Spring on stage

Here’s a look at what’s happening on theater stages around town over the next few months

Jada Wilson plays “Beneatha Younger,” and Justin Tanks is “Walter Younger” in UNR’s production of <i>A Raisin in the Sun</i>.

Jada Wilson plays “Beneatha Younger,” and Justin Tanks is “Walter Younger” in UNR’s production of A Raisin in the Sun.

Photo/Eric Marks

This theater guide marks major changes in the Reno arts scene. First, take note of its length. See how it’s longer? Since we began doing these theater guides eight years ago (holy cow, eight years?), we’ve gotten to the point where we can’t fit a season’s worth of theater into a 1,200-word story. There’s just too much theater. Cool, right? So we’ve expanded the guide to include even more about the area’s upcoming theatrical performances, including details about the long-overlooked casino-resort productions.

Also, this guide now covers events only through May. There are so many productions taking place in spring and summer that we will add a special summer theater guide to the May roster.

Now, let’s see what spring has in store.

Voice for change: Brüka Theatre

Immediately, it’s clear that as deep political and social divides emerge in this election year, theater companies are taking the opportunity to tell stories of people who have spoken their truth, despite the price. Brüka Theatre has chosen “Raise Your Voice” as this season’s theme and opened 2016 with the epitomizing show: The Diary of Anne Frank, with an extended run that ends Feb. 19.

Running March 4-20 is Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things, about a university student who submits to making radical changes to his own appearance and lifestyle to please his latest love interest, a woman with her own twisted agenda.

On March 12, Brüka opens its annual Theater for Children with Snow-White and Rose-Red, a heartwarming tale about two girls who repeatedly show kindness and are rewarded for it. The play will also be part of the Pioneer Youth Program and will tour schools and libraries throughout spring and summer.

On April 15, Brüka laughs in the face of tax day by opening Death Trap, Ira Levin’s hilariously wicked whodunit that will keep audiences laughing for its long six-week run.

Brüka’s prom returns May 21 in time for the WillPower 2016 festival celebrating the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth and death. This Shakespearean ball-themed prom will be an evening of dancing, fundraising, and pictures, without the high school misery.

Brüka’s involvement in WillPower also extends to its April and May performances of Lamb’s Tales, a series of family-friendly performances of Shakespearean short stories written by Charles and Mary Lamb in easier-to-understand-than-Shakespearean English, performed as readers’ theater.

Tickets and information: www.bruka.org

In another’s shoes: TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada

In its 10th anniversary season, TheatreWorks is not only exploring the idea of speaking out but also that of cultural identity.

First, there is perhaps no other story more widely known for both than Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which TWNN will present March 25-April 3. Featured during the run will be an expert-led talk back and discussion about tolerance (details yet to be released).

In late May comes Walk Two Moons, based on the Newbery Medal-winning novel for young people by Sharon Creech. Complementing the ideas in Mockingbird, this is a story about grief, love, death, cultural identity, and how you can’t judge a man until you’ve “walked two moons” in his moccasins.

Tickets and information: www.twnn.org

Better life and death: UNR Department of Theatre and Dance

The university’s first production of the year is a seminal piece for the company and one of the most important of the 20th century—Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, about a black family facing racial discrimination in an all-white Chicago suburb. It’s the company’s first time with a primarily African-American cast, doing a play that is not known to have been produced in Reno before, according to department chair Rob Gander. It runs March 4-12.

April 21-23 brings student-directed one-acts, with A and B programs consisting entirely of plays running 10 minutes or less, some funny and some poignant, that take place in a funeral home. Watch for a couple of student-written plays among the professional works.

The department’s annual spring dance concert brings guest choreographer Kathleen Hermesdorf, professor at UC Berkeley and artistic director of ALTERNATIVA dance company in San Francisco. Concert dates are April 28-30.

Tickets and information:


Breaking down walls: Reno Little Theater

Radium Girls is Reno Little Theater’s production about women, suffering at the hands of their employer, who courageously spoke out and took the employer to court. (See review in the Feb. 11 issue.) That show wraps up this weekend.

Next comes the second show in RLT’s new Latino-driven La Gente series, Roosters, by Milcha Sanchez Scott. It’s a family drama about a young man who’s left to run the family farm and awaits the return of his father from jail. Performed entirely in English, this nationally recognized show runs March 8-13.

Running April 1-24 is Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-nominee Lee Blessing’s Fortinbras, a contemporary, comedic, wholly imagined sequel to Hamlet in which Fortinbras, the only character left at the end of the Shakespeare tragedy, takes over as king but is haunted by the ghosts of the departed. Blessing himself will attend opening weekend.

