24 at 7:30 p.m., check out Shakespeare Trivia Night at Black Rabbit Mead Co., with proceeds benefiting Brüka Theatre.
The folks at GLM in Midtown were also surprised to be allowed a summer opening, and though they will be expediting the launch of their next full season — typically a calendar-year season, it will actually start this fall — they do plan to test the waters this summer.
The season kicks off with a GLM original, a new piece it’s calling GLM’s Big Coming Out Show, July 23-24. In concert with that weekend’s Pride festival, the show will feature GLM Executive Director Christopher Daniels as his beloved alter ego, Miss Ginger Devine. Daniels describes it as, “We all endured a pandemic. Now let’s have a party.” To satisfy Ginger’s desire for “a buffet of artistic delights,” this variety show will feature spoken-word, music, clown work, improvisation and scripted theater pieces.
The theater will host Keely Cobb’s dance troupe Around the Stage in Splattered, a full-length work exploring the “emotional and unpredictable year within a pandemic,” July 30-31. That’s followed by Mariano Lemus’ Latinx theater company, Sangre Latina Theater, which will present a Spanish-language production of Ni Princesas, Ni Esclavas, a play about the journey of three women that comments on traditional gendered stereotypes and roles.
Finally, GLM’s New Works Initiatives program, which recently launched the newly published Monessan Falls, will present Gina Stevenson’s The Colony, the company’s first full-length theatrical run of 2021, starting Aug. 7.
Daniels adds that GLM took the last year to restructure the theater and make it more approachable to some who may have felt alienated from it. This includes the removal of the first rows of seating in exchange for cabaret-style table seating. Also new this season is a commitment to a collaborative, more-inclusive leadership model that welcomes a variety of experiences and backgrounds.
NGMC will present its (hopefully) last livestreaming event, A Blast of Fresh Air: A Concert to Blow Away the COVID Blues, on June 25 via YouTube. The concert will feature classics intended to transport you back to happier, more carefree times, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “We Will Rock You.” Access to the stream is free, but donations are encouraged.
“It’s been such a whirlwind as we’re working to get ready to reopen,” says RLT Executive Director Melissa Taylor. “It seems like it happened overnight that it was suddenly a possibility again, and our movement is like a freight train right now.”
Caught off guard as they were, the RLT team is thrilled to be moving away from virtual performances and into real-life ones. Taylor adds that the last year has given them a great opportunity to explore ways to be a more inclusive, diverse company, both in terms of the shows they select and in the composition of their casts, crews and leadership.
The summer kicked off June 13 with the return of For the Love of Jazz in RLT’s Sunday Jazz series, the theater’s first live show in 16 months. The series will include a new show on one Sunday evening every month.
The Broadway Our Way program for young people will culminate with what may be RLT’s final virtual show, Complaint Department & Lemonade, June 18-19, for a suggested donation of $10. Then RLT will present a full six weeks of week-long, in-person summer camps for kids ages 6-12.
For Artown, RLT presents the Paa Kow Ghanaian Drum Clinic, sponsored by For the Love of Jazz, on July 25 from 4-5 p.m. This free, in-person event features Paa Kow, who is often called Ghana’s most artistic drummer, leading a drumming clinic in his unique Afro-fusion sound (no livestreaming offered).
Then comes the The ABC Show, RLT’s own first actual piece of theater onstage for 2021, July 28-30. “The ABC Show is covering some of our many favorite (and not so favorite) experiences from the last year, one letter at a time,” Taylor said. It will feature artists from the winning team at last year’s Improv Olympics at Goodluck Macbeth.
One of Reno’s premier ballet companies, SNB is making up for lost time with its production of Giselle, one of the world’s most beloved ballets, which tells the story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a grand duke, dies of a broken heart and is transformed into a spirit who protects her love from evil spirits. It will take the stage at three separate locations during July: Reno Little Theater July 17 as part of RLT’s Brew, Brats & Ballet series; Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center on July 23; and The Warren Trepp Amphitheatre at Sand Harbor on July 26 as part of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s Monday night Showcase Series.
Also exciting is Giselle’s cast, which includes Alejandro Gonzales and DaYoung Jung from Oklahoma City Ballet; San Francisco-based Ananda Bena-Weber; Domingo Rubio, whose work appears in the films Save the Last Dance and The Company; and a cast of more than 30 dancers.
Close on Giselle’s heels is Dancing on the Plaza, a free Artown event offer a mixed program of original dance works ranging from classical to contemporary, including performance by tap superstar Sam Weber and music by Eric Andersen, Zach Terran and Dallas Smith.
We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, and the people at TWNN are looking to instill a sense of joy again with their Artown production of The Wizard of Oz. Presented in the troupe’s new location on Spokane Street in Reno, July 16-Aug. 1, it features the directorial talents of vocalist Lily Baran and a large cast of talented young people with great singing chops.
Families may also be interested in signing up kids ages 5-15 for TWNN’s week-long summer camps, which are headed up by local professionals who teach the fundamentals of theater, culminating in a final production at the end of each week.
