Strong emotions, insightful dialogue and thought-provoking plots fill The Usual Place, home to local theater company A Public Fit’s provocative plays.
Located next to PublicUs coffee house on Maryland Parkway and Fremont Street, the building that once housed a gym and furniture store now hosts engaging, compelling productions such as “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” a Tony Award-winning play exploring the power struggle between a 70-year-old mother and her 40-year-old virgin caretaker daughter in a small country village.
Starting as a series of play readings with friends around a table, in its second year A Public Fit moved to its current location. The venue is dubbed The Usual Place in honor of “A Summons from the Tinker to Assemble the Membership in Secret at the Usual Place,” an immersive original production based upon the 1931 Fritz Lang German expressionist film M.
The theater’s 8,000-square-foot space gives the theater company flexibility to create different staging. And it’s turned out to be a perfect fit for A Public Fit. “If you want to understand the true history of Las Vegas, Downtown is where it started,” says co-founder and artistic director Ann Marie Pereth, who also resides in the neighborhood, which she considers to be Las Vegas’ true epicenter.
Co-founders Pereth and Joseph Kucan both share a love for theater, including having worked in Rainbow Company Youth Theatre as children. After graduating from UNLV with a Masters in Fine Arts in directing, Pereth realized that it was difficult to make a living as a professional actor outside of Las Vegas Strip productions.
“I wanted create work for the people that I love, for the community, for artists and for myself,” she says. Raised in Las Vegas, she followed her dream of acting, dancing, directing and choreographing in theaters across the country. During the economic crisis in 2008, Pereth received an offer to advance her education in Las Vegas, so she returned home and has since continued to help the Las Vegas arts community flourish.
The majority of the A Public Fit staff and volunteers are women filling 12 key positions. Though they hold day jobs, they come together out of love for the stage.
Production manager Brandi Blackman is one of the original staff members of A Public Fit. She reinvented herself after working for 15 years in customer service and as a public school registrar. She went back to school, obtained her degree in stage management and now works as a freelance stage manager. Past productions she has been involved with include “The Producers” and “Forum” at Spring Mountain Ranch and “Mary Poppins” for Signature Productions.
During the day, Lisa Chapman, works with nonprofits focusing on domestic violence. On her off-time, she takes to the stage as A Public Fit’s associate producing director. “With A Public Fit, I can incorporate all of my skills and be a part of a growing theater group,” she says. Active in theater while attending Las Vegas High School and UNLV, Chapman says she joined A Public Fit because “art in all forms makes the community more beautiful and makes the world better.”
Beginning its fourth professional season October 27, A Public Fit will hold auditions for its three staged productions on Aug. 12. “Wit” (also known as “W;t”) is the Pulitzer Prize-winning one-act play dramatizing the final hours of Dr. Vivian Bearing, a university professor dying of ovarian cancer. “The Glass Menagerie,” the play that defined playwright Tennessee Williams, explores reality and memories. “Other Desert Cities” involves a family with differing political views and a long-held family secret; the play was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
As in the past, each production will be immediately followed by The Buzz, a moderated discussion with the audience on the play’s themes, style and impressions.
“We can produce a great play and promote it, but if we want to keep the culturescape growing and evolving, the audience is an important component,” Pereth says. “They are just as important as the actors, director, playwright, stagehands, designers and everyone else involved. If no one comes, then nothing happens.”
“Wit” by Margaret Edison, Oct. 27-Nov. 19
“The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, Feb. 16-March 11, 2018
“Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz, April 27-May 20, 2018
“Lobby Hero” by Kenneth Lonergan, September 29
“Red” by John Logan, Jan. 26, 2018
“After the Revolution” by Amy Herzog, March 30, 2018
“August Osage County” by Tracy Letts, June 29, 2018