Seeing 2020 on stage

The RN&R’s complete guide to Northern Nevada’s Spring theater season

UNR’s production of <i>Antigone</i> features an all-female cast.

UNR’s production of Antigone features an all-female cast.

Photo/Eric Marks

Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘let’s party!'” It’s a time to come out of hibernation, put away your big coats, start new projects, and go play in those few extra hours of sunshine. It’s time to shake off winter’s funk, get out of the house, and do some new stuff.

It’s time for some theater, my friends, and there’s a fresh crop of it sprouting up all over Northern Nevada. Let’s party!

Wondrous and weird: Brüka Theatre

Brüka's spring shows examine the little known and poorly understood. It starts with Mary Zimmerman's Secret in the Wings, taking the stage March 20-April 4. Despite its whimsical name, beautiful imagery, humor and basis in a set of rarely told fairy tales, Wings is decidedly dark and definitely not for fairy-seeking children.

One of the most well-known and thought-provoking plays in contemporary theater is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, coming to Brüka April 24-May 16. Holly Natwora directs this one in traditional fashion, though with winks to vaudeville.

Vaudeville plays a part in Brüka's summer production, Side Show, a musical inspired by the true story of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, who became stars during the Depression as carnival sideshow freaks. Told almost entirely through song, the story follows their difficult journey. Playwright Bill Russell lends his support during opening weekend as host of a community workshop and talkback. Brüka's making a considerable investment in the show, transforming its space into a circus setting and giving it a six-week run, June 19-Aug. 1.

Even Nevada's history gets whimsical in the Brüka Theatre Children production of Nevada 150ish, which it's calling a “wild and abridged journey through the history of Nevada.” The company takes performances into the community through the Pioneer Performing Arts Youth Roster, exposing schoolchildren to live theater, though a few public performances will take place at Brüka (check website for dates).

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Over the top: Good Luck Macbeth

Big, splashy musicals are cropping up everywhere this spring, even in places you don't expect. Here's another one. Good Luck Macbeth presents Noises Off March 6-April 4. Often called “the funniest farce that's ever been written,” it's a play within a play about a touring theater troupe's production of a show called Nothing On, performed in three acts (dress rehearsal, opening performance and the last performance of its debilitating run). Completely over the top in its zaniness, it also promises an impressive rotating set—another bold undertaking by GLM in a season featuring an extensive roster of ambitious works.

Take, for example, its FOMO Series lineup (see “Face your fears,” A&C, Jan. 30), featuring an improvised play (The Unscripted Series in April and June); a foray into opera (June 5-7); a festival of tiny, original plays (June 12-14) and a “choose-your-own-adventure” play that explores poverty (Aug. 28-30).

Then you have The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, May 1-23, a comedic retelling of history featuring four badass female legends—Playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, former queen Marie Antoinette and Haitian rebel Marianne Angell—during the French Revolution.

GLM's Artown offering is another sort of retelling. Matt Cox's Puffs, July 10-Aug. 1, tells the story of seven years at a certain school of magic, where a certain famous wizard does some important things but does not live in the Hufflepuff house, which is what this story is really about. Though this is not the kids' version, it's fairly clean and might safely be labeled PG-13.

GLM's New Works Initiative strives to bring emerging plays and playwrights to Reno. Its summer offering (Aug. 14-22) is the U.S. premiere of Gina Stevensen's The Colony, which explores the eugenics movement in America and asks important questions about the regulation of women's bodies.

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Pushing the envelope: Restless Artists Theatre

Let it never be said that this little theater in Sparks doesn't try new things. RAT is noteworthy for its commitment to provocative shows few others take on.

Slowgirl, running through March 1, is a dramatic comedy about a teenage girl who escapes to the Costa Rican rainforest to hide out with her uncle after a horrific accident.

After that, things get weird. April 10-26, take a run at Deer, in which New York empty-nesters Ken and Cynthia head to the Poconos to reset their lives, but the trip goes off the rails when they hit a deer. The bloody, lifeless deer takes on a life of its own, talking the couple over the edge in this grisly black comedy.

From talking deer to talking toilets (now there's a line I never thought I'd write) … May 15-31, settle in for a sci-fi/mystery/comedy about another couple on the brink. The Feast actually contains no feasts. Matt and Anna's toilet is now talking to them, plumbing the depths of their relationship.

It Can't Happen Here takes the stage in June (check website for dates). This cautionary tale based on a Sinclair Lewis novel is haunting in its relevance as it asks the question, “Could America slide into fascism?”

