Super Summer Theatre has emerged as one of our top-performance venues, but it hasn’t gotten there easily. Indications are that the people who have fought for progress have had to battle an authoritative board that has more authority than common sense.
It wasn’t so long ago that most shows (which contract with local troupes for productions at the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park) got butchered from sometimes two hours or more to 75 minutes. The director was told he had to make the cuts. This isn’t like the edited "Broadway" shows we sometimes see on the Strip. There, the authors, or their representatives, approve every script change. At the ranch, the board — in violation of licensing agreements — took it upon themselves to better the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein. I asked a board member why this was done. I was told, "We need to get the audience home early," and that she didn’t know the practice was not illegal. The next season I saw another 75-minute show, and was told by the same board member that again, she had no idea the cuttings were improper. This time, I contacted the New York licensing company. The agent knew nothing about the edits and said she would make some angry calls to the theater. (I support local arts, but I support the rights of international artists a lot more.)
Another time, I noticed the program notes did not always give credit to authors. Licensers not only demand posting of authorship, but often specify how tall the credit must be. I asked the board member responsible what was up, and got an astounding reply: "To tell you the truth, I never read the contracts before I mail them."
At one time, SST directors took orders from the light and sound people. Is there a theater buff in the smallest town who doesn’t realize this pecking order needs to be reversed?
Latest bit of nonsense: I was told the press couldn’t come to opening night of "Buddy — the Buddy Holly Story" because it was a preview. Yet, the public was being charged full price. Why, then, was it considered a preview? The answers I got were prized gobbledygook: "We’re asking our patrons for peanut butter that night for charity, so it’s not a regular performance." "We’ve given out a lot of comp tickets." "We may have to stop a show if there are technical problems." A production that the general public is paying full price to see should be ready to open and be reviewed. I finally contacted "Buddy’s" director, Philip Shelburne, who immediately understood my position and got me the press tickets.
For years, directors have been telling me how they’ve had to fight this board to make the lightest move forward. Call me gullible, but I believe them.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.