In an age where the notion of “neighborhood” is fast evolving into a series of intangible online social media webpages, A Public Fit aims to reinvigorate the tangible community by working with emerging Las Vegas artists to create exciting, innovative, and provocative professional theater. APF believes strongly in the communal power of great stories, dramatic ideas, and the sincere engagement that audiences find in challenging theatrical events. A Public Fit genuinely hopes to unite professional artists and audiences through the most effective form of human connection, treating each production as the beginning of an unending conversation.
Let us start with the mission; it’s as true now as it was when we first proclaimed it 10 years ago: In an age where the notion of “neighborhood” is fast evolving into a series of intangible on-line social media webpages, A Public Fit Theatre Company aims to reinvigorate the tangible community by working with emerging Las Vegas artists to create exciting, innovative, and provocative professional theater. APF believes strongly in the communal power of great stories, dramatic ideas, and the sincere engagement that audiences find in challenging theatrical events. A Public Fit genuinely hopes to unite professional artists and audiences through the most effective form of human connection, treating each production as the beginning of an unending conversation.
That conversation started in our parents’ library – a wild, rambling discussion about Adam Bock’s The Thugs, a play we didn’t fully understand (maybe we still don’t…). We read it out loud, laughing and gasping and questioning each line. And the conversation that followed established firmly within us our evolving hopes for our nascent enterprise – yes, theatre was meant to be experienced, felt, and enjoyed but, perhaps even more important than that, theatre was meant to be discussed. Our first publicly staged reading, Amy Herzog’s Belleville, was presented in a downtown multi-use space that sat on a busy corner of Las Vegas Blvd. It was free. And it was S.R.O. And the conversation that followed – labeled then and forever The Buzz – reinforced the mission we had embraced: Las Vegas was hungry to experience, feel, and enjoy; Las Vegas was hungry for the conversation.
A series of free public readings followed that first year: The Trip to Bountiful (Horton Foote), Rabbit Hole (David Lindsay-Abaire), Endgame (Samuel Beckett), A Steady Rain (Keith Huff), Orange Flower Water (Craig Wright), The Whipping Man (Matthew Lopez), and 4000 Miles (Amy Herzog). And we changed venues: from the multi-use space to a stage behind a bar to another stage behind another, smaller bar. In the midst of it all, we managed to produce a fully-realized production, our first: Dawn King’s Foxfinder at the ArtSquare Theatre. Lightning struck, and that production sizzled, winning a slew of Valley Theatre Awards and an enthusiastic following. And the conversation continued after each and every performance, building what we still believe to be the most engaged audiences in town.
Season 2 found us aching for a home. We found one in the empty warehouse that sat on the corner of Fremont and Maryland Parkway – a huge, cavernous space that would not only be the setting for but would also serve as a principal character in our second mainstage show: an original work by our own Producing Director, Joseph Kucan, entitled A Summons from the Tinker to Assemble the Membership in Secret at the Usual Place. Based upon M, a 1931 Fritz Lang film, A Summons from the Tinker… transformed the huge, dusty space into a haunting theatrical venue, an adaptive space that would become our home for the next 7 years. In that second season we produced 4 more staged readings – Red Light Winter (Adam Rapp), Body Awareness (Annie Baker), Talley’s Folly (Lanford Wilson), The Realistic Joneses (Will Eno), Fool for Love (Sam Shepard), and The River (Jez Butterworth) as well as what would be our 3rd full-scale production: Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw.
By Season 3, we had established what would become our groove: a 7-show season consisting of 4 staged readings and 3 fully-realized productions. That dusty warehouse became our home, christened The Usual Place after the first show presented there. And we formed a crucial and treasured partnership with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, staging sell-out, one-night performances of our readings in the intimacy of their Paul C. Blau Theatre (then known as the Jewel Box Theatre). In the Blood (Susan-Lori Parks), The Weir (Conor McPherson), The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion), and Incognito (Nick Payne) played to enthusiastic S.R.O. crowds. This was the season of When the Rain Stops Falling (Andrew Bovell), The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Martin McDonagh) and The Realistic Joneses (Will Eno), presented at the College of Southern Nevada while The Usual Place began ambitious renovations.
