Itinerant Vegas company Poor Richard’s Players builds a theater to call home

Poor Richard’s Players stages 12 Angry Men.

The Playhouse smells like fresh sawdust, that distinct woody scent of new beginnings. It’s still under construction, with certain areas almost finished (the classy lobby, the computerized sound booth) and other areas still in progress (the bathroom and dressing room). But the 5,000-square-foot space is already a thing of magic. It will soon become a 98-seat theater and home base for the award-winning itinerant company Poor Richard’s Players.

“The most exciting aspect is being able to schedule shows on our own terms,” says executive director Maxim Lardent. He co-founded the company alongside Benjamin Loewy and Lysander Abadia in 2011. The dedicated performers spent years rehearsing in living rooms and chasing available venues. “We’re not going to be renting from anyone; we’re not going to have to answer to other parties. It’s just us. It’s just our art. And we get to finally share that with everybody.”

The Playhouse is located in the Charleston Heights Shopping Center, 528 S. Decatur Boulevard, on the southwest corner of Decatur Boulevard and Alta Drive. Priced out of Downtown, Poor Richard’s picked Charleston Heights for its centralized location. There’s enough room here to really spread out, with a box office, company office, stage, storage and even a woodshop. There will be room for musicals and more, when the time is right.

What type of shows will define Poor Richard’s? Lardent says to expect “plays you probably wouldn’t see from traditional theater companies,” along with “classic shows [done] in a unique way.” They’re looking to bring theater closer to modern audiences.

Right on cue, the inaugural play is Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men, a well-worn classic brought to new life with a coed and multicultural cast under the direction of Anthony Barnaby. The company picked it because its themes of civil discourse and prejudice remain relevant and because the large cast can showcase the company’s talent. Ironically, due to construction and permitting delays, this production won’t take place at the new venue (it’ll be in the Arts Factory’s Warhol Loft). But it should be the last time Poor Richard’s Players perform away from home.

Before committing to a full season, the Players have announced three additional shows: Never Tie Your Shoelaces in Paris, “a series of original plays by Poor Richard’s Players” (March 29-30); An Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, a “modern-day retelling of Homer’s classic” (April 5-21) and My First Time by Ken Davenport (May 3-19). The Playhouse will also host workshops and classes; Happy Hour Improv will perform there regularly; and it’ll be home base for the Downtown Vegas Improv Festival.

“We would like audiences to know that we’re here; we are artists; we are creating,” Lardent says. “We’re going to be giving you art that, hopefully, you have never seen before.”

12 ANGRY MEN March 8-9, 14-16, 21-23, 8 p.m., $20. Warhol Loft at the Arts Factory,

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