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Creative conscience: University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theatre & Dance

Leave it to our top-tier research institution to present bold works that confront social issues and attempt innovative revisions. It starts with Antigone, Feb. 28-March 7. Thebes is divided, and with one brother killed on either side of the city's wall, Antigone must decide whether she'll follow the law or defy it. The story explores the theme of border politics, among others, and notably will feature an all-female cast.

Professor Adriano Cabral directs the musical theater program's production of Spring Awakening, on stage April 3-11. With music by Duncan Sheik, it follows a group of 19th century German students on their journey from adolescence to adulthood and explores issues of sexuality, assault and mental health.

Guest artists Murielle Elizéon and Tommy Noonan of North Carolina-based Culture Mill lend their talents in a spring collaboration with UNR dance students. Together, the artists and students will create a new dance work that will be performed April 23-25.

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Partnered up: TMCC Performing Arts

As our local community college continues its year in flux, putting together strategic partnerships that open up new performance venues and opportunities for theater students, its spring lineup demonstrates the power of creative problem solving.

One of the most exciting developments is a new partnership between the TMCC Concert Band and UNR's wind ensemble, which will perform together on March 4 at UNR's Nightingale Concert Hall.

Several years ago, TMCC brought Monty Python's Spamalot to life at its now-defunct Keystone performing arts center. Now, the staff and students breathe new life into that show by teaming up with Reno High School's Jump Start dual-credit program to enable high schoolers to produce the show with the help of TMCC's wonderful costumes, set pieces and talent. That show takes the stage at Reno High April 17-24.

Theater and dance students will collaborate this spring on The Roaring (20)20s: A Dance Theater Experience, on stage April 30-May 2 on the Dandini campus, Red Mountain 240, a 50-seat space that the performing arts crew is rebranding as The Performance Lab. It will feature choreography from the 1920s and vaudevillian comedic theater woven throughout.

The school year wraps up with a concert band performance (May 5), concert choir show (May 6) and student choreography showcase (May 14).

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The gamut: Reno Little Theater

Whatever you're in the mood for, it's likely Reno Little Theater has it this spring and summer. A classic comedy? A thought-provoking drama? Big musical? Jazz show? Ballet? Check.

In RLT's recently renovated proscenium-style theater, look for The Imaginary Invalid, March 13-29. Based on Moliere's original farce and adapted by Milles Malleson, it's the hilarious story of a hypochondriac who complains of a million imaginary illnesses and racks up an astronomical tally of medical bills. The solution? Marry off his daughter to a doctor and get free medical care.

Explore The Quality of Life June 5-21, in which a couple whose home was destroyed in a California wildfire now lives in a yurt. The husband, who has terminal cancer, considers ending his life, and the pair are determined to live every day to the fullest until he does, which is at odds with visiting cousins' philosophy. It's dark subject matter but unexpectedly uplifting.

RLT ends its season with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, its Artown offering, July 9-Aug. 2. This musical comedy about middle schoolers facing off in a spelling bee will include audience interaction and a second youth cast from area high schools (watch website for youth cast performance dates).

Intermingled with RLT's productions are monthly Sunday jazz shows presented by For the Love of Jazz (March 15, April 12, May 17, June 7 and July 12); Sierra Nevada Ballet's Brews, Brats & Ballet on April 4-5; and monthly performances by Ageless Repertory Theater (see next page).

TWNN is kicking off the year, after repeated requests from the company and audiences, with <i<The Addams Family Musical</i>.


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Read all about it: Ageless Repertory Theatre

The local readers' theater presents two free (donations requested) performances each month—Tuesday and Friday afternoons—at Reno Little Theater. The spring and summer lineup starts with A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester, March 31 and April 3, about a standup comic who is mugged and, while in a coma, receives hospital visits from his wife and girlfriend and, as a disembodied spirit, continues offering up joking commentary on his life.

Next is Weekend Comedy, April 21 and 24, in which two couples must reluctantly share the same vacation cabin.

On May 12 and 15, catch James Sherman's Relatively Close, about three sisters who converge at their childhood home to decide what to do with it.

ART takes a break each June, but it will return for an Artown production, Moon Over Buffalo, July 14 and 17, a Ken Ludwig show about two fading Hollywood stars who may have one last shot at stardom, but things go hilariously, horribly wrong.

