weather icon Clear

Smith Center president, performers and community leaders react to extended closure

The day after announcing that The Smith Center would remain dark indefinitely, President and CEO Myron Martin struggled to come up with the words for what he was feeling.

“I’m still letting everything soak in,” Martin says. “I’m cathartic about parts of it. I’m happy and I’m sad. We know we’re going to reopen. It’s a question of when.”

In trying to sum up the impact The Smith Center has had in its 8-year history, Martin and several theatergoers, performers and community leaders reflected last week on what the center has meant for Southern Nevada’s cultural identity.

“The impact goes way beyond ticket sales,” Martin says. “It’s inspiring people, enriching their lives, giving people new opportunities to engage with fans and neighbors. All the educational components with Clark County students. When I think about the extraordinary work we’ve done, it brings me great joy.”

On Wednesday, Martin announced that the downtown performing arts theater would stay closed as the coronavirus pandemic continues to prevent large gatherings. It went dark in March, ahead of its last showing of the Broadway series, “Once on This Island.”

Economic challenges

Because of the reality of social distancing, Martin says it isn’t financially plausible for the theater to open any time soon.

“If you have to space people 6 feet apart, it comes out as blocking out two rows, the third row has 30 percent of the seats, then block off the next two rows …,” Martin explains. “We end up with 25 percent capacity. Depending on the shows, it can take 75 percent of the seats just to break even.”

He says the other half of the problem may be even more important — that the joy and magic of theater comes from being surrounded by people and having a shared experience.

“You laugh and everyone around you laughs. You cry and realize you’re not alone. The magic of theater requires a shared experience,” Martin says. “I don’t mind saying that I tear up thinking about this situation we’re in. And what it will be like when we’re all back together.”

The Smith Center’s reopening is also contingent on touring shows returning to the road. That will take time as well, as the productions will depend on audiences having confidence to return to the theater.

When asked what The Smith Center’s temporary closure will mean for Las Vegas, Martin is unsure where to start.

“There’s the number of people who come and pay for tickets. And they go to dinner before or a drink after. The economic impact for the city is huge,” Martin says. “But I’m still thinking about Frankie Moreno and Clint Holmes and all the incredible singers and musicians not getting to work at The Smith Center, and that’s eating away at me. There’s all the ticket-takers and stage hands and amazing people who are furloughed and that breaks my heart. When we reopen, and we know that a few months pass pretty quickly, how great that will be.”

Community reaction

Across the Las Vegas Valley, those who’ve performed at the center and community leaders reacted to the extended closure.

Las Vegas Ward 5 Councilman Cedric Crear is one of the founding board members.

“The Smith Center was built to bring art and culture to the community,” he says. “It’s more than just a venue. It truly is a community. It appeals to everybody. That’s the tough part. When it goes away, it takes a part of the community.”

When composer Keith Thompson moved to Las Vegas in 2004, he was sure there was a place for ballet and philharmonic, but he didn’t know where to find them.

“I remember being told that they were building a new arts center. I said it’ll never go,” Thompson says. “And then it blew the roof off this town.”

Thompson organizes, hosts and often performs at the monthly Composers Showcase at The Smith Center’s intimate Myron’s Cabaret Jazz. “People had a hunger for performing arts. And the rest is history. I can’t remember what Las Vegas was like without it.”

Clint Holmes was the first resident headliner of The Smith Center’s smaller venue.

“I was brought in to talk about the height of the Cabaret Jazz stage. It’s not just a place I performed. I felt very much on the ground floor,” says Holmes.

Holmes has performed all over the world. He says that, prior to The Smith Center opening, jazz and cabaret artists didn’t really have a place to play here.

“When the Smith Center came to fruition, it gave status to Las Vegas. We now have a performing arts center where artists all over the world can perform,” Holmes says. “It might be the most important edifice in our city.”

While Holmes says the theater attracted artists by lending credibility to the city, Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, says the inverse is also true.

‘It feels prestigious’

“It changes the internal perception,” she says. “It feels prestigious. It helps an art organization, one that may be growing, to feel like a substantial part of the community.”

