The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is known for its Broadway Series, its Cabaret Jazz, and – for school kids – its theatre workshops. But it has not been known for creating new work.
Until this summer, when the theatre presented the world premiere of "Idaho!"
Mounting new work is a major risk for a theater known as a "presenting organization," which simply put means it presents works it doesn't produce them.
Was the risk worth it? Is new work something we should get used to seeing in the Smith Center’s lineup?
“It is a lot more work than talking to the agent who represents “Wicked” and saying, ‘hey we would like four weeks in 2017, bring your buses and your trucks and let’s play it at the Smith Center,” Smith Center President and CEO Myron Martin told KNPR's State of Nevada.
“There are many moments where you might have found me in a corner sweating because it’s tough," he said, "It’s hard work.”
Martin said unlike shows like "Wicked" or "Sound of Music," which is being performed right now, the Smith Center was responsible for all parts of the show "Idaho!" from casting to rehearsals and even marketing.
The Smith Center board decided to go ahead with the production after the success of a Teller's (of Penn & Teller) "The Tempest" three years ago.
A new works fund sponsored by Dr. Keith Bowman was established after that show to cover any loses on new shows, which is one of the reasons the theater was able to put together "Idaho!," Martin said.
Besides the new works fund, Martin is grateful to the season ticket holders for supporting the show.
“Without having 10,000 season ticket holders in place, there is no way we would have been able to pull this off,” he said.
Martin said the responses from the ticket holders was mostly "very positive." He said many believe the show could go to Broadway, but mostly they were happy that the show was able to "shine a new light on Las Vegas artistic creation."
Martin is not sure whether the production will debut on the Great White Way, it can cost millions of dollars to mount a production on Broadway not to mention the difficulty of finding an open theater.
Even if it doesn't end up making it to New York City, but instead gets a run at a regional theater in Seattle or Salt Lake City, Martin believes just having a new work premiere at the center is important for Las Vegas.
“It’s huge for the Smith Center but it’s really big for Las Vegas to think that a staid theater company in a prestigious city would then say, like they did with “The Tempest,” this production premiered at the Smith Center.” he said.
Martin also believes debuting new works at the Smith Center will help Las Vegas audiences to expect and embrace new works at other theaters in town.
“We think of developing our Las Vegas audience in many ways,” he said. “I think the Smith Center happens to be in this unique place in that we’re in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world. We have creative people here, writing new work and who knows where our next opportunity might come from”
Martin was careful to point out that the center won't have a so-called 'producing slot,' meaning a place in its annual lineup for an original production.
Instead, he believes if a new musical or play that works for the center presents itself the center would produce it.
"We'll know it when we know it," he said.
Myron Martin, President and CEO, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.