WWhen I sat down in June to herald the joyous news that local theatrical productions were once again taking the stage, I knew it would be a rocky road ahead. What I didn’t know was just how COVID-y things would still be at summer’s end, nor how major a role smoke would play.
Still, just as we Theater Scoopers would expect, performing arts troupes showed us nothing less than amazing dedication, versatility, enthusiasm and creativity, proving what incredible feats they are capable of.
Heading into the fall and winter, expect more of the same. This season’s lineup features beloved classics, brave new works, a much-needed dose of comedy, Broadway revues, and, of course, holiday chestnuts to bring you comfort and joy.
Though theater may feel a bit different from what you’re used to (go ahead and get comfortable with keeping your masks on and providing proof of vaccination and/or a negative COVID test), once the lights dim and the curtains lift, I promise you’ll feel like you’ve returned home after a long, difficult journey. Below is your guide (in alphabetical order by company) to what’s coming to the stage for the rest of 2021.
NOTE: At the time of this writing, several companies either did not have complete information about their upcoming shows or were still making adjustments to their schedules. Be sure to check companies’ websites for updated schedules and ticketing details.
Ageless Repertory Theatre
Reno’s one and only reader’s theater troupe is excited to return to the stage for its twice-monthly, free staged readings at Reno Little Theater. The long-anticipated season kicks off Oct. 1 and 2 with Neil Simon’s romantic comedy Barefoot in the Park, about a newlywed couple who are descended upon by the bride’s widowed mother and decide to fix her up with their upstairs neighbor.
Oct. 19 and 22 bring Weekend Comedy, a comedy in which two couples — one middle aged and one young — accidentally rent the same cottage for a three-day weekend.
That’s followed by A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester, Nov. 16 and 19, about a standup comic who is mugged, subsequently falls into a coma, and observes, as a disembodied spirit, his own life.
ART’s year wraps up with Christmas Belles, Dec. 14 and 17, about two desperate, 30-something women competing over the handsome pastor who’s just moved to town.
Performances take place on Tuesdays and Fridays at 1 p.m., with the exception of Barefoot in the Park, which will do a special Saturday performance.
A.V.A. Ballet Theatre
Sometimes a classic is exactly what you’re looking for. If that’s the case, look no further than A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s holiday show: The Nutcracker is returning in all its glory, with five performances Dec. 10-12. Featuring nine guest professionals, about a zillion mice and soldiers, Laura Jackson conducting the entire Reno Philharmonic, and, yes, a full audience. The warm fuzzies are baked right in.
The folks at Brüka have been waiting for Godot for, like, a really, really long time … 17 months, to be exact. Originally slated to run in spring 2020, Waiting for Godot is currently running through Oct. 3. (See Carly Sauvageau’s Sept. 7 preview).
The company is also launching its first-ever Brüka Book Club in September. The club, which will focus on books that shed light on plays and playwrights featured in the Brüka lineup, will meet via Zoom.
In fact, the company is keeping it virtual or hybrid for much of the year, including its annual Biggest Little Theatre & New Works Festival, which will accept submissions for original one-act plays and produce staged readings for five lucky playwrights. One performance will take place before a live audience, and a recording of that show will then be streamed virtually.
As for the holidays, well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news first: There will be no 2021 Buttcracker production.
I know. I took it hard too.
But I’m pretty excited about the good news: Brüka will reprise Michael Grimm’s three-cast-member adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which it first presented way back in 2003 (and which I reviewed, gulp, as a budding theater writer). The show, which runs for the first three weekends in December, has been slightly updated, but should be just as heartwarming as ever.
Finally, Brüka will roll out a series of hybrid theater classes for teens and adults this fall, with many conducted via Zoom in post-work hours, to enable more adults to participate.
Brüka is one of many companies opting to skip season tickets in order to remain flexible in the face of ongoing pandemic issues. It’s also one of many embracing vaccine mandates; guests will be expected to show proof of full vaccination at the door.
