Summer is the season for silliness. It’s a time for running through sprinklers, painting your fingernails 10 different colors, staying out too late, eating junk food … and being entertained by shows that are delightful, funny and unlikely to make you to think too hard.
At least that’s how I plan to spend my summer.
Local performing-arts companies appear to have gotten that memo. Many of their lineups are filled with lighthearted fare—with comedies, feel-good dramas, upbeat dance numbers, killer tunes … or a combination of all of these.
Of course, the challenge in putting together a guide like this is that I’m forecasting months in advance, and as I write this, several companies either hadn’t finalized details or simply aren’t sharing them. Be sure to double check companies’ websites or social-media pages for schedule and ticketing details.
ART is a readers’ theater troupe: Actors perform roles with scripts in hand, using only the simplest of sets and costumes to aid in telling their stories. ART’s performances are at 1 p.m., one Tuesday and one Friday each month. Best of all, they’re free! (Donations are welcome.)
On June 13 and 16, look for Tuesdays With Morrie, the stage adaptation of Mitch Albom’s famous autobiographical work about his life-changing reunion with, and weekly pilgrimage to visit, his old, dying college professor.
ART’s Artown offering is Social Security, running July 11 and 14, with a special Artown performance added on Wednesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. In this comedy, married art dealers have their lives turned upside down when family unexpectedly arrives at their doorstep. (This is one of two performances of this show happening this summer; the second is in Carson Valley.)
Ballet and rock music may make strange bedfellows, but here in Reno, they’re a winning combo. A.V.A. Ballet’s Vortex, the Ballet That Rocks always packs the house with its unique blend of popular rock, dance and alternative music; contemporary ballet; and spectacular sets and costumes.
It’s also free, so make plans to get to Bartley Ranch Regional Park’s Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater early on Friday or Saturday, July 14 and 15.
Brüka’s 30th season draws to a close at the end of summer, but not before the company kicks up its heels with Kinky Boots, running a whole month, June 23-July 22. It’s well-timed; leading up to Northern Nevada Pride, this musical is about Charlie Price, who takes over his family’s shoemaking factory and turns to an unlikely hero, Lola, a drag performer. An ensemble of 22 people plays factory workers in this show by Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper; the rights for small theaters were only recently released.
While this is Brüka’s last mainstage show of the season, the company will be busy all summer. Its two-week youth theater camp will run July 10-23, culminating in a student-created show based on the theme “The Mystery of the Mysterious Play,” devised in only two weeks, with public performances on the last weekend.
Brüka will also take part once again in the Sierra Nevada Lavender and Honey Festival, happening Sunday, July 9, at Idlewild Park. Performances all day include theater work by Brüka’s youth actors as well as jazz tunes by Cami Thompson and CeCe Gable.
In September, as school begins, Brüka’s Theatre for Children will present The Paramount and Wildly Ridiculous History of Nevada, touring libraries and schools with this 45-minute show that attempts to present the entire history of Nevada. Catch a public performance Saturday, July 8, on the Brüka stage.
GLM has made a strong commitment to presenting original, locally created work, and its summer shows reflect it, starting with The 10 10-Minute Play Festival. Drawing upon the barest of writing prompts—this year’s being “box”—10 local playwrights, including some local high schoolers, created their own 10-minute plays, which are produced using real actors and minimal sets. They run on Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10—five each night, so you can make a weekend of it.
Another original creation takes the stage for Artown, July 7-29: Shark! A GLM Original Parody. Parodies have become something of a specialty for GLM, which has proven especially gifted at eliciting guffaws from savvy audiences. A spoof of the original summer blockbuster, Jaws, this show will include plenty of Easter eggs for the film’s diehard fans, as well as references to Reno that locals are sure to love. The GLM crew also will participate in the Pride parade.
As GLM turns its sights toward raising funds for both its many productions and a capital campaign, its repertoire will include shows produced by outside companies renting the space, as well as fundraising events. Check out the award-winning Puppeteers for Fears, from Ashland, Ore., which brings its magical combo of horror, comedy and puppets (for mature audiences only) to the stage on Wednesday, July 19, with Cthulhu: The Musical!
Then on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 11 and 12, catch TSTMRKT (pronounced “test market”), a Las Vegas-based sketch-comedy company of one (Ernest Hemmings) that utilizes film loops, cut-and-paste theater and a recorded score to stage its one-man performances; there’s no tech crew, just a start button. The production is Everyone Loves Dick: The Life and Times of Dick Ripper.
Local fashion designer Kate Caufield, a Nevada Arts Council grant recipient, will present her work in a fashion show at GLM on Saturday, Aug. 26. Around the Stage Dance Company will present its latest work here in a fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 9.
Also, every Sunday in August, watch for classic film screenings by arthouse cinema company Theater 42, which opened for about five minutes in a building on Moana Lane before permit issues forced its closure.
