Center Stage Inc.

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

(c) Dennis McBride, 2009

Lenore Andrea Simon & Alana Brown

Nevada’s first queer theatre troupe was Center Stage, Inc., founded in 1999 by lovers Lenore Andrea Simon and Alana Brown, who moved to Las Vegas from Monterey, California in 1996. The Monterey precursor to Center Stage had been Simon's Woof! Productions, whose most laudable effort was two productions of the lesbian-themed play, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, in which the two women performed in 1994 and 1995--and during the first run of which they fell in love.[1]

While Simon's and Brown's romantic relationship didn't long survive their move to Las Vegas, they maintained a creative partnership in Center Stage. The genesis of the company began at a Christmas party in 1998 at Dr. Katherine Crooks' home, where several women were enthusiastic about Brown's and Simon's intentions to found a troupe in Las Vegas. Brown and Simon decided to name it the “Center Stage” because the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada offered to let the troupe work under its 501(c)3, provide advertising, and “dykes with tools” to build sets in return for a portion of the troupe’s profits until Center Stage itself could incorporate.[2]

Hidden: A Gender

Promoting Tolerance

While there had been gay-themed theatre in Las Vegas as early as 1969 when Caesars Palace opened its Roman Theatre with Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, there had never been a queer theatre company in town until Center Stage. Likewise, what gay theatre there had been was oriented toward gay men— BentFalsettosAngels in AmericaNorman, Is That You?Edward II. While Brown and Simon intended Center Stage to be primarily a gay theatre company, its mission statement expressed a wish to "promote tolerance and raise awareness around issues of diversity… ."[3]

Center Stage’s productions—10 altogether during the four years the troupe existed—lived up to the company’s mission. There were lesbian-themed plays [Last Summer at Bluefish CoveSappho in LoveThe Second Coming of Joan of Arc]; the first transgender play presented in Las Vegas [Kate Bornstein’s Hidden: A Gender]; and a controversial production of Before It Hits Home, which explored the issues of bisexuality and AIDS in the African-American Community. Center Stage also produced Paul Rudnick’s anti-fundamentalist off-Broadway play,The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and explored themes of genetic engineering, abortion, religion, intolerance, and medical ethics in Twilight of the Golds.[4]

The Second Coming of Joan of Arc

Twice, Center Stage performedA Very Gay Christmas Carol, a tongue-in-cheek variation of the Dickens classic that promised to become a holiday tradition for Las Vegas' gay community. Alana Brown adapted it to reflect contemporary themes in the gay community: in her 2000 version, Scrooge was a homophobe, and Tiny Tim a teenager with AIDS and two fathers. In 2002, the year an anti-same-sex marriage amendment was added to Nevada's constitution, the play featured a same-sex wedding. Among the wedding guests were occasional political adversaries Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU in Nevada, and Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, who were cast together as a gay couple.[5]

It was after Twilight of the Goldsin 2003 that Center Stage closed shop. The company's demise was due in part to Brown and Simon moving on to other endeavors and other lovers, which broke the creative relationship Center Stage needed to continue. The company's productions were also not getting the support from the gay community Brown and Simon expected. Finally, throughout their company’s existence, Brown and Simon felt the reviews Center Stage elicited from generally male reviewers were increasingly personal and misogynistic. Reviewers, on the other hand, blamed Simon’s own professional shortcomings for killing her troupe, and for ending advocacy theatre in Las Vegas.[6]

