Despite Insurgo Theater’s sudden curtain call, the creative insurgency endures

Insurgo Theater company director John Beane (above) is currently mum on its reason for closure after less than a year of residency at The Plaza.
Photo: R. Brusky
Molly O'Donnell

Three weeks after Insurgo Theater Movement shut its doors at The Plaza—after less than a year’s residency—questions linger as to the reason for the closure and the future of the group. The Plaza’s Amy Maier would only say, “Plans for the space are still being considered.”

Downtown guru Michael Cornthwaite brokered the landmark deal between the casino and Insurgo last year and says he has no regrets about bringing repertory theater to a casino for the first time. “The hotel did a good thing for the community and their guests, and Insurgo gave it a great shot. There are no losers,” Cornthwaite says.

It could be argued, however, that after more than five years of amazing runs, including The Crucible, Machinal, Othello and Salome, in addition to original works executed by some of Las Vegas’ best talent, the losers are theatergoers. And the losses seem to have begun with Insurgo’s move to The Plaza.

“During our two years at the Bastard Theater, we produced a prodigious amount of work,” former ensemble member Tony Foresta says with regret in his voice. Phoning from Chicago, where he’s doing camera work, Foresta sees the decisions associated with the move to The Plaza as responsible for the company’s deterioration. “It was really sad; much of the ensemble was disbanded when the move happened. I guess certain people wanted a new Insurgo, but then people weren’t there on a daily basis like before and we lost members like Breon Jenay … a huge mistake,” he bemoans.

It’s difficult to disagree. After the ensemble lost some of its best talent in the revamp and move, their season was tentative, and the few plays put on (versus a previous output of about 25 mostly well-received shows in two years) often got a lukewarm reception.

“In the end,” Insurgo council member Brandon McClenahan offers, “finances delivered the coup de grâce. We couldn’t afford to be in the space any longer.”

Given the evidence, however, finances were only part of the bigger picture. Insurgo lost the opportunity to host Evil Dead: The Musical, which had done very well at the Onyx, with Sirc Michaels taking it to the Strip. And even when productions were scheduled for The Plaza, some shows were canceled due to illness or other issues. The man at the center of Insurgo, John Beane, did not return requests for comment.

Whatever the intentions of Insurgo’s talented but unpredictable leader, former ensemble members have moved on and are actively involved in productions at theatres like the Onyx and Atlas. Cockroach Theatre already seems to be trying to fill Insurgo’s shoes from their new digs in Art Square, hiring former Insurgo photographer Ryan Reason as their Image Director and promising a busy season.

Despite the loss of Insurgo, McClenahan says that “insurgents, old and new, will be bringing theater to this city for many years to come.” This should make local theatergoers feel a little more like winners again.


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