If you’d like to contribute to GLM’s mission and productions, stop by Chapel Tavern on Saturday, June 17, for an afternoon fundraiser; enjoy food and drink; try to win a raffle prize; and maybe even see your favorite performer.
Reno is home to this Latinx-based performing arts and culture organization, helmed by Mario DelaRosa and Annamaria Cavallone. The company has presented a variety of bilingual (Spanish/English) theatrical and cultural events at locations around Reno/Sparks since 2010.
From Thursday, June 8, through Saturday, June 10, it presents LGBTQIA+ Latinx at Reno Little Theater. DelaRosa describes it as “a revealing and complex play that shows communities that have historically been marginalized by an oppressive-hetero-patriarch-conservative-white society.” This dramedy will feature an all Latinx cast, most of whom are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
On Saturday, June 24, head over to Teglia’s Paradise Park for the Mariachi and Folklore of the Nations Festival, a free event that will include games, arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, live music and more.
This 17-piece contemporary band has been around for 26 years, traveling with, hosting and paying homage to legendary performers in the jazz, swing and big-band world. This summer’s lineup starts Saturday and Sunday, June 3-4, when students in the RJO Jazz Workshop—a nine-week course for teens to develop improvisation, ear training, jazz theory and performance skills —and the Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra perform on the Goodluck Macbeth stage, performing works by Count Basie, Benny Carter, Sammy Nestico and others.
Look for the RJO on stages around Reno and Lake Tahoe, including Hot House: One Night at the Savoy Ballroom, a 1930s-themed stage show with big band/swing music and dance. This Artown performance is free to the public at the new J Resort in Reno on Saturday, July 29. The show then travels to Sand Harbor’s stage as part of the (ticketed) Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival on Monday, July 31.
The company will also open the Jazz and Beyond Festival in Carson City on Friday, Aug. 11, at the Governor’s Mansion. Then the band will join Grammy-winning saxophonist Tom Scott, on Sunday, Aug. 20, at UNR’s Nightingale Concert Hall, and Monday, Aug. 21, at the Shakespeare Festival.
Like Brüka, RLT is presenting a Broadway musical for the month of Artown: Seussical the Musical runs June 30-July 30. Oh, the places you’ll go in this tale of an elephant, a bird and a boy, along with some of the most beloved characters from the world of Dr. Seuss. Shea King, a theater instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College who is currently heading up its performing arts troupe, will direct this one. UNR dance faculty Nate Hodges choreographs it, and Abby Rosen, fresh off directing GLM’s Men on Boats, provides vocal direction.
Friday, Aug. 18, through Sunday, Aug. 20, director Stacey Spain will lead RLT’s Teens Speak Out education-program show. TSO productions are inspired by a theme and are comprised of prewritten works, movement and devised work, which is developed as the teen actors rehearse. This year’s show, Now I Lay Me Down 2 Sleep, addresses the topic of unhoused youth. Each performance will be followed by a talkback, and the group is working with Eddy House for awareness and fundraising.
RLT also hosts a monthly jazz performance by For the Love of Jazz on the third Sunday of each month. And its one-week Act Out Theater Camp programs, with each week having a different theme, are available to kids in kindergarten through sixth grade the weeks of June 19, June 26, July 17, July 24, July 31 and Aug. 7.
I love a free show, and July is full of them. Here’s another one: Sierra Nevada Ballet will present Dancing at Bartley on Friday, July 7, at the Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch. The show features pieces by nine choreographers and SNB dancers, as well as a performance renowned tap star Sam Weber, and jazz music by Cami Thompson and her trio.
The Last Unicorn is SNB’s full-length, original ballet, created over a three-year period by artistic director Rosene Bena, based on a novel by Peter S. Beagle, about the story of a unicorn and her journey to save the rest of her race, with music by Franz Liszt. It runs Saturday, July 22, at the Pioneer Center; Monday, July 24, at the Shakespeare Festival; and Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Carson City Community Center.
The Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts
Before SNB’s show, Reno’s premier performance venue will host several performers, starting with Reno Dance Company’s Full Body Rock, an original musical revue that blends classic and current rock hits with a multitude of dance genres, on Sunday, June 4 (two showings).
The Shamrock Productions and Dancin! Performing Arts Center present a showcase of Irish dance, ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop and contemporary dance and musical theater on Monday, June 12. Then on Saturday, June 17, catch Core Connection Dance Company’s recital, Step Up and Dance!
The Reno Philharmonic Orchestra presents Disney’s A Dream Is a Wish for two showings on Saturday, June 24, featuring Broadway-caliber vocalists, clips from beloved Disney movies and some of Disney’s most recognized songs.
On Friday, June 30, enjoy speaker César Lozano’s Spanish-language talk about dealing with difficult people and circumstances.