A Very Gay Christmas Carol

Notes

  1. Alana Brown, interview by Dennis McBride, May 26, 2008, author’s transcript; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Lied Library, Special Collections Department (hereafter noted as UNLS), MS 2009-06 (Center Stage, Inc. Papers)
  2. Las Vegas Bugle (August 13, 1999), p. 38; (August 27, 1999), pp. 56-57; September 10, 1999), pp. 10-12, 20; Lesbian Voice (November 2000), pp. 26-27; Brown; Judy Corbisiero, interview by Dennis McBride, September 5, 2003, May 21, 2004, July 2, 2004, and December 10, 2004, author’s transcript; Brown interview.
  3. Panorama (June 27, 1969), p. 9; (August 15, 1969), p. 12; (September 5, 1969), p. 6; (October 3, 1969), p. 3; (January 23, 1976, p. 25; (February 6, 1976, p. 17); February 13, 1976), p. 29; February 27, 1976, p. 20; Las Vegas Bugle (October/November 1997), pp. 6, 33, 60; (November/December 1997), pp. 14, 24; (January 28, 2000), p. 26; Las Vegas Sun (November 6, 1997), pp. 1C, 8C; (January 27, 2000), pp. 1F-2F; (February 4, 2000), p. 8E; (April 9, 1998), pp. 1D-2D; Las Vegas City Life (November 6, 1997), p. 16; (November 13, 1997), p. 24; (December 4, 1997), p. 24; (February 3, 2000), pp. 54-55; (April 15, 2004), p. 43; Las Vegas Weekly (February 3, 2000), p. 25; (April 8, 2004), pp. 32-33; Q-Tribe (November 1997), p. 11; Nevada Gay Times (July 1983), p. 7; Boulder City News (April 9, 1998), p. 32C; UNLV Magazine (Fall 198), p. 5; Brown interview.
  4. Las Vegas Bugle (July 28, 1999), p. 35; (August 13, 1999), pp. 16, 37, 38; (August 27, 1999), pp. 43, 50, 56-57; (September 10, 1999), cover, pp. 10-12, 20, 39; (January 14, 2000), p. 48; (August 4, 2000), pp. 10, 11; (September 1, 2000), pp. 32-33; October 26, 2001), pp. 17, 29; (November 23, 2001), pp. 11, 19; (December 21, 2001), p. 15; (February 1, 2002), p. 13; (March 1, 2002), pp. 10, 12-13; (June 6, 2003), pp. 44-45; (July 4, 2003), p. 47; (July 18, 2003), pp. 17, 48-49, 51; (August 1, 2003), pp. 51, 63;Las Vegas City Life (September 16, 1999), p. 50; (January 27, 2000), p. 58; (September 14, 2000), pp. 55-56; (December 6, 2001), pp. 52-53; (March 28, 2002), uncited page; (August 14, 2003), p. 50; Las Vegas Review-Journal “View” (January 19, 2000), p. 4AA; Las Vegas Sun (September 1, 2000), p. 8E;Out Las Vegas (October 2001), p. 36; (November 2001), pp. 36, 39; (December 2001), pp. 36, 41; (January 2002), p. 34; (February 2002), pp. 13, 44; (March 2002), p. 23; Out Las Vegas Bugle(September 13, 2002), pp. 29, 30, 32; (September 27, 2002), pp. 10, 29; (October 11, 2002), pp. 20, 48;Las Vegas Weekly (September 14, 2000), p. 41; (July 31, 2003), p. 53; Night Beat (July 2003), p. 13;Womyn’s Voice (November 2001), p. 18; Anthony Del Valle, interview by Dennis McBride, January 28, 2005, author’s transcript; Brown interview.
  5. Las Vegas Bugle (November 24, 2000), pp. 3, 28; (December 8, 2000), pp. 18, 30-31; Lesbian Voice(December 2000), p. 15; (January 2001), p. 18; Out Las Vegas (December 2000), p. 11; (January 2001), p. 22; Out Las Vegas Bugle (November 8, 2002), p. 35; (November 22, 2002), pp. 10, 28, 43; (December 6, 2002), p. 20; December 20, 2002), p. 20; Night Beat (December 2002), pp. 10, 12; Las Vegas Review-Journal (December 17, 2002), p. 7E; Las Vegas City Life (December 19, 2002), p. 58; (December 26, 2002), p. 16; Brown interview.
  6. Las Vegas City Life (September 14, 2000), pp. 55-56; (December 21, 2000), pp. 60-61 (cf. December 19, 2002, p. 58); (August 14, 2003), p. 50; (August 28, 2003), p. 4; (September 4, 2003), p. 6; Las Vegas Weekly (July 31, 2003), p. 53; Del Valle interview; Brown interview.