When Sarah Sperber founded her event-production company, Rogue Worx, in 2018, she had no idea how serendipitous that name would become.
The company—which produced musical and cirque-style variety acts for casino stages, and also offered comprehensive event management—relied on a pool of performers, mostly Reno-based (with others from Las Vegas, Los Angeles and the East Coast), who have an incredible range of talents, from singing and dancing to aerial, silk, contortion and even roller-skating. Rogue Worx soon became many casinos’ go-to source for booking specialty and cirque acts.
That is, until March 2020, when the pandemic brought everything to a standstill—and these multitalented performers found themselves out of work.
While Nevada’s casinos were shuttered for less than three months at the beginning of the pandemic, those working in the battered entertainment industry were out of work for at least a year; by the spring of 2021, many of them had begun to feel forgotten. Sperber and Rogue Worx certainly did. With extra time in her schedule to reflect, Sperber went through a creative period and came up with an idea: She and others, part of the millennial generation, were finally old enough to laugh at themselves. Never before had they, and the rest of her community, needed some fun so desperately.
Last summer, her idea blossomed into #MILLENNIAL (“hashtag Millennial”), a casino-style variety show billed as “a fun, high-energy production that parodies and celebrates the self-proclaimed ‘raddest generation’ through cirque, song, dance, and a healthy dose of nostalgia.”
The 73-minute show comes complete with impressive aerialists; exceptional, high-energy choreography set to some of the best tunes of the ’90s and early 2000s; a spectacular array of costumes; truly jaw-dropping contortionist acts; jugglers; stunning acrobatic roller skating; vocals performed by Sperber herself; and comedy, thanks to interstitial flashback videos regarding the generation’s many foibles. Leading audiences through this evocative romp are the wickedly funny emcee talents of drag queen Aspen Meadows, a local icon with a cult following, who simultaneously takes us back to the good ol’ days while also never hesitating to skewer the generation often known as “Gen Me.”
While the show was conceived with a casino stage in mind—casinos were always Rogue Worx’s bread and butter, after all—Sperber found those properties weren’t biting in the midst of ongoing COVID restrictions. So it was time for Sperber and her fellow performers to do what they do best: go rogue. She went searching for a home for the show and got wind of illusionists Kevin and Caruso’s plans to take over the defunct theater space in the Save Mart-anchored shopping center on Keystone Avenue, a space they rebranded as The Theatre. Soon Rogue Worx had secured a long-term residency for every Friday night in the space.
As a proud Gen-Xer, I admit I went into the show hesitantly (in skeptical, unamused Gen-X fashion), fully prepared to roll my eyes at narcissistic millennials swimming in Lake Me. I was surprised and delighted to discover my preconceived notions were wrong: The nostalgia wasn’t just the domain of millennials alone; I joyfully found myself in the way-back machine, visiting my own ’80s and early ’90s youth with such cultural touchpoints as Inspector Gadget, Olivia Newton John’s “Physical,” and early PlayStation and Nintendo games, before reliving my early adulthood with some of its best music, from Macklemore and Gwen Stefani to Daft Punk—and some of its worst. (I’m lookin’ at you, Britney Spears.) And I was happily reminded that an incredible pool of talent can be found right here in our backyard.
There’s a reason nostalgia is so hot right now: Life ain’t all that great these days. The present day pretty much sucks. We need a return to the innocent days of our youth, when the world looked rosy, and anything was possible. Perhaps that’s why I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to see so many baby boomers and Gen-Xers at #MILLENNIAL—and, thanks to the glorious end of mask mandates, enormous smiles on all their faces.
Rogue Worx’s #MILLENNIAL takes place at 8 p.m., each Friday, at The Theatre, 505 Keystone Ave., in Reno. Tickets are $30 to $150. For tickets or more information, call 775-451-3778, or visit www.rogueworx.net/millennial.