Next, May 13-29, is William Missouri Downs’ The Exit Interview. Bertolt Brecht scholar Dick Fig has been terminated from his position as a university professor, and now he is giving his exit interview. This dark comedy employs the true Brechtian style of breaking the fourth wall and plunging into social commentary.

Tickets and information:


Postwar punk: TMCC Performing Arts

Green Day wrote its 2004 album American Idiot as a response to the war in Iraq and the band members’ fears about what America was becoming under George W. Bush’s presidency. The album was turned into a Tony-winning Broadway musical in the style of a punk rock opera by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer—one full of searing commentary on the disillusionment of post-September 11 life. TMCC Performing Arts is the first company in Nevada to present this show, with choreography by Mig O’Hara and musical direction by Ted Owens. The show runs April 8-24 and features a live stage band and a cast of 21.

Tickets and information: http://www.tmcc.edu/vparts/ or www.tmcc.edu/puso/.

Chasing Dreams: Goodluck Macbeth

On stage at Goodluck Macbeth through Feb. 27 is Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, with special guest director Eric Damon Smith. In this unsettling sci-fi thriller, a young detective uncovers a virtual world in which anyone can indulge their darkest desires, raising the question of whether the virtual world can, or even should, be policed.

Speaking of the dangers of hedonism and moral corruption in America, GLM’s next offering is Eric Bogosian’s Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, running March 17-26. Performed as a series of monologues by several actors, the production is being overseen by Joel Lippert but technically speaking it is directed by the actors themselves.

The company’s contribution to WillPower is a production of King Lear that will be directed by Joe Atack. The production looks to be monumental in its scale. Drawing inspiration from the history of Ivan the Terrible and 16th century Russia, the theater will be converted to a dark, cavernous winter wasteland that provides a truly immersive experience for audiences, complete with snow and wintry temperatures, lectures and discussions on the time period, visual displays focusing on 16th century Russia and authentic period costuming. King Lear will run April 22-May 21.

Tickets and information:


Bigger and better: The Utility Players

The improv comedy troupe is flying high as it celebrates its seventh birthday and 11th season. The company lost comedians Derek Sonderfan and Shane Tolomeo—big losses, indeed—at the end of last season. But after 21 aspiring comedians showed up to audition, the troupe is back with four all-new cast members (Robert Romo, Jr., Marki Ho, Dave Gormley and Naomi Dixon) and a brand-new repertoire of improv games to be played every Saturday through April 30 in the newly revamped Jester’s Theatre at the Sands Regency.

Tickets & information: www.utilityplayerscomedy.com or www.sandsregency.com

Gettin’ catty: Wild Horse Children’s Theater

If you’re looking for more family-friendly fun, check out Disney’s Aristocats Kids, opening March 11 at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. Based on the movie, it’s the story of Parisian cats kidnapped by an allergic butler whose eye is on their inheritance. With a double-cast show comprised of 85 young actors, the musical runs for two weekends.

Also, throughout spring, you can purchase raffle tickets online for prizes such as Disneyland tickets and a hot-air balloon ride—all part of a fundraising effort that will enable Wild Horse to purchase equipment needed to present Disney’s Aladdin Jr. in July, complete with a flying carpet.

Tickets and information:


Lullaby of Broadway: Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company

WNMTC presents another visual spectacle with 42nd Street, featuring heart-pounding tap numbers and elaborate costumes and sets. This long-running, Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of a troupe putting on a spectacular Broadway show and the young, naive chorus girl who suddenly becomes a star. Running weekends May 6-13.

Tickets & information: www.wnmtc.com

Gotta dance: Eldorado Resort Casino

Speaking of dance spectaculars, four-time Tony-winner Footloose is on stage at the Eldorado now through April 17. Directed and choreographed by Paula Hammons Sloan (of Ebenezer fame), the show tells the story of Ren McCormack, a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small town where dancing and rock music are banned and leads an effort to have a senior prom.

The rock ’n’ roll life is alive and well in the next show, Rock of Ages, running April 26-July 24. Full of hits like “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “The Final Countdown” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” this musical set in 1980s Hollywood introduces us to Drew and Sherrie, two employees at a nightclub who struggle to find stardom and fall in love.

Tickets & Information: www.eldoradoreno.com

Pursuit of pleasure: Harrah’s Reno

Indulge in a bit of hedonistic pleasure at Sammy’s Showroom at Harrah’s Reno this spring, with two adults-only productions. Running now through March 5 is Prestige Productions’ Decadence, a cabaret-style show featuring burlesque, circus acts, humor, live vocals and technical artistry for adults 21 and over. The cast of 11 Reno performers presents such spectacles as a seven-foot male “Ursula” in heels, a trapeze artist and krumping Nintendo characters.

Or, if half-naked men is more your thing, check out the Chippendales dancers March 11 and 12.

Tickets and information www.caesars.com/harrahs-reno/shows