Upstream Swimmers

Meet the theater groups behind the Fringe Fest

Chaos Theatre, Love Stories During the Armageddon of a Citrus Fruit. Brothers Jeremy and Jason Nino created Chaos Theatre a year ago to satisfy their dream of developing great theater and a sense of community in Las Vegas. When choosing their first piece, they took the nostalgic route and revisited a play they first saw as teenagers. As teens they found Love Stories moving, but the true gravity of the play’s message was too mature for them. Now years later, the concept illustrated by Los Angeles-based writer Daniel Hamilton, about the irony of people having the power to create devices such as nuclear weapons that can actually bring about their demise, spoke to them loud and clear.

Rag Tag Entertainment, Pandemic!: A Killer Flu-sical. Set in a hospital, this original piece by William Waldrop and Robert Williamson takes a satirical look at fear mongering in the 2008 swine flu scare. The large-scale production contains Broadway-style music performed by a strong cast of local performers. Pandemic! is part of Rag Tag Entertainment’s goal of providing quality art to benefit local charities. They believe one way to do this is to encourage talented New York-based writers to preview their new plays in Las Vegas before they find Broadway or off-Broadway homes.

Lil Flo Productions, I Am Not Batman. Adam Flores, the one-man force behind Lil Flo Productions, is a self-proclaimed small person with a large undertaking. The former middle school theater teacher from St. Louis moved to Las Vegas a year ago and wanted to get involved in the arts scene. Instead of waiting for others to find him, he created a production company, and Vegas Fringe is his platform. I Am Not Batman is an energetic piece about youth, dreams and imagination featuring only Flores and a drummer.

UNLV SATP, My Best Dish. Teamwork is the driving force behind this group-devised piece by UNLV’s Senior Adult Theatre Program. After a failed attempt to obtain the rights to another play, professor Douglas Hill and four of his female students collaborated on an original work using the themes of food and rumor. This would be a daunting task for beginners, but the actors have experience on their side. Each is more than 62 years old, and the group has been taking classes together for a few years. Says Hill: “The most exciting discovery throughout the process is seeing how fearless everyone is being about this.” The uncertainty of working on a piece without a script has made for some interesting rehearsals.

Olde English, Home Free!. This Fledgling production company is a collaboration between three local artists—Gus Langley, Shane Cullum and Rosalie Miletich. Their first piece is a dark comedy by the late playwright Lanford Wilson. Langley took on the role of director, and Cullum and Miletich portray a brother and sister who experiment with an incestuous relationship. Think that sounds weird? Says Langley: “The characters are such peculiar people that the incest becomes the least strange thing about the play.”

Butcher Block, Sing to Me Through Open Windows. This goup’s mission is to create interesting and rare works of art. For his Fringe debut, founder and artistic director Shawn Hackler chose that work by Arthur Kopit, which was written more than 50 years ago. The piece delves into the highs and lows of the aging process through the relationship between a young boy and an elderly magician.

Las Vegas Little Theater, Ruby of Elsinore. The Bruce Kane-penned play is, according to co-director Barbara King, “a very irreverent, very funny take on the characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as they parade through Ruby’s beauty salon.” King and co-director Devin Ceriotti have been members of LVLT for years, and King sits on the board. With all the work and chaos that comes with mounting a show and hosting the event, King keeps things in perspective as she knows what she’s most looking forward to this year: “Seeing Ruby come to life in the expert hands of our cast members.”

Found Door Theatre, Casa de Nada. This company belongs to the team of TJ Larsen and his wife, Stacia Zinkevich, both perennial players on the Las Vegas theater scene. This year they’re producing the Erica Griffin-written dark comedy. Griffin, who also directs, says Casa is about a “group of homeless people who live in a tent city in the backyard of a rich woman, [and they] give all the money they make begging to her in exchange for tickets in her monthly lottery.” Griffin has an interesting way of prepping her team for Fringe: “The cast is taking the show to a location outside Boulder City to perform a preview for a local Burning Man campout.”

House of Tribes, Local Celebrity. Co-writer and director Lalanya Abner, describes her production company as a “multi-ethnic group of emerging artist with diverse backgrounds.” This year’s entry, Abner says, is a meditation on celebrity and sensationalism. “The play journeys into the psyches of these self-constructed, deeply flawed, beautiful, ambitious and tragic chasers-of-fame,” she says. The play is partially inspired by celebrity Kanye West.

Atlas Theatre, The Blue Hour. This company was in Seattle for about six years before coming to Las Vegas. This time they’re producing one of David Mamet’s lesser-known plays. Artistic director Chris Mayse says the piece is an exploration of “that moment when time, space, need, desire, love, hate [and] stillness all exist both simultaneously and singularly in our collective consciousness.” Mayse can hardly contain his excitement. “I’ve been telling the team that it is the ‘Grand Experiment,’ and I couldn’t be more thrilled and intrigued by what this cast has brought to the work.”

Endless Productions, The Wind in the Willows. Timothy Burris, director of the James and Caroline Moran tale of Mr. Toad has a different level of Fringe experience. Caroline has actually been involved in two productions in Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. While there, she saw the original production of Willows and met her co-author in 2009. “He has been an absolute joy to work with, and I really love this script,” she says. “I was dragged into the Willows at first and came out after the show feeling reminded of all the reasons I got involved in this profession in the first place.”

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