Backstage pass

After nearly 15 years as an orphaned theater company, Reno Little Theater finally has a new home and they’re ready to show it off

Reno Little Theater board members McKenzi Swinehart, Doug Mishler and Nettie Oliverio in the performance area of RLT’s new building.

Reno Little Theater board members McKenzi Swinehart, Doug Mishler and Nettie Oliverio in the performance area of RLT’s new building.


Reno Little Theater, 246 E. Arroyo St., hosts an open house on Saturday, April 10, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Free and open to the public. Reno Little Theater presents A Streetcar Named Desire April 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m., and April 11, 18, 25 at 2 p.m., at the Hug High School Theater, 2880 N. Sutro St. $12 adults, $10 seniors, and $6 students. For more information call 329-0661 or go to

Here’s a sneak peek inside Reno Little Theater’s new building. Founded in 1935 and currently in the midst of its 75th season, RLT is one of the oldest community theater companies west of the Mississippi.

But the company has been homeless since 1995, when it moved out of its former location on Sierra Street. (The old building is now rubble beneath Circus Circus.) In recent years, RLT has performed in various locations, bouncing around like an orphan before finding a loving—if somewhat awkward—adopted home in the Hug High School theater. Hug has hosted the vast majority of RLT productions the last five years or so.

But that’s about to change. Last October, RLT started building a new permanent home between Pueblo and Arroyo Streets, near Wells Avenue. And on Saturday, April 10, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., RLT will host an open house to show off the new theater. The building’s not quite finished, but the progress is visible, and it’s clear that RLT’s board of directors is just itching to show off the already impressive-looking building. The open house is also a fundraising event to help RLT stay on target to complete the new theater in advance of their next season.

The new theater will feature a large, high-ceilinged, versatile “black box” performance space, as well as a lobby, member’s lounge and an art gallery that will feature rotating exhibitions—sometimes exhibitions that connect directly to ongoing productions, sometimes not.

The building was designed by architect Lewis Zaumeyer, who many local theater fans are familiar with because of his multifaceted involvement at Brüka Theatre, as an actor and set designer. According to RLT board member and technical director Doug A. Mishler, Zaumeyer was a natural fit for the project because of his extensive experience in theater.

The exterior of the new Reno Little Theater as seen from Pueblo Street.


The open house will feature live music by Joel Ackerson of The Novelists and Tim Snider of Sol Jibe, as well as performances of scenes from RLT’s upcoming production of A Streetcar Named Desire. But the primary focus will be on exploring the new building, generating excitement about the future of RLT while celebrating the company’s rich history.

That history includes nearly 500 productions, so many local residents are actually RLT alumni, and Mishler and the other board members hope that many of these multi-generational alumni will come to the open house to check out the new digs.

“Community theater builds a family,” says Mishler. “This will be a family reunion.”

Wanted and desired

Mishler and fellow board member McKenzi Swinehart are co-directing A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 drama. Though the run of the show—April 9 through 25—will be at Hug, the scenes performed during the open house will be the first theatrical performances in the new building.

“It’s a classic show for a classic theater,” says Swinehart.

The production features a balance of experienced actors and theater newcomers, like Jamie Albright, who’s tackling one of the play’s iconic central roles, Blanche DuBois.

“She works hard,” says Swinehart when describing Albright’s newfound zeal for performance. “We welcome new folks. We want the community to feel like this is a place where they can express themselves.”

This is the set of Reno Little Theater’s <i>Streetcar Named Desire</i> in the company’s rehearsal space.

Photo By DANA N&Ouml;LLSCH

“It’s a great place,” says Mishler. “It’s safe, but a good environment to grow and take artistic chances. … I want RLT to take chances. When you’ve got this strong foundation, you can really fly.”

RLT’s new building will be an anchor to Reno’s burgeoning midtown scene. Midtown, roughly centered on the intersection of Mount Rose and Virginia Streets, is now giving California Avenue and the downtown-Truckee River corridor a run for the “arts district” title. Midtown can already boast of some of the Northern Nevada’s best art (Stremmel Gallery), restaurants (Lulou’s, Bangkok Cuisine) and bars (Chapel Tavern, Polo Lounge), as well as a couple of bookstores and clothing boutiques. There’s also Rainshadow Community Charter High School, which doubles as the Holland Project’s all-ages music venue, and Silver Peak, one of the region’s best brewpubs. Throw in the eclectic Wells Avenue and now the new Reno Little Theater, and you’ve got a neighborhood that’s tough to beat.