All the world’s a stage, says a character in William Shakespeare’s comedy "As You Like It."
For the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company, that stage is soon to be the Reed Whipple Cultural Center.
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday enthusiastically approved turning over the center to the acting troupe, bringing high culture to downtown and saving taxpayer money at the same time.
Artistic Director Dan Decker told Mayor Carolyn Goodman and council members that his award-winning company will keep seven full-time employees year-round and will hire as many as 200 part-time workers whenever a production gears up — six or more times a year.
But council members seemed more interested in having a tenant for one of its more important but vacant venues in the so-called downtown cultural corridor.
The Shakespeare Company will pay only $10 a year to rent the facility, but taxpayers will be off the hook for about $300,000 a year in building and grounds maintenance costs, city officials said.
Councilmen Steve Ross and Stavros Anthony were so thrilled, they ponied up $10 to pay the first year’s rent.
"This will give people another reason to come downtown," said Ross, who noted the area already has the Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Fort and Cashman Center.
The Rainbow Company Youth Theatre, a city-sponsored group, and the private Las Vegas Youth Orchestra were the most recent occupants of the center, but budget woes led to their departure last summer.
Decker said any changes to the interior of the building would be cosmetic because it already has staging, lighting and a sound system.
"We’re not going to tear down any walls," he said.
He hopes to reconfigure the seating to make it more flexible for directors and increase capacity from about 275 to 400.
The move also will allow the company to centralize its far-flung operations. Rehearsals now are held at Opportunity Village on Buffalo Drive; the office is downtown; and stage props are warehoused off Interstate 15 near the Las Vegas Speedway.
Once retrofitting of the center is complete, performances will start next year with an expanded schedule.
Decker and his troupe will continue educational outreach to students in the Clark County School District and clients at Opportunity Village.
While council members seemed excited about reopening the Whipple Center, they became more so after actors Cory Goble and Louisa Lemos gave them a taste of the talent when they performed a scene from "Romeo and Juliet."
Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said the community is "hungry" for what Decker’s company offers.
Councilman Ricki Barlow, who revealed he was a theater major in college, said, "This is big cultural news for our city."
The first production is scheduled for April.
"The whole community is invited to come join the adventure," Decker said.
And if Shakespeare isn’t your cup of tea, the company also will put on musicals, new works and a holiday program, Decker said.
Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.Las Vegas Shakespeare Company