Carson City Ghost Walk
In addition to her duties as Brüka Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, Mary Bennett will be spending her weekends this fall in Carson City as her alternate persona, Madame Curry, who, along with her “Spirit Wranglers,” leads curious visitors on a historic, entertaining walking tour of our capital city’s most haunted locations and creepiest tales. Tours are 90 minutes each — wear comfy shoes!
As Executive Director Christopher Daniels explains, GLM is also taking a somewhat cautious approach to lining up its season, with short production runs and original works that don’t involve securing and maintaining rights if there’s a need to cancel. Fortunately, original works and a little bit of improvisation is this group’s specialty.
First up comes Estampas de México, a production by Ballet Folklorico Internacional in Reno, on stage Sept. 24 and 25. This folkloric cultural mosaic invites guests to experience the colors, flavors, dances, rhythms, and sounds of the many regions of Mexico.
GLM’s tradition of turning Halloween shows on their heads has earned a cult following, and now it’s baaaaaaaaack. Oct. 15 brings us Nightmare on Taylor Street: Wet and Screaming, a GLM original billed as “a horrifyingly irreverent spin on a popular franchise.” It should be a real scream, with hilarious improv from some of our area’s most talented comedic performers, as well as plenty of (fake) blood.
Let’s face it, we all need a few laughs these days. That’s why GLM also is returning to its stash of treasures and re-mounting its holiday production, The Golden Girls Live Holiday Special. With our favorite Florida foursome played by men in drag — including Daniels himself reprising his role as Blanche Devereaux and Bill Ware returning as Dorothy Zbornak — the show features two of the series’ holiday episodes, performed live and complete with 80s-era commercials, as well as a bonus, never-before-performed episode.
Note that starting with the run of Nightmare on Taylor Street, GLM also will be looking for proof of vaccination at the door, so plan accordingly.
Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts
All is right with our world now that the Pioneer Center can open its doors to a full house and full roster of performances. Next up is the 20th anniversary tour for Spanish flamenco guitarist Benise, who hits the stage Oct. 15.
The Reno Philharmonic’s next installment in its Classix series, Ravel’s Piano Concerto, Oct. 23-24. Then, the triumphant return of Broadway Comes to Reno, starting with The Biggest Little City’s premiere of the smash rap musical about our fallible founding fathers, Hamilton, Nov. 3-14.
Finally, the Pioneer caps off 2021 with the in-person return of a beloved family holiday tradition, the Reno Phil’s Spirit of the Season.
Importantly, the Pioneer Center’s COVID protocols also have been recently updated. Starting Oct. 1, all patrons ages 3 and up are required not only to wear a mask but also to prove either full vaccination status or a negative COVID-19 test. Details about testing requirements are provided on the website.
Reno Little Theater
RLT’s also taking a light-on-its-feet approach, with no season tickets being offered and show announcements coming on a show-by-show basis. Its tentative lineup, however, if all goes as planned, promises a lot of fun. Plus, its 2021 season has featured plays written exclusively by women, many of them BIPOC.
The company is kicking fall off with its first mainstage show since March 2020, making Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, running Oct. 1-17, a very big deal. It’s the story of a troupe of four progressive theater makers scrambling to devise an elementary school pageant that celebrates both the traditional American Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month at the same time, making this satire a hilarious exercise in wokeness and political correctness as the characters fall all over themselves trying not to offend anyone. The show will follow its run of live performances with streamed recordings for those still not ready to venture into a theater — a plan RLT hopes to continue into the future.
The company also will continue its once-a-month Sunday Jazz shows, presented by For the Love of Jazz. Plus, RLT is expanding its education program, now that it’s hired a second full-time education coordinator. This allows for more age-level-specific programming in its school break camps and theater classes, including its Storytelling R Way and Broadway R Way programs.
And in case you’re not yet sensing a trend, I’ll add that RLT also will be checking for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test at the door.