Huszcza says that the grandeur of the building has had a huge effect on lending credibility to the Philharmonic, Nevada Ballet Theatre and even smaller local companies that perform semi-regularly.

“The prolonged closure is hard. It changes the way we as art organizations are able to present our art form to the community.”

The center closed ahead of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s April 4 and May 9 concerts.

“I feel for Myron,” says music director Donato Cabrera. “The Smith Center is a jewel in the arts and cultural scene in Las Vegas.”

‘The crown jewel’

Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus has attended performances at Reynolds Hall and Cabaret Jazz.

“The beautiful architecture, amazing performances and unique educational opportunities make The Smith Center the crown jewel of Southern Nevada’s cultural scene,” says Titus. “I’ll continue to fight in Congress to make sure that cultural institutions like The Smith Center get access to relief.”

Troy Heard, artistic director for Majestic Repertory Theatre, also says the center is a jewel.

“When I moved to Las Vegas, this was the largest city I lived in that didn’t have a performing arts center that could handle Broadway tours. It wasn’t a thing 10 years ago,” he remembers.

Heard says that The Smith Center’s opening gave validity to Las Vegas as a theater city. Those who’ve attended performances there, he says, realize they like theater, and then branch out to other facilities, such as Majestic.

“It’s a local institution. To see it not operate for so long, it’s heartbreaking,” Heard says.

Since 2012, The Smith Center has been the performing home to Nevada Ballet Theatre.

“I was so impressed the first time I saw it,” artistic director Roy Kaiser says. “It’s a beautiful venue to work in and beautiful venue for the public.”

Kaiser was aware of theater closings around the county and figured The Smith Center would be one of the last facilities to reopen.

“Artists are resilient. And art is resilient,” Kaiser says. “We’ll get creative and figure out ways to carry on in some fashion.”

