Carson represented in Reno opera |

Carson represented in Reno opera

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Steven Meyer, center, playing the part of Pooh-Bah, performs during a final dress rehearsal for the upcoming Gilbert & Sullivan's production 'The Mikado' at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday evening. Susan Sonnemaker, playing the part of Pitti-Sing, is pictured at right.

Carson native Steven Meyer sits backstage at the Pioneer Center in Reno. A 32-year veteran of the stage, the Biggest Little City’s downtown dome is Meyer’s second home.

It was here, at age 16, he got his start performing.

“I had a friend convince me to take a couple (singing and dancing) classes while at Carson High,” he said. “… One thing led to another – and, well, here I am.”

His exact location, sitting upright but comfortably in a black swivel chair getting his hair and makeup done.

Just minutes before curtain and Pooh-Bah, Meyer’s character in Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera, “The Mikado,” had yet to have his wig affixed along with his generous prosthetic midsection.

Almost show time and Pooh-Bah was still “not born yet,” Meyer said with a half-smile.

Meyer, juxtaposed to the furious hands of the make-up artist, was unfazed at the moving dervish of white face paint, red kimonos and black wigs around him.

“You do this enough and you get used to the hectic time just before curtain,” he said. “It’s a rush – but you learn how to calm down just before it’s time to go.”

Meyer spoke in slow, dulcet tones, perhaps saving his voice for three upcoming performances – Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, along with tonight’s and Sunday afternoon’s shows.

“The Mikado” will close the 40th season of the Nevada Opera on a “hopeful high note” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Cattell.

“We had a successful season, but as anyone who is trying to run a nonprofit – especially one focusing on the arts – things are tough these days,” she said.

Northern Nevada’s grasp of opera is “slowly growing” Cattell added.

“I think opera has a stigma – but we produce shows that are topical and funny – the audience can get a good grasp of the moment, and enjoy themselves,” she said.

Meyer, who now lives in Sparks, said his three-plus decades performing in Northern Nevada show one consistency.

“This area and the people in it really have an appreciation for the arts – more than you might think,” he said. “But some years are better than others, just like some performances are.”

It may seem fitting, then, that in a time where the economy has been stem-rolled and a nation waits for answers from its next leader, that Gilbert and Sullivan’s work be showcased now.

“This show makes many political statements that I think people will see are applicable today,” said Cattell, without going into specifics. “It’s a witty show.”

“The Mikado,” which originally premiered March 14, 1885, is a comic opera which tells the story of how the Lord High Executioner must decapitate himself unless he can find someone to take his place.

“The (British) were fascinated with Japanese culture when it was written,” Cattell said. “Gilbert and Sullivan were clever enough to skewer their own culture, and what was going on with their leaders, but putting the story in a Japanese context.”

Perhaps the real subtext is in the story of professional performers like Meyer, homegrown and still gracing the area stage. Dedicating hundreds of hours for not much pay to see the preservation of the arts here – in spite of all the troubles that ail the region and nation.

Susan Sonnemaker, a teacher at Carson High, plays one of the principles, Patti-Sing. Husband Andy Sonnemaker, a teacher at Carson Middle School, makes this production a family affair as he’s slated to perform in the chorus and as assistant chorus master.

Incline Village’s Jean Driver plays principal Peep-Bo.

“This is a group of professionals, but we’re absolutely so lucky to have such a wealth of local, talented performers,” opera spokeswoman Cattell said.

Wig on, stage make-up ready for the spotlight’s glare, and Meyer moves from his chair for one final close up in the mirror, before taking center stage.

“You know, I’ve been doing this awhile,” he said. “But, basically ask anyone and they’ll say every time feels like the first.

“It’s that feeling we hope to keep bringing audiences; that we need to keep in this area.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219


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