Sierra Nevada Ballet
Sierra Nevada Ballet’s much-beloved Peanutcracker: The Story in a Nutshell is getting back on a real stage, after having taken last year’s show completely virtual. The story, a shorter, 45-minute narrated version designed for families with younger children as a shorter, less cumbersome introduction to ballet, will appear in both Carson City and Reno, with each venue hosting one performance entirely for visiting schoolchildren. Its only two public performances will take place at the Carson City Community Center on Dec. 4.
TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada
The folks at TWNN are bringing back the class fall carnival. This fundraising event, taking place Oct. 22 and 23 at 315 Spokane St. in Reno, is designed and run entirely by TWNN’s very own young talents and will include carnival games, safe trick-or-treating, a bake sale, face painting, and, yes, a haunted house, which will feature characters from recent shows, but with a sinister, spooky twist. Dress up and get a chance to win the costume contest — prizes will be awarded. Admission is free, but donations are requested, and if you plan to take home any baked goods, bring some extra dough.
After that, TWNN shifts gears Elf: The Musical, running Dec. 10-12. It’s the Broadway version of this holiday classic, with a ginormous cast, outstanding music, and a hilarious script. Guests can get a sneak preview of the show by purchasing tickets to TWNN’s annual family-friendly holiday gala, taking place Dec. 4. Attendees not only will enjoy the show, but they’ll also get pictures with Santa, cookies and milk, Champagne or cider, a catered dinner, pre-show entertainment and a silent auction, all to benefit TWNN’s programs. VIP tables are available.
Restless Artists Theatre
The 2021 season at RAT is rightly named “The Lost Season.” Due to the pandemic closures, the company not only lost the opportunity to perform its dark, irreverent comedy Deer, which it had originally planned to present in April 2020, but its early plan to do The Thanksgiving Play was foiled when scheduling confusion led Reno Little Theater — arguably a better venue for such a play — to offer that one this fall. No matter, RAT is a resilient troupe that specializes in doing the unexpected. This extends to its approach to scheduling — the company has dropped Thursdays from its schedule in favor of early-evening Monday shows.
Then there’s its lineup. For example, its next show, Lauren Gunderson’s Emilie: La Marquise du Chȃtelet Defends Her Life Tonight, opening Oct. 29. It’s a historical, philosophical, rapid-fire piece about 18th century scientific genius Emilie du Chȃtelet, who spends the play ruminating on the age-old question: What’s more important, the head or the heart?
Next, finally, comes the long-awaited Deer, a black comedy about a couple of empty-nesters on a road trip that goes off the rails when they hit a deer and its bloody, lifeless corpse keeps haunting them. The show opens Dec. 3.
RAT also will be checking for vaccinations at the door.
Sierra School of Performing Arts
If you read my review of SSPA’s Annie, you know these poor folks just could not catch a break with this musical, from its pandemic-induced stoppage in 2020 to multiple positive COVID tests and outrageous smoke in 2021, which ultimately forced them to cancel four shows in their three-week run. The company had not only invested significant financial resources, but also labor and talent, so it’s no wonder they’re hesitant to go all in on planning another big show anytime soon.
But the show must go on, and SSPA is pivoting toward productions that can be halted or altered on a dime, starting with a revue featuring popular song-and-dance numbers from some of your favorite Broadway shows — the idea being that if one performer gets COVID, that number could be pulled without major impacts to the show overall. The show is still in development, with a title, dates, and venue still as yet undetermined, although they’re looking at a late November/early December start. Keep an eye on the website for updates.
Meanwhile, SSPA will continue to offer great theater classes for young people, including Creative Drama and Movement and Music, for kids ages 5-8, as well as an eight-week Voice and Performance class for ages 9-13.
University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theatre & Dance
After three semesters of Zoom and virtual performances standing in as the lackluster stepchild to real, live performance, the local university is dusting off its stages and going for the real thing once again.
First up: DaEun Jung: The principles and repertoire of Korean Dance, Sept. 24 in the Dance Theatre. At this free event, DeEun, a Korean classical/folk dancer who will complete a five-day residency at the university, will perform a solo recital, though students will have an opportunity to dance alongside her.