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
'In the Dark' at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum - Video
Laurie Thomas, controller for the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, discusses the new exhibit, "In the Dark," in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Summertime Dole Whip Cocktails
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian has two new Dole Whip cocktails. The Golden Tiki, which offers a line of Dole Whip cocktails, is reopening Wednesday.
Lin-Manuel Miranda says 'Hamilton' criticism is 'fair game'
Lin-Manuel Miranda has responded to people claiming he presented an idealized version of the Founding Fathers. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Charlie Daniels, 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' singer, dead at 83 - Video
Charlie Daniels, the country music star, was struck by a hemorrhagic stroke in Hermitage, Tennessee. His death was confirmed on Monday. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jennifer Romas takes her 'Sexxy The Show' to Dreamland Drive-In - Video
Jennifer Romas, producer, director, choreographer and star “Sexxy The Show" at Westgate took her show to Dreamland Drive-In at FreshWata Studios in Las Vegas. The show, which is currently dark at the Westgate, is a benefit for charities Golden Rainbow of Southern Nevada, The Actors Fund and Pawtastic Friends. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Wynn Las Vegas’ ‘re-imagined’ buffet - VIDEO
On June 18, The Buffet at Wynn reopened to customers with what the resort called “a re-imagined all-you-can-eat concept that combines the abundance of the traditional buffet with the benefits of a full-service restaurant.” (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jimmy Kimmel issues public apology for past blackface sketches - Video
On Tuesday, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel took to Twitter to apologize for his blackface impression of NBA star Karl Malone. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kurt Cobain's MTV Unplugged guitar sold for record-breaking $6M - Video
The 1959 Martin D-18E, which was often out of tune, was expected to fetch between $1million and $2 million. The iconic guitar was sold during the online 'Music Icons' sale hosted by Julien's Auctions over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joel Schumacher, director of 'Lost Boys' and Batman films, dead at 80 - Video
Schumacher died in New York City after battling cancer for a year. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'We are not a monolith' - Video
Lance Smith, a multidisciplinary artist, talks about how black artists should be acknowledged for their work and not tokenized or only have their work connected to trauma. "Blackness, we are not a monolith, we deserve to live and create in a world that respects us as we are." (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amid protests and pandemic, black artists view works as means to empathy, healing - Video
Erica Vital-Lazare is an artist, writer, sometimes activist and professor at the College of Southern Nevada. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
PodKats! with Ross Mollison
On this edition of PodKats! Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes is joined by the founder of Spiegelworld and producer of Las Vegas Strip shows such as "Absinthe," and "Opium," Ross Mollison.
Paramount pulls 'Cops' series in wake of protests - Video
Paramount Network recently confirmed their decision to cancel the long-running reality show, "Cops." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Restaurants add COVID-19 surcharge - Video
Some Las Vegas Strip restaurants are adding a COVID-19 surcharge to their bills to help offset the additional costs of reopening. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kats hangs at Mayfair Supper Club as Bellagio reopens
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes visits The Mayfair Supper Club at the Bellagio on the Strip in Las Vegas on the first night after reopening Thursday, June 4, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas performers adapt to pandemic restrictions - Video
The coronavirus pandemic has forced creative people in Las Vegas, a city that thrives on live performance, to adapt to new or changed ways to entertain. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas woman brings Blue Angel to life - Video
When Las Vegas shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria Hogan created the Blue Angel costume and performance, emulating the statue locals know and love in order to connect with others in a time when connection isn’t as possible. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‘Hamilton’ postponed as Smith Center remains dark indefinitely - VIDEO
The hit musical 'Hamilton' was supposed to run from September through October at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Strip with Kats
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife Gilligan Stillwater GIbbons and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides a bicycle on the Las Vegas Strip with Kats - Video
Las Vegas resident and ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons rides down the Strip with his wife, Gilligan Stillwater Gibbons, and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Ex-WWE star Shad Gaspard found dead on beach - Video
Shad Gaspard, 39, the former WWE wrestler, was found dead Wednesday morning on the shoreline of Venice Beach in California. Gaspard went missing over the weekend. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buffets won’t reopen soon, but they may return eventually - VIDEO
In a Tuesday earnings call, Frank Fertitta III, CEO of Station Casinos parent company Red Rock Resorts, said buffets won’t be among the amenities included in the early stages of the resorts’ reopenings. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Hamilton' to debut on Disney+ in July - Video
The film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular musical was originally set for theatrical release in October. The musical’s director, Tommy Kail, shot three live performances featuring the original Broadway cast. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Little Richard dead at 87 - VIDEO
Little Richard, the pioneer and rock 'n' roll originator, died on Saturday, May 9. His son, Danny Penniman, confirmed the news but the cause of death is unknown. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jerry Stiller, actor and comedian, dies at 92 - VIDEO
Jerry Stiller's son, actor and director Ben Stiller, announced his father's death via Twitter. Jerry Stiller became widely known with a recurring role on "Seinfeld" as Frank Costanza, George's hot-headed father. He also starred on "King of Queens." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wolfgang Puck's Players Locker opens in Downtown Summerlin along with others - VIDEO
Under the governor's orders a few restaurants were able to open their dining rooms in Downtown Summerlin Saturday, May 9. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nicolas Cage to portray Joe Exotic in ‘Tiger King’ TV adaption - VIDEO
Nicolas Cage is headed to television to take on the role of Joe Exotic, the iconic character from the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quarantined! 'The Ghost Adventures' miniseries by Zak Bagans - VIDEO
The four-part miniseries “Ghost Adventures: Quarantine” by Zak Bagans will debut in June on the Travel Channel. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 facts about Cinco de Mayo - VIDEO
The holiday celebrates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexico began the holiday in 1862, but does not recognize it nationally anymore. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kristin Cavallari has already filed for divorce - VIDEO
Kristin Cavallari, the "Very Cavallari" star, announced she and her husband, former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, have separated after seven years of marriage and 10 years together. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cirque lenders fighting company’s restart plan

According to reports, if Cirque lenders’ effort is turned back, the group would ask to replace Lamarre as Cirque’s CEO and as a board member, along with the rest of the board.

Book by Trump’s niece offers scathing portrayal of president

The book is the second insider account in as many months following the release of former national security adviser John Bolton’s bestseller last month.