Prefer to take your show on the road? Check out Weird Reno, presented by Kalin & Jinger, the magical duo behind Reno’s Magic Underground. This historic walking tour of Downtown Reno takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through summer. It showcases The Biggest Little City’s offbeat history, interactive magic from your hosts and plenty of fun as you meet at the Reno Renaissance Downtown Hotel and follow the Truckee River through town on a 75-minute, socially distanced tour.
RAT is calling 2021 its Lost Season, for obvious reasons. Executive Director Doug Mishler is fortunate to own the company’s theater space on 20th Street in Downtown Sparks, meaning he had the luxury of being able to make improvements to the space while it remained closed. RAT will reopen this summer with remodeled, socially distanced seating, as well as new daily cleaning practices, upgraded air filtration and touchless bathroom fixtures. The company will also be piloting a new weekend performance schedule, skipping Thursday performances in exchange for earlier Monday shows.
The season will kick off with Edward Albee’s Occupant, running July 5-12. It features a hypothetical interview of 20th century sculptor Louise Nevelson as she recounts her experience growing up a Jew in Russia and immigrating to the United States, her failed marriage, her rise to fame as an artist and her eventual death. Despite its themes, Mishler says, it contains several humorous moments.
Then Aug. 20-30 brings The Arsonists to RAT. This Southern Gothic tale set in the Florida Everglades is based on a true story of a father-daughter pair of arsonists — part of a family “business” that goes back generations. It’s played by real father-daughter duo Derek and Hannah Sullivan.
SSPA was one of the first local theater companies to offer some in-person theater instruction during even the darkest days of pandemic shutdowns, giving kids the opportunity to participate in live performance when they needed it most. Now, the team at SSPA is excited to welcome a full week-long, in-person, Hamilton-themed musical theater camp for kids ages 9-14 the week of June 21-25.
SSPA’s long-awaited production of Annie, which was originally slated for summer 2020, will finally take the stage at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch August 13-28. Despite having to find a new musical director — UNR instructor C.J. Greer — and recast its title role (thanks to changes wrought by puberty), not to mention a few others, the production of this classic Broadway musical is shaping up to be impressive. The 40-person cast is directed by Adam Cates, who’s back in Reno after a 12-year career on Broadway; features set design by RLT’s own Chad Sweet; and includes knockout vocals by Abby Wagner as Annie and longtime Reno actor Amy Ginder as Miss Hannigan.
CARSON CITY & CARSON VALLEY
CVCT is kicking off its theatrical return with a summer cabaret, Beautiful Noise: Music That Moves Us. Under the direction of Ann Delahay, this musical revue was created with the healing powers of music in mind. It helps us express emotions, reaffirm our faith, lift us up, fill us with joy and remind us of love and happy memories — and after the year we’ve all had, who couldn’t use that? This collection of pieces features some well-known Broadway hits as well as gospel and other genres. It runs July 16-25 at the Carson Valley Improvement Club (CVIC) Hall in Minden.
Northern Nevada’s premiere musical theater company returns to the stage with a musical revue Aug. 27-29. Home Again! features favorite Broadway selections from Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, The Prom, Something Rotten, Wicked, Mamma Mia! and more. As Producer/Director Stephanie Arrigotti explains, “We are featuring those who have had leading roles in previous productions in singing knock-your-socks-off solos from multiple Broadway shows, including those that were playing on Broadway when it needed to shut down.” It will also feature numbers by the WNMTC dance troupe and accompaniment by the professional WNMTC orchestra.
Wild Horse Children’s Theater has been waiting a year to go down the rabbit hole with a show they’d planned for last spring, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, Jr. The troupe lost half of its cast from last year (dangit, kids, stop growing!), but the company is back in action with two performances of this fantasy, Aug. 1-2 at Brewery Arts Center’s Performance Hall Outdoor Stage. Fear not a visit with your young children; this abridged, child-friendly version runs only about an hour.
The next week, Wild Horse Stage Company presents another year-late production, Heathers, The Musical, August 5-8 at the Carson City Community Center’s Bob Boldrick Theater. This cast managed to remain intact, despite college and other constraints, determined as they were to execute the show they’d begun last year.
Maybe it’s the lowered attention span we fondly call “pandemic brain,” or just a need for happy, lighthearted shows after a crappy year, but this is the summer of abridged versions and revues. Add LTSF to that list. Running July 17-Aug. 22 at Sand Harbor is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), in which three ambitious actors attempt (hilariously) to cram the Bard’s entire canon of works (including the sonnets!) into a two-hour show. In case a year of lockdowns has you struggling to focus, you have nothing to worry about — even non-Shakespeare fans will appreciate this one.
On Shakespeare’s Monday nights off, LTSF will offer its Showcase Series, featuring a collection of dance and musical acts, including the Reno Philharmonic, Reno Jazz Orchestra and Mumbo Gumbo.