Seven Questions for Mark Shunock

The 'Mondays Dark' creator on the roots of his philanthropy, the appeal of his 'Rock of Ages' character and the prospect of the NHL in Vegas

Photo by Elizabeth Buehring

Photo by Elizabeth Buehring

You launched Mondays Dark, a showcase of Vegas performers that helps a different charity each month. How did it begin?

When Rock of Ages started we were dark on Mondays, so that’s where the name came from. I wanted a way to give back because in Vegas [performers are] treated like pseudo celebrities, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. People really appreciate when performers show up to events. We’d be invited to all these charity events, and my wife and I thought, “Let’s throw parties, get everybody together from all the shows and we’ll partner with a different charity every month.”

For some entertainers, charity is something they have to do, but you approach it differently. Why?

I consider my parents angels. They’re always helping people. Every time I’d come home from school, whether I was in grade school or high school, my mother or my dad would be on a new committee helping somebody.

We take a lot of things for granted, especially as performers. We have ups and downs, and you’re going from one gig to the next. I knew right away when we got [to Las Vegas] that this was a special opportunity that my wife and I had been given, and we wanted to make the most of it. We live and breathe Mondays Dark now and try to help as many people as we can as long as we can.

Have you ever done anything like this?

When I was in L.A., some actor friends and I did the Session Series. We’d contact a bar and say, “Hey, I’m going to bring 10-15 of my actor buddies, and we’re going to do a cool cabaret. You guys mind?” And they didn’t mind, because we’d fill their bar on a Monday or Tuesday night. And so you’d see guys on prime-time television come out and sing with a band. When we got out here, we figured that would be the format, but by adding the charity element to it, it really gave it a driving force.

When you tell people their $20 is going to go to SAFEHouse or an animal shelter, they’ll go. And then they see all the talent that this town has to offer, and they’re like, “Wow.” The No. 1 comment we get is that this is the best value in Las Vegas, because I get to see Frankie Valli (portrayed by Travis Cloer and Graham Fenton in Jersey Boys) in a way that I’ve never seen him before, or the [artists] from Cirque du Soleil in a way I’ve never seen them before. It’s intimate. You’re up close, you’re sitting next to half of the performers who come out of the audience and come up and do a thing. It’s been really rewarding.

The acts for Mondays Dark change monthly, but how do you keep Rock of Ages (featuring guest star Joey Fatone through April) fresh after 800 shows?

It’s because somebody’s paying to come see me, to escape the BS that they’re going through—whether you’re struggling financially or somebody’s sick or there’s a war. You come in to our show for two hours, and you’re going to forget about all your problems. And if I don’t do my job, then you have a hard time forgetting about your problems. That’s a big part of Mondays Dark, too. Even though we’re there for a really serious reason, we put a twist on it so we really want you to have fun, forget about everything for a while and know you’ve just made a great donation to an amazing cause.

Besides the mullet, what do you like about your character, Lonny?

I get to interact with the audience every night. I’m the only character who breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, welcomes them and takes them on this journey. The reactions are different each night—that’s the highlight for me. On a personal note, it’s coming to work with 19 killer performers. It’s really a locker room mentality where all the guys bond and you’re on the same team. It’s the same in the theater where you share the stage with these guys and girls, and you end up becoming family.

What’s next for you?

I’m constantly auditioning for film and television [roles]. The goal is to get back to California. A sitcom is the ultimate goal. We’re taking pretty big steps getting there. I fly into L.A. and take a meeting and fly right back, and I don’t miss the work. I’ve got a great relationship with Rock of Ages that if something does come up, I can take a little hiatus.

Vegas is home, has been for two years, and as long as the show is running I’m committed to staying with it, unless it just becomes too much of a conflict for a new project.

As a Canadian who played hockey through your teens (including a brief stint as a goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League), what do you think about the NHL potentially coming to Vegas?

Very excited. I’m on the Founding 75 group, and I’m doing my best to help it. With  my father purchasing  a CHL franchise from the Esposito brothers in the late ’80s (the Soo Greyhounds of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) and [seeing] the business side of hockey, the strongest thing going for Vegas getting a team is the [arena]. It takes a lot of pressure off of [prospective owners] Bill Foley and the Maloofs, because they don’t have to spend any of their money to build a facility. They can focus on the business side of things and working with the NHL.

Look at what [new arenas] did in Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose. Those teams are incredibly successful, and their fan base will come to Vegas. We have a huge Canadian contingency who’ll support the team. … For people who live here who haven’t seen a professional game live, once you do at that level, you’ll be blown away.

Mondays Dark

8:30 p.m. April 20, $20 ($30 at door) Vinyl at Hard Rock,

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