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The bee team: Carson Valley Community Theatre

Can't wait for the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at RLT this summer? Take a gorgeous drive to Minden between March 20 and 29 for the CVCT version! The company received a grant from Douglas County for the show, which will include students from the Douglas High School theater department and its drama teacher, Amy Sando, as director.

From the bee to the Bea … A Night With Bea Arthur, that is, in a standup impersonation performance April 24 and 25.

CVCT opens its Artown show, Nunsense II: The Second Coming, on July 17. The sequel to the popular Nunsense story, this hilarious musical spoof brings the same five nuns back to Mt. Saint Helen's School for a thank-you program for their supporters.

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They’re creepy and they’re kooky: TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada/p>

With new executive and artistic director Elisha Harris at the helm and finally its very own space at 315 Spokane St. in Reno, TWNN is kicking off the year, after repeated requests from the company and audiences, with The Addams Family Musical, March 6-15. It features a cast totaling more than 50 in a sort of “guess who's coming to dinner” story in which Wednesday falls in love and brings home her “normal” boyfriend and his family.

Next comes Ellen Hopkins' Crank. The local author's novel was adapted for the stage and produced by TWNN in 2014, and since then Hopkins' has updated the text about an addicted teen to remain current. The new show runs April 17-26, with talkbacks to discuss issues related to the story.

TWNN's Artown offering is The Wizard of Oz throughout July, with two shows at the Atlantis to give them room to spread out.

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Kids of all Ages: Wild Horse Productions

Carson City's youth theater company has increasingly earned a reputation for musicals with high production quality, and it's adding to its repertoire. The company is resurrecting its Wild Horse Stage Company to focus on teen and young adult productions with edgier, more provocative content. Its first production, March 20-29, is Heathers: The Musical, based on the 1988 cult film.

Wild Horse Children's Theatre is going mad with Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr., running for two weekends starting April 24. A double cast totaling roughly 80 kids brings the Disney classic to life, backed by eye-popping animated projections that will make the fall down the rabbit hole visually stunning. Look for an Oz-like shift from monotone to color when Alice enters Wonderland, as well as a special sensory-friendly performance on May 2 that's geared toward families with children who have sensory disorders.

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Hard knocks: Sierra School of Performing Arts

SSPA is gearing up for its big summer outdoor production, the classic musical Annie, playing at Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater Aug. 14-28, featuring a live orchestra, choreography by Amanda Flocchini and vocal direction by Terry Thompson. It's not too late to audition for this one—try out March 28-April 1.

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Royal treatment: Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company

WNMTC opens its 30th anniversary season with Once Upon a Mattress at the Carson City Community Center May 8-17. This hilarious twist on the fairytale “The Princess and the Pea” is the story of how a nasty queen administers tests to find her wimpy son, Dauntless, a new wife. All fail until the hearty Princess Winnifred takes her turn. It's accompanied by the music of Mary Rodgers and a full, professional orchestra.

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Step right up: Eldorado Resort Casino

In keeping with the razzle-dazzle often found at the Eldorado comes a vintage circus experience from the producers of The Illusionists. Circus 1903 offers thrilling daredevil acts designed to transport audiences to the Golden Age of Circus, complete with contortionists, trapeze artists, high-wire performers, jugglers, elephant acts, knife throwers and more.

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Mixed Bag: Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts

With over a dozen shows slated between now and June, the Pioneer offers something for everyone. Here are some highlights:

The Broadway Comes to Reno series presents Bandstand, March 27-29. Set in 1945, it's the story of Private First Class Donny Novitski, a singer/songwriter who returns home from war, starts a band and enters a national talent competition.

April 8-12, catch another story about young men and an unexpected rise to fame: Jersey Boys, the behind-the-scenes story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Next, jet on over to the City of Lights for An American in Paris, May 15-17. Gershwin tunes set the mood for this tale of an expat in Paris who falls in love with an in-demand Parisian shop girl.

Pie always fixes things, in life and in Waitress, the uplifting musical based on the quirky film about Jenna, a young woman in a rocky marriage who gets a shot at a new life, on stage May 29-31.

Intermingled with the Broadway Comes to Reno schedule are numerous touring acts as well as locally produced shows, including:

The Reno Philharmonic's Scheherazade: March 21 and 22

AVA Ballet Theatre's The Little Mermaid: April 18 and 19

The Reno Philharmonic's Ode to Joy, Beethoven's Final Bow: April 25 and 26

The Reno Philharmonic's Disney in Concert: June 7

For the full lineup, visit the website.

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