Theater group looking for new home, partnership

For more details, call Paul Kiser at the Actory Theatre Arts Centre, 331-9228.
Local theater has experienced a boom during the past three years. There are now six or more companies in the Reno-Sparks area, each offering a full season of plays, and some are even putting on productions during the Artown festival in July.

But despite the rosy outlook for theater in this city, most companies hardly make a profit. Some only make enough to pay the rent and start production on their next play.

The Actory Theatre Arts Centre, however, is hoping to strike a deal with a private business owner or government entity. Ideally, if this owner would offer building space for a minimal fee or free of charge, the theater company could invest its resources in providing artistic and educational services to the community. The owner could write the lease off as a tax donation to a non-profit organization.

Paul Kiser, executive director of The Actory, says the company is considering becoming a resident company and has been searching for a bigger space with better visibility than its current space at 610 S. Rock Blvd. in Sparks.

“We’ve been looking for a better situation,” Kiser says.

He and co-founder Saralinda Seibert have been researching theater companies around the country that have worked out a deal with their city or county government. He cites the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore., as an example of this relationship. He says that the city of Ashland owns the lands and buildings OSF uses, while the company pays a token fee to operate out of the facilities. In turn, the OSF has contributed millions of dollars to the city’s economic base by drawing thousands of tourists, who come to see the plays and spend money on hotels, dining and shopping in the area.

The lease is a theater company’s biggest expense, Kiser explains. He says that out of the $35,000 The Actory made last year, the majority went to paying their $30,000 lease. The remainder went back into programming.

Another problem for theaters is space. Not only do theaters need space for performances and rehearsals, he says, but also they need room to build sets and props, as well as store large set pieces and costumes.

The company is looking for a 6,000- to 20,000-square-foot space that it could convert into the Nevada Centre for the Performing Arts. The theater company would continue its theater workshop program and present 11 to 14 adult and children’s theater productions, offering several in repertory. It’s also considering working with a local dance company or creating a new dance company. If the new space is large enough, it might even consider a partnership with another area theater company. If a building can be secured by the end of the summer, Kiser says, the company might postpone the opening of its fall season.

The Actory has talked to the owners of several vacant buildings in the area, but so far, the company hasn’t had any takers. But that doesn’t deter Kiser. He thinks that Reno has the potential to become another Ashland, Ore.

“I think we can make a good case for theater to make a significant impact by bringing [tourist] money into our economy,” he says. “It’s a question of whether people can be convinced now … to make it happen.”