A lot of changes are underway at Downtown Vegas’ Cockroach Theatre, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Last week, the company unveiled its 2018-2019 season, along with a new collaborative mural on its facade by New York street artist Vulcan and San Francisco muralist The Apexer. The company also announced the appointment Darren “Daz” Weller as artistic director.
“I’m excited about all of it,” Weller says of his new role. “A season is a tricky [thing] to put together, but I’ve lived in Vegas for 10 years and I have some strong connections.” The goal, he says, is to merge the local theater network with the Strip’s talent, along with the theater talent of Weller’s original hometown of Sydney, Australia,.
“Artistically, I’m looking to program work that has the potential to bounce outside of our space. The Vegas market is small, and it’s a great testing ground for new work or work that hasn’t been seen by a U.S. audience before,” he says.
Wayne Harrison, for example, will direct the end-of-season musical Satango (June 2019), with music by Stewart D’Arrietta and lyrics and book by Justin Fleming. Harrison directed Absinthe at Caesars Palace and Vegas Nocturne at the Cosmopolitan, and also served as director and CEO of the Sydney Theatre Company from 1990 to 1999. Satango finds Satan at the once-a-millenia All Souls Ball, where all the residents from heaven and hell come together for a night of dancing and debauchery—but Satan, the master of mischief, forgets his moves.
The season kicks off with Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillian on September 13; followed by The Dog by Brendan Cowell and The Cat by Lally Katz in October; Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo in January; and Sweat by Lynn Nottage in March.
If that wasn’t enough, the company is also launching two sessions of its Cockroach Summer Kids Camp led by coordinator Lisa Davis, with two-week courses for kids ages 4-6, 6-8 and 9-11 starting in June and July.
“I have 5 year-old twins,” Weller says, “and I see how much they get out of what I bring home, and their involvement in the theater. I really wanted to be able to offer something to kids, to bring them into a real working theater and see part of that life, because there’s something magical about that.”
Most importantly, Weller says he hopes the new season furthers Cockroach’s commitment to local theater, including paying actors for their work. “I really want to start to build a community here, so [artists] don’t have to look outside of Vegas if they want a sustainable career in the arts,” he says. “We’ve been paying directors for the last two years, and when you pay some people and not others, you’re saying to some people you’re not worth it. The actors are just as essential in the creative process, and the bonus of that is it improves the quality.”