Pipers Opera House lives- full season ahead
VIRGINIA CITY – Shakespearean actors will again tramp the boards of the Piper’s Opera House Stage, now that the second phase of a five-year project has restored the historic hall’s usability.
Country headliner Lacy J. Dalton, who hasn’t been in a play since high school, takes on the title role in “Annie Get Your Gun” in April, while Hal Holbrook resurrects the Comstock’s most famous author with “Mark Twain Tonight!” in December.
In between, three Shakespearean classics share the footlights with old-time skits and musical numbers that chronicle the early years of the opera house’s role in Virginia City.
Caroline Cardinale, marketing director for the Nevada Shakespeare Festival, said the season’s performances capitalize on the heritage of Piper’s and Virginia City. And Virginia City may well be able to capitalize on additional tourism generated by the performance for years to come, she said.
“Shakespearean festivals are a $400 million component of the national economy,” Cardinale said. “We can probably expect 25,000-50,000 people to attend this summer, because word is just now getting out.
“But, as Virginia City becomes known as the home of a festival, we could have 10 times that many people making the trip to Virginia City because of performances at Piper’s.”
The festival, a non-profit organization, is dedicated not only to putting Shakespeare on stage but to “new, avant garde and innovative treatments of imaginative literature, ” according to its mission statement. One example is the planned summer performances of the Festival’s original review, “Tex, Mugs & Something Droll.”
The compilation of music, humor and dramatic readings recreate actual performances on the Piper’s stage, as chronicled by lifelong Virginia City resident Alf Doten.
“Mr. Doten kept a diary of everything that happened in Virginia City, including what was playing at Piper’s,” Cardinale said. “He even wrote how he learned of someone’s death while watching a performance, left Piper’s to pay his respects to the family, then returned to watch the rest of the show.”
Doten’s diaries were published in a thick three-volume set in the first half of the 20th century, she said.
“The diary’s recollections of Piper’s performances spanned the pre-vaudeville shows of the mid-1800s to the first part of the 1900s,” she said.
“We’re going to have 40-minute shows four times a day, for just $5. We’ll have people on costume down on C Street, letting tourists know about Piper’s and the entertainment.
“Dalton, who is on the board of the Piper’s Opera House Programs foundation that bought and is restoring the building, is excited about being in Annie Get Your Gun,” Cardinale said.
Dalton, who lives in the Virginia Highlands north of town, is accustomed to performing in front of live audiences at her concerts, but the intimacy of musical theater in Piper’s will be a different experience for her, Cardinale said. Casting is being firmed up for the April show, with a number of Carson City residents expected to join in.
Holbrook was renowned in the 1970s and 80s for his solo performance as Mark Twain, which toured the country after a Broadway run. “Mark Twain Tonight!” combines Twain’s written humor and wry philosophical observations with Holbrook’s makeover as the inventive alumnus of Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper.
Holbrook brought his incarnation of Twain to Piper’s stage in 1981, Cardinale said, so the December performance will be something of a belated encore.
Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Macbeth” have also graced Piper’s stage before, Cardinale said. This season’s performances are being produced by Jean Marie Simpson, who has engaged professional Shakespearean actors for the leads and will recruit the remainder of the casts from this area.
Simpson already has selected the leads for “Hamlet” – Roderick Dexter as Claudius, Linnea Wolters as Ophelia and Nathan Robison as Hamlet.
The summer performances of “Hamlet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be costumed and traditionally staged.
But “Macbeth,” which will run during the Street Vibrations motorcycle festival in Reno, will be staged with an edgy, black leather touch, Simpson said.
Tickets for all the Shakespeare plays, and “Annie Get Your Gun” run $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. The daily reviews will cost $5 a show, while seats for Mark Twain Tonight! will be $75. But the Festival is offering season tickets for all the shows for $18 general admission and $112 for students a seniors.
Information about the Festival is available on its Web page, http://www.nevada-shakespeare.org or by calling (775) 324-4198.
Piper’s Opera House performances:
2000 Season of the Nevada Shakespeare Festival
Annie Get Your Gun, starting Lacy J. Dalton, April 1-15
Tex, Mugs & Something Droll, variety and vaudeville, July 1-Sept. 3, four times daily
A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet, alternating nights Aug. 8-20
Macbeth (in black leather), Sept. 22-Oct. 31
Mark Twain Tonight!, starting Hal Holbrook, Dec. 16