Park for the Arts a paradise for budding playwrights

The Katherine Gianaclis Park for the Arts looks like either a junkyard or an antique paradise.

The small, fenced-in area at 5690 Boulder Highway, one block south of Tropicana Avenue, is so nondescript from the outside that many people have trouble finding it. It blends in with the neighborhood of pawnshops, pubs, gas stations and public housing.

But for some, the frail building has become an artistic paradise. It’s the place budding playwrights can go to try out their wares.

"We want original plays," 29-year-old local actor Ernie Curcio says. "We don’t judge the script. If the writer wants the play read, we’ll have a public reading, either with our actors, or the writer’s actors."

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas grad works with four other organizers who live at the park. They tend to have Sunday afternoon readings, attended by a handful of friends.

Occasionally, some of these will be produced over a two-weekend period. There’s little or no publicity, but the 55-seat indoor theater (there’s also an outdoor playing area) tends to sell out.

That may have to do with Curcio’s reputation in Vegas as an artist who likes to take chances. Or it may be that locals now are ready to embrace works that are not necessarily "safe."

At least one member of the academic community — College of Southern Nevada’s Joe Hammond — has been impressed enough to offer extra credit for his students who get involved.

Although the mounted shows involve actors and a director, Curcio is quick to point out that the process is really about the playwright.

"We want the writer to be involved as much as he wants to be involved," he says. "It’s all about his vision."

There’s no audition, no screening process. Whoever wants to work on their play gets to work on their play.

Audiences are asked for a $10 donation, but people are encouraged to pay whatever they can afford. The little money taken at the gate is split among the participants.

Needless to say, finances are tight. Curcio has neither a land line nor a cell phone. Just when I was asking him how people manage to get in touch with him, a man’s voice called his name from the street. "That’s how," he pointed out.

He has conceded to modern tradition by maintaining an e-mail address (ErnieCurcio@hotmail.com) to receive scripts.

The park has been devoted to some type of art in tribute to Gianaclis since her death in 1999. On March 21, it’ll play host to the paintings of the late Barbara Ann Rollins, as well as a collection of her 10-minute plays.

You can’t call for more information, but you can always try Ernie’s e-mail address.

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.

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