Then comes Little Women: The Broadway Musical, presented by UNR’s 3-year-old Musical Theatre program, which really had only just found its feet when the pandemic hit and sent it into retreat again. This show, running Oct. 8-16 at the Redfield Proscenium Theatre, tells the classic tale of the March sisters growing up during the Civil War, though it’s told primarily from Jo’s point of view. As program head Kasey Graham explains, it will be a fairly extravagant production as the company pulls out all the stops for its big return. Following the live performances, a video recording of the show will be available for streaming.
Next is the only Shakespeare show of the fall performing arts season: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nov. 4-13. Director Rosie Brownlow-Calkins says this comedy it truly contains everything — slapstick, beautiful poetry, interesting ideas about government and gender relations, fairies, royals, mischief and magic. It also relies enormously on imagination, is quite funny, and is the Bard’s shortest play, making it fun as well as accessible to all. It’ll take place at UNR’s Black Box Theatre.
CARSON CITY/CARSON VALLEY
Carson Valley Community Theatre
So maybe it’s fun to laugh at Texans these days. But let’s be honest, it’s fun just to have anything to laugh at. Either way, catch Rex’s Exes, the second play in a Texan trilogy about the misadventures of the Verdeen cousins of Sweetgum, Texas. This follow-up to Red Velvet Cake War, which CVIC brought to the capital city five years ago, has Gaynelle, Peaches, and Jimmie Wyvette on the brink of disaster again when cousin Peaches’ recently dead husband returns and brings about some unexpected revelations about certain romantic entanglements. The show runs Oct. 15-24 at the CVIC Hall in Minden.
The troupe is also looking at a way to put together a cabaret-style holiday revue in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Keep an eye on the website for updates.
Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company
The Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company is presenting Once Upon a Mattress, the comedic musical sendup of the classic fairytale “The Princess and the Pea.” It’s the story of a nasty queen who insists that only a princess who can pass her test can marry her wimpy son, Dauntless. All fail the queen’s impossible tasks until the hearty Princess Winnifred of the swamps swims the moat to win her man. Although the queen despises her, she still manages to win everyone else’s hearts, and they devise a plan to help Winnifred pass the queen’s ridiculous test: detecting a pea under 20 mattresses. It runs weekends at the Carson City Community Center, Nov. 5-14.
Wild Horse Productions
“Make way, make way”… Wild Horse Children’s Theatre is finally presenting Disney’s Moana, Jr., which it originally had slated for 2020. Fortunately, there seems to be no loss in appetite for children’s theater — Executive Producer Carol Scott says that going into auditions, more than 100 kids had already signed up to participate. As with all Disney Jr. shows, this one will be an abridged, shorter version of the Disney animated film, designed to appeal to younger children and, quite frankly, eliminate nonessential scenes to keep the action moving swiftly. Otherwise, though, expect the same great music by Lin-Manuel Miranda that you loved in the movie, and the same story: Moana and the demigod Maui set out to find and return the heart of Te Fiti. Look for Pacific Islander history and heritage woven into the production, including the costuming and choreography, as well as extraordinary-quality projections appearing on a video wall to serve as the backdrops. It runs two weekends starting Dec. 3.
Also, look for audition information for Rent, which Wild Horse Productions’ adult theater company, Wild Horse Stage Co., will present in spring. The company is seeking a diverse cast of all gender and racial identities and expressions, ages 18 and up. Check the website for updates.
Truckee Community Theater
Like many companies, TCT is eager to finally do the show it had planned for spring 2020 but was forced to put on indefinite hold: Steel Magnolias, the beloved Southern story set in a beauty salon about four Southern women in different phases of their lives who make for unlikely friends and support each other through some of life’s biggest events and catastrophes. It runs Nov. 5-14.
Then comes Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dec. 3-12, about two WWII veterans whose successful vaudeville act is derailed when, in pursuit of two lovely sisters, wind up at a Vermont lodge staging a big show as a way to help out an old Army pal.