Super Summer Theatre a gem in our backyard

If you're looking for a break from triple digits and a hiatus from the use of maximum air conditioning during this hottest time of the year, then a truly refreshing evening under the stars is just for you.

Does that sound like a mirage? In Las Vegas? In July? Well, it's real. And if you live in Summerlin, you're only minutes away from all the accoutrements, which include a cool, comfortable and thoroughly entertaining experience. The place is the majestic setting of Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, and the focus of your attention is Super Summer Theatre, which is in the midst of its 36th season.

There's no need to drive out of state for a breath of fresh, cool air while enjoying outdoor summer theater that is among the finest in the Southwest. For the remaining evenings of this week ---- 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday ---- the production at the outdoor theater is the musical "The Drowsy Chaperone."

Then, beginning Aug. 10, Super Summer Theatre resumes with 12 nights of "Fiddler on the Roof," every Wednesday through Saturday evening. The concluding presentation for this season will be "Five Guys Named Moe," another musical, Sept. 8-24 .

"After that, our board of directors keeps right on meeting each month, preparing for next summer's performances," said Christy Miller, vice president of the 35-member board. Miller also is chairwoman of the theater 's Production Committee for the 18th consecutive season.

The nice thing about Super Summer Theatre, a nonprofit organization, is that it is moderately priced at $12 per person. But that's only if tickets are purchased in advance at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Performing Arts Center box office, UNLV tickets kiosks at Town Square Las Vegas or Prestige Travel at Buffalo Drive and Lake Mead Boulevard. Children under 5 are admitted free. Tickets also are available at the gate on the night of the performance for $15 but only if the 1,000-capacity theater is not sold out.

"We try to keep prices as low as possible to encourage families to come out," explained Miller. "We want children, especially, to enjoy these productions. The greatest thing we can hear is when kids come up to us and say that they want to perform one day."

Other than ticket sales, the only other source of income is contributions, such as "passing the hat," which has become a routine every evening to help cover costs. In addition to paying each of the four production companies contracted to perform the various shows each season, the other major cost involves maintenance of the theater area.

"We rely very heavily on volunteers," noted Miller. "We have a list of about 4,000 volunteers who provide anywhere from one evening a season to many evenings. The work can involve any of many tasks. We are constantly looking for more volunteers."

Persons interested in volunteering can visit or call 594-7529 for more information.

Miller said the board of directors, and a separate advisory board consisting of professionals, also are volunteers.

"We are completely nonprofit, and every penny we take in is used toward the furtherance of the theater and its projects," she said.

That includes Military Night, which involves the donation of 150 tickets and a full dinner for men and women in the military, including their families. There are four such evenings during the season, on the opening night of each production.

"But that's not all," Miller said. "We also have four Peanut Butter Nights a season, where we encourage people to bring peanut butter, or any other packaged food, all of which are donated to food banks."

The actual theater in the 520-acre state park was built 20 years ago from contributions. There is no permanent seating. Patrons can either bring blankets, their own portable chairs or rent chairs at the park for $1 each. The temperature is generally about 10 degrees cooler than Summerlin, and the relaxed setting is most conducive to picnicking. A refreshment facility also is on the grounds.

The directions are simple. Take Charleston Boulevard about 12 miles west of the Las Vegas Beltway directly to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and the theater.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He is the author of the novels "Falling Dominoes" and "One At A Time." Contact him at