Season 4 saw our ambitions writ large: Wit (Margaret Edson); The Glass Menagerie (Tennessee Williams) and Other Desert Cities (Jon Robin Baitz) re-imagined The Usual Place with sweeping sets and show-stopping performances while our reading series continued with Lobby Hero (Kenneth Lonergen), Red (John Logan), After the Revolution (Amy Herzog) and a staged reading of Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County that forever changed the way we imagined readings could be. APF shared our energies and our creative process with the Del Sol Academy of Performing Arts to create Stories My Father Told Me, an original play made up of traditional folk tales and culturally significant legends. We fully embraced our love of raconteurs, introducing The Outburst, an evening of pure storytelling centered around a single theme.
By Season 5, The Usual Place had also transformed: the dusty, cavernous warehouse had become a true performance space, replete with a full bar and dressing rooms. We hit the ground running: Small Mouth Sounds (Bess Wohl) baptized the newly renovated space while The Elephant Man (Bernard Pomerance) and Incognito (Nick Payne) rounded out the production season. No Exit (Jean-Paul Satre), Appropriate (Branden Jacobs-Jenkins), Three Tall Women (Edward Albee) and Closer (Patrick Marber) challenged audiences and led the way for our eventual move into the library’s larger theatre space – a space to ensure no more standing room only events!
And then it all closed down during Season 6. The Ghosts of Lote Bravo (Hilary Bettis) and Cry it Out (Molly Smith Metzler) both went off at the library without a hitch. Back at The Usual Place, August: Osage County (Tracy Letts) enjoyed rave reviews and standing ovations. And then, just one week after closing A Steady Rain (Keith Huff) at The Usual Place, Covid-19 shut the world down.
Season 7 was necessarily abbreviated and consisted of just 2 staged readings: I and You (Lauren Gunderson) and Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children. But we weren’t completely idle during this down time. APF took to the airwaves and debuted a new project: Behind the Buzz, an occasional podcast hosted by Joe and Ann-Marie, examining the company’s productions from the perspective of the directors, performers, designers, and playwrights whose talents are wholly responsible for the continued success of our company. We were captivated by so many viewpoints and were excited to meet some of our favorite playwrights. To date, guests have included Margaret Edson, Bess Wohl, Craig Wright, Tim Crouch, Audrey Cefaly, and Lauren Gunderson.
Our return to the stage for Season 8 was spectacular. To reacquaint ourselves with our audiences and to reintroduce ourselves to public life, APF returned to something familiar: Dawn King’s Foxfinder opened at The Space for a limited but highly successful run, testing the community’s hunger for a return to normalcy. Back at the library, and now fully ensconced in the larger theatre, the free readings doubled their performance schedules and extended their design footprints – suggestions of sets, costumes, lighting, and audio designs now enhanced the performances, and audiences were enthralled. Gloria (Branden Jacobs-Jenkins), Skeleton Crew (Dominique Morriseau), Stop Kiss (Diana Son), and Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Will Arbery) made folk wonder aloud: are you sure this is a reading? Recent Tragic Events (Craig Wright) returned us to The Usual Place and the magical Things I Know to Be True (Andrew Bovell) ended our long, cherished run there.
Season 9 felt familiar: once again we were vagabonds, partnering with both Super Summer Theatre Studios and the College of Southern Nevada to produce our work. Three Days of Rain (Richard Greenberg) and An Oak Tree (Tim Crouch) would take over the SST space while CSN was pleased and proud to host August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. Keely and Du (Jane Martin), Brilliant Adventures (Alistair McDowall), Lydia (Octavio Solis) and Alabaster (Audrey Cefaly) lit up the stage at the library once again and The Outburst returned in all its story-telling glory!
And now here we are at Season number 10. We’ve grown from a handful of friends sitting around a library table to a company staff of 15; we’ve employed scores of theatre professionals – actors, designers, painters, technical craftsmen, and stage managers; we’ve imported designers from Chicago and Texas, flown in actors from New York and Florida; we’ve created an internship program, educational outreach, and formed community partnerships that have lasted for years.