Las Vegas arts, culture to limp along through COVID ‘pause’

The three-week “pause” described Sunday by Gov. Steve Sisolak shouldn’t have that harmful of an effect on Las Vegas’ arts and culture scene.

Its situation already was dire enough.

“As for me and the other local theater companies, we’re in the same position we’ve been in since March,” Majestic Repertory Theatre founder Troy Heard said Sunday. Because of various restrictions, Majestic has been unable to host an indoor audience since March 12.

The reduction of public gatherings to 50 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever is less, comes just as some artistic endeavors were starting to get back on their feet.

First Friday, which had only had a digital presence since the start of the pandemic, debuted a socially distant, reduced-capacity version in the Arts District on Nov. 6. That, obviously, will have to change.

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art just reopened Nov. 12 with “Always More: Collecting in Vegas,” an exhibition curated from within the MGM Resorts art collection as well as from works amassed by prominent Las Vegas collectors.

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The Springs Preserve and the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, within it closed again Nov. 13, as did UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, in response to Sisolak’s request that Nevadans stay home as much as possible.

Theatrical shows — at least the ones that could accommodate the state-mandated 25-foot gap between the stage and the front row of seating — began reopening in October. But, as Heard noted, that’s an impossibility for many small theaters. “My venue, from the front row to the back wall, that is 25 feet,” he said.

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With The Smith Center for the Performing Arts closed indefinitely, its anchor tenants, the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre, have had to look for new ways to showcase their members.

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Musicians from the symphony have teamed up with Nevada Public Radio for “Theater on the Air: Live from Area 51,” a radio drama scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday on KNPR. Nevada Ballet, meanwhile, is partnering with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to produce “The Nutcracker: Home for the Holidays.” The three-part TV series highlighting signature scenes from the annual tradition will premiere Dec. 1 on the Cox YurView platform.

Majestic has been experimenting with drive-in, drive-up and drive-through shows. “We’re still going to keep doing our socially distanced shows,” Heard said, “which does not bring in a lot of money, but it keeps us active.”

But time, clearly, isn’t on Heard’s side. He’s still waiting for his landlord to receive a $10,000 check from the Nevada Commercial Rental Assistance Grant, and he’s yet to see his $20,000 grant from the Pandemic Emergency Technical Support program. A couple of projects in December could help Majestic stay afloat into the new year, but just barely.

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“At this point, eight months in, it’s beyond anger,” Heard said. “I just have to roll my eyes at my fellow Americans who have not taken this seriously and who think this is just some Democratic hoax.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at [email protected] or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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