Then summer break brings some of the world’s funniest teacher-comedians to Reno on Monday, July 10, for the Bored Teachers Comedy Tour.
Tucked into the Save Mart shopping center on Keystone Avenue, this newly renovated theater space hosts regularly sold-out shows, the likes of which you could once only find in casino showrooms. Every Saturday night, Kevin and Caruso’s Magique features dazzling displays of magic, spectacular dance numbers, acrobatics and more.
Rogue Worx, the troupe of performers that brought #Millennial and Hush to The Theatre, is deep in development on its next production, The Game, a choose-your-own-adventure, psychedelic game show featuring elements of cabaret and cirque nouveau, which will run on Fridays starting Sept. 22.
TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada
This teaching theater focused on providing performing arts education to youth and the underserved is in its 18th season. TWNN will be providing its annual summer theater camp for kids June 19-23.
That sets the stage for its Artown production, The Neverending Story, based on the beloved children’s book. A longtime TWNN student and cast member, James Escobedo, will make his directorial debut with this show before heading to college in New York this fall. Catch a sneak peak of several scenes onstage at the Reno Public Market on Sunday, June 25. Full performances will take place July 7-30 at the company’s space at 315 Spokane St., which is newly remodeled. Thanks to Keller Williams’ RED Day, a day of community service for the realty company, TWNN was the recipient of a makeover, complete with new dressing rooms, storage, a tech booth, paint and flooring.
RAT’s intimate space in downtown Sparks is ideal for small productions. Its July 7-17 offering of Popcorn Falls is a perfect example. Only two actors play 20 roles in this farce about a small, bucolic hamlet with a waterfall that is turned upside down when an evil villain upstream from the town plans to divert the water and turn Popcorn Falls into a sewage treatment plant. Can the citizens can succeed in their plan to put on a theatrical production and save the town?
In August (dates TBD), RAT will present a show from one of its favorite playwrights, Lauren Gunderson. By and By is a sci-fi thriller about a nerdy father, his daughter, the wife he lost years ago and the lengths he goes to in order to re-create the love he shared with her. The story explores the threat of “edgy science.”
Sierra School of Performing Arts
One highlight of summer is always SSPA’s annual production under the stars at Bartley Ranch. This year is no different as the company presents The Addams Family, the musical based on the beloved TV series and films about everybody’s favorite not-quite-normal family. Running Aug. 11-26, the show will include a live band. Because late summer is now Smoke Season, the company has established a contingency plan: The show will move to Damonte Ranch High School in the event of air quality becoming too poor to perform outside.
Carson City/Carson Valley
Carson Valley Community Theatre
Carson Valley’s resident theater company will be the second one this summer to bring Andrew Bergman’s Social Security to the stage. As director Toni Tomei explains, the original 1986 Broadway production was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Marlo Thomas, Ron Silver and Olympia Dukakis. It’s a comedy about a hip married couple in Manhattan’s Upper East Side whose tranquility is shattered when the wife’s polar-opposite sister, brother-in-law and stereotypically Jewish mother descend on their doorstep. The show runs July 14-23 at the CVIC Hall in Minden.
Brüka Theatre’s own Mary Bennett heads up this annual capital city favorite. In her role as Madame Curry, wife of Carson City’s own founding father, Abe Curry, she leads participants on a walk along the city’s streets, pointing out some of its most historic (and haunted!) structures and regaling guests with fascinating and spooky tales. Ghost walks occur on occasional Saturdays through the summer, starting June 10, leading up to an all-day tour in October that enables guests to step inside homes and experience visits from “spirits.”
PPI, the oldest theater company in Carson City, is bringing back its popular production of Gaslight for one weekend, July 7-9, at the Carson City Community Center. Written by Patrick Hamilton, this dark drama “dives deep into the psyche,” says director Steven Segal. It’s the story of a husband who tries to drive his wife insane in order to remove her from their residence so that he can continue searching for stolen treasure. It’s intended for mature audiences only.
Wild Horse’s Children’s Theater enjoys presenting works that will delight the youngest of audience members—even those who have a hard time sitting still. This summer, the company presents Jungle Book Kids, a 45-minute condensed version of the Disney classic. It moves along at a good clip, and there’s no intermission to slow things down. Two back-to-back performances take place on Friday, June 23, at the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
This year’s annual Shakespeare Festival will not feature Shakespeare, and it will not have two shows … but it’s certainly doubling down on silly, outrageous fun with Little Shop of Horrors as its mainstage production! So excited are the festival’s patrons that tickets are selling briskly. In case you’ve missed it until now, it’s the story of a plant that drinks blood and grows to such an enormous size that it can eat people.
Aside from the mainstage show, LTSF also will host several other local performing companies (some mentioned here), as well as concerts by such big-name acts as Pink Martini and Pablo Cruise.