The Nevada Shakespeare Company produces humanities-based works for theater and film in northern Nevada, emphasizing the arts and education. Over the years, the company was best known for its innovative interpretations of Shakespeare and presenting new works with a social emphasis. Today, the company focuses on its Shakespeare in School program and produces two to three main-stage plays each year with local teen and professional actors.
The company began in May 1989, when Jeanmarie Simpson founded the Daring Explorations Theatre Company. Its first production was the musical Quilters, which was presented at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Virginia City. Throughout the next decade, the company grew in size, financial scope, and artistic reputation.
Simpson later founded the Nevada Shakespeare Festival in 1998, organizing it with Roderick Dexter, Bob Barsanti, and Cameron Crain. Its first productions were Arthur Miller’s Elegy for a Lady, Sandra Deer’s Sailing to Byzantium, and a six-actor version of Hamlet. Simpson wanted to link the two companies, so they were combined for a nonprofit status in 1999. The name was officially changed to the Nevada Shakespeare Company in 2002.
In 2000 and 2001, the company held performances at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City. The programs included Annie Get Your Gun, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, The Music Man, Twelfth Night, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet. Also, actors Hal Holbrook and Leonard Nimoy appeared in performances that benefited the company’s educational program, Shakespeare in School.
The Nevada Shakespeare Company collaborated with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on The Road to Mecca, a play by Athol Fugard, in 2003.
The company then kicked off a national tour of Simpson’s play, A Single Woman. The play was about Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It played more than 200 performances in Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New York, including an off-Broadway run in 2005 at the Culture Project, a New York venue dedicated to sparking political discussion through the stage.
In 2006, Crain raised money to produce A Single Woman as an independent, educational film. The film starred Simpson with actor Judd Nelson and featured actors Peter Coyote, Patricia Arquette, Mimi Kennedy, Margot Kidder, and Martin Sheen. Music was written by Joni Mitchell. The film was released in November 2008.
The Shakespeare in School program began in 2001, founded by Crain. Focusing on bringing Shakespeare's work to a new generation, the program allows the company to bring plays to schools and fund programs such as the D. G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare Program and A Midsummer's Camp. Since its inception, the Shakespeare in School program has served more than 120,000 Nevada students. The company began coordinating with the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival on the program in 2007.
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