Call it high-wire acting. Sans net.
“We’re not allowed to read it and have no idea what’s coming,” says the LAB LV’s Kate St-Pierre. Count her among five local theater company artistic directors—joining Christopher Edwards (Nevada Conservatory Theatre), Troy Heard (Majestic Repertory Theatre), Will Adamson (Cockroach Theatre) and Lysander Abadia (Las Vegas Little Theatre)—who’ll tackle White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, an enigmatic, one-person, off-Broadway stunt-play. Each will perform it once at his or her own theater as it rotates through all five venues on consecutive Thursdays, April 20-May 18.
“It was emailed to the president of my board, printed and put into a sealed envelope. I got a DVD with video clips of actors going, ‘Oh, my goodness!’ As an actor, you have a sense of wonder and shock.”
Performers who have answered the call of being handed a playwright’s words just as they’ve stepped before an audience on a bare stage in New York City or London include Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, Brian Dennehy and Cynthia Nixon. Now, artistic Vegas risk-takers join the roster in a two-front assault on community theater convention: a five-sided cooperative project in a city whose theater troupes aren’t famous for collaboration—billed as a five-week “theater pub crawl”—and a work whose appeal is a flying-blind challenge to actors. “I love extreme sports, and theater like this definitely is one,” St-Pierre says.
That’s the novelty of the 2010 work by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, who was denied a passport because of his refusal to serve in the military. Though Vegas performers emphasize that the 75-minute piece “expressly avoids overt political comment,” it’s reportedly an “allegorical absurdist adventure” targeting themes of censorship and authoritarianism. Making the intellectual leap to Trumpian America—where our president declares the media “the enemy of the people” and says, “I, alone, can fix” our problems—wouldn’t be unwarranted and clearly prompted the disclaimer.
While the play could stir the political pot, creating a communal experience via free performances linking theaters ranging from traditional to experimental—their audience bases steeped in distinct demographic differences that don’t cross over easily—is the overarching goal.
“We’re not against each other. We’re against the sofa and Netflix,” St-Pierre says. “It shouldn’t be these segregated islands of theater we seem to have. I thought, what if we took each other’s audiences to try and see each other’s shows in one theater pub crawl? We’re in this together. Why has it taken so long for this to happen?”
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit April 20-May 18, 8 p.m., free. Consecutive Thursdays, in order: Nevada Conservatory Theatre, Majestic Repertory Theatre, Cockroach Theatre, the Lab LV, Las Vegas Little Theatre.