Live on the lawn

A performance potpourri offers dance, music and drama outside the Lear Theater

See AREA-51 Dance Theatre and many other performers at Live at the Lear.

See AREA-51 Dance Theatre and many other performers at Live at the Lear.

If you drive past the east lawn of the Lear Theater next week, you might see a flock of folks kicking back under the trees along the Truckee River, drinking Silver Peak microbrews and catching some music or modern dance. Nope, it’s not July, and you haven’t missed the start of Reno’s Artown festival. It’s Live at the Lear: eight nights of free drama, music and other artistic performances June 12-22. The series is designed to build awareness of efforts to renovate the theater into a thriving venue for the performing arts."[The Lear] has been kind of dormant while we’ve been raising the money to refurbish it,” says Erin Anderson, program director for the Theater Coalition. “Putting a temporary stage on the lawn is an attempt to say, on behalf of artists and supporters, that this is going to be a great place.”

Anderson says she hopes more people will be aware of the event now that it’s in its second year.

“Last year’s turnout was definitely a first-year sort of turnout,” she says. “A lot of people came by just to see what was going on. This year, we hope people will remember. We’re having gorgeous weather, and everybody’s really excited to get outside.”

Though the outdoor events are free, two indoor fund-raising events will be held. Shanda Lear and guest entertainers Ken Levine, Brass Knuckles Band and Tumbleweed Tex will perform June 15. On June 22, classical pianist Allan Fuller will premiere his concert “Classically Romantic” before he heads off to perform in Vienna.

About $3.7 million is still needed to fund the renovation of the Lear Theater, which will begin this fall. Seating 435 people, the Lear will hold about one-third of the capacity of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.

“The feeling of the space will be intimate—as special as it was intended to be,” Anderson says. “It’s a historic building that was built to be a special place. It’s got a lot of character. Even now, to sit up in the balcony and look down, you can have a sense that—oh my gosh!—it’s going to be breathtaking.”

Besides Live at the Lear, events at the Lear Theater this summer will include a talk with Marcel Marceau—yes, a talk with the famed mime—July 20 during Artown.

“He’s going to talk," Anderson says. "How funny that will be. He’ll give a talk on his work and his life. That’ll be real special, something you won’t want to miss."