Big patron of little theater

Sam Coleman

Dr. Sam Coleman has found a multitude of creative outlets at the Reno Little Theater.

Dr. Sam Coleman has found a multitude of creative outlets at the Reno Little Theater.

Photo By Cherie Louise Turner

Some cultural opportunities in Reno are too easy to miss. Especially for those new to town, expectations often don’t go beyond casinos and stunning mountain getaways. So it was for Dr. Sam Coleman when he and his wife moved here from California in 1999. Things changed for Coleman when he attended a performance at the Reno Little Theater.

Coleman worked as a computer scientist for Livermore National Laboratories for 25 years. When he retired, he became passionate about helping friends, family and community, so he signed up to volunteer for the theater after the performance.

“I’d always been interested in community theater,” says Coleman. “I just never thought I’d have the time to get involved. It took a little while for me to hear from them, but then I got a call and was asked to build flats. I didn’t want to admit at that time that I had no idea what a flat was. That was in January 2002.”

Coleman has volunteered for RLT steadily ever since. He is now not only knowledgeable about flats (4-feet-by-8-feet wood pieces used as walls for a theater set), he’s also adept in every part of a theater production. In the time he’s been with RLT, he has directed two plays, acted, run day-to-day operations, light and sound for productions, rebuilt the control area for the stage, maintained the website, sat on numerous committees including the board of directors and more.

“I’ve been involved in just about everything,” he says with a smile.

Coleman points out that this is one of the great things about a little theater. You can participate in and see everything that goes into creating a theatrical production. So, what work does he find most challenging and satisfying?

Coleman says he finds directing to be the most challenging and rewarding work.

“All you have is the script, and that is just the words. What appears on stage requires a lot of creativity. Actors work hard and contribute a lot to that creativity by adding to the character and forming the character, but each actor doesn’t have the broad picture of the play. What is the general play supposed to look like? What is the impact it should have? That is the job of the director—to create this thing. That’s the creating thing I most enjoy.”

Reno Little Theater is not only Nevada’s oldest theater company, having opened in 1935, it is also one of the oldest in the country. A nonprofit organization run completely by volunteers, it offers opportunities for people of all ages, experience and backgrounds to participate in all aspects of theater.

Not limited to any particular genre, RLT performs a wide variety of plays, including musicals, comedy, mystery, suspense and drama from playwrights who span the ages, from Shakespeare to Eve Ensler.

Over the years, RLT has put on more than 450 plays. Currently, it produces five plays each season (which runs from September to June) and performs them at Proctor R. Hug High School. That is likely to change, as RLT will soon embark on building its own theater behind its rehearsal space on East Arroyo Street just off Wells Avenue. Coleman, who chairs the committee planning the new theater, anticipates more performances and a wider range of offerings, including children’s programming.

“My goal is to be performing in that theater in the 2009 season,” Coleman says.

With a new venue and an expanding production schedule, RLT will be looking for more individuals to get involved. As Coleman can attest, all you need to go from novice to director, actor, stagehand or whatever you fancy is some time, dedication and passion for live performance—the theater provides the rest.