“We pick the shows that are right on the edge,” says Majestic Repertory Theater artistic director Troy Heard.
As the company wraps up its 2017-18 season with Animal Farm, which kicks off May 17, Heard is already looking ahead. For its third season in the Arts District, Majestic will offer a lineup that varies from experimental dramas to beloved musicals, classics to world-premieres, Shakespeare to Elvis.
The first production will be Cabaret in August; other well-known plays will include Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, but updated and restaged as immersive theater, something Heard is excited about. “For some reason, Vegas has become the target for massive immersive art projects. There’s Meow Wolf, there’s Perry Farrell’s [Kind Heaven],” Heard points out, noting that productions like The Willows and The Blackout Experience have been very successful in New York and Los Angeles.
“I was sitting in the space thinking, ‘Why should people do Shakespeare right now?’” he recalls, “‘How do we make this emotional? How do we put the audience in where the action is?’ So we’re going to do Measure for Measure in ‘Lost Wages’ … The governor is closing down the brothels, closing down the casinos, the discos. You have the last minutes of debauchery before you’re thrown into prison.” Moving around the Majestic space, he points out that beds, bars and jail cells will be where folding seats and storage spaces are now. “You’re thrust into a role. You have to become somebody.”
The theater will also be transformed for Our Town, albeit into something very different. Heard explains: “We’re going to situate it in a church basement …You come into the potluck supper. There will be fried chicken and jello molds and you’ll actually be sitting with the actors.” The trend will continue with an original play Heard is writing, the holiday horror show Krampus. “We’re looking for a house,” he says, “It’s going to be another immersive experience. You’re actually at your neighbor’s Christmas party. You play party games, decorate cookies.”
Other productions include the very meta A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney; the German Expressionist musical about teenagers, Spring Awakening; Tight End, a drama about a girl who joins her high school football team; The Legend of Georgia McBride, a comedy about an Elvis-impersonator turned drag queen; and the world premiere of Bigfoot, a musical.
There’s also a smaller-scale immersive project over the summer, Serial Killers You Know and Love, in which an audience of two interacts with a murderous “John Wayne Gacy” or “Aileen Wuornos.” “Somebody cries every time,” says Heard, “It’s psychological horror.”
However, Majestic Repertory’s future programming isn’t all on the stage. The company has a new director of education, with a slate of classes and activities for younger theater lovers. “We’re going to do our first full-month camp, working with artists from Cirque and Spiegelworld,” Heard says. “It’s not just the traditional Broadway ‘be a star’ type workshop. It’s about ensemble-building, it’s experimental.”
“I was very careful with what I chose,” says Heard of the season’s programming. “What reflects our artists? What reflects our time right now?… We could do stereotypical black box shows with people in black turtlenecks, [but] why?”
When you can send Shakespeare to a brothel and serve great American art alongside a jello mold, “why?” indeed.
Majestic Repertory’s Animal Farm
May 17-June 3, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m., 1217 S. Main St., majesticrepertory.com