At the beginning of 2020, like many other creatives in the arts, Troy Heard was positioned to have a successful year. But that all changed for the owner of Downtown Las Vegas’ Majestic Repertory Theatre when COVID-19 hit.
To help mitigate the loss of revenue, the company held a series of “drive-thru” theater experiences as a fundraiser in May. Now, Majestic has streamlined that experience with The Parking Lot, a “drive-in play” that doubles as another way for the theater to raise funds.
“The thing we did at the beginning of quarantine was experimental,” Heard says. “We kind of backed into creating a pop-up retail experience combined with performative elements.”
But that was early on, Heard says. “The mandates had not been refined at all, so we were trying to figure [that] out.” Navigating the playing field now, Heard says “there’s been lots of changes and no changes at all.”
Since that first trial run in the spring, bars and restaurants have received the green light to reopen, but theaters and music venues have not.
“There are venues closing down across the country because of this,” Heard says. “And Majestic? We’re in danger. We still have utilities to pay. We want to keep this great brick-and-mortar venue. We had several large events lined up and marketing events that would have generated income, and all that is gone. We’ve got to find a way to maneuver this new normal that doesn’t lead to total devastation of our small companies.”
After the success of last year’s Clown Bar, Heard commissioned playwright Adam Szymkowicz to write a sequel meant to premiere in May. “That, of course, didn’t happen,” Heard says. “Everything is shelved now. We have no plans for the immediate future for producing anything live in the space, traditionally.”
Instead, Szymkowicz came up with was a play to be performed in the parking lot (thus the play’s name), similar to a drive-in movie. The acting cast consists of just two people, real-life couple Natalie Senecal and Mike Vargovich.
“It’s part rom-com, part self-help seminar about a couple that’s deciding whether or not to get divorced,” Heard says. While they never mention the pandemic, Heard says the feelings of uncertainty COVID-19 has stirred up are very much present.
“They wind up together but realize that life is hard,” Heard says. “We don’t always get along, and being stuck with someone regardless of how long you’ve been with them is not an easy task for anybody. But for this couple, the good outweighs the bad, there’s hope and they share that with the audience. With all the uncertainty in the world, we want to grab onto something that makes us feel good.”
As director, one of Heard’s obstacles was finding a way to address the current social and political landscape that didn’t feel redundant. For $50, attendees not only support a local theater, but they receive one air freshener per car and access to The Parking Lot play.
“We know [things are] bad, we know what’s going on—but what’s something we can fight for?” Heard asks. “What’s the end goal? What do we need on the other end?
“Hope,” he answers. “We need hope.”
The Parking Lot Through October 11; dates & times vary; $50. 1217 S. Main St., majesticrepertory.com.