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editor’s note

Home smart home

W Welcome to the March Desert

Next Month in Desert Companion

Get out! Outside, that is. It’s our sports, leisure and outdoors issue

Companion. Our spring fashion and home design issue is sure to help you continue making a home in Southern Nevada — stylishly, economically and mindfully. Of course, home is about much more than custom architecture and designer furniture. Creating a home is about making your own space, even guiding your own destiny. We have an inspiring story of how residents of one aging neighborhood did just that (page 22), scoring a win for the history books, literally and figuratively. Now, here’s the needle-scratchingrecord part — weerweet! — where the editor hijacks the magazine’s theme for a bit of thinky polemic. My own preoccupations with the notion of home in Southern Nevada take on a more philosophical cast in light of two recent events. One event is the kickoff of the 2011 Nevada Legislature. It began Feb. 7 amid the echoes of a new governor’s state of the state speech that sometimes felt like a grim preop talk from a doctor (one unblessed with any sense of bedside manner) who says we’re going to cut here, here and here and that’s that. The other event is Preview 2011, which took place Feb. 11 at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. If you’re unfamiliar with Preview, it’s an annual handshaker put on by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce that hauls in a snack-pack of our best brainiacs to forecast the business climate in the coming year. Reading the daily newspapers’ accounts, you’d

2 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n m a r c h 2 0 1 1

think Preview 2011 was a campfire sing-along about cautious optimism and gradual economic recovery. It was that. But it was so much less. I have in mind the presentation by Robert Lang, director of the Brookings Mountain West think tank at UNLV. He delivered the most sober and thorough assessment of Southern Nevada’s prospects. In his talk, Lang ticked off a checklist of must-haves for world-class metropolitan cores with vibrant and resilient economies. Las Vegas scored passably well, save for one glaring absence. Muscular global brand? Definitely. A thriving downtown? At a happy simmer. Plugged into the global economy? About to get better, with the completion of McCarran’s new international terminal. Diversity? Not bad. Education? Cue the weerweet! again. According to Lang, our investment in higher education is less than half that of some states of similar population size — Mississippi, to name one. In his words, Nevada’s investment in education is “dismal — and getting worse.” I’ll spare us all a schoolmarmish scolding about the importance of education. That isn’t Lang’s point, nor is it mine. His point is that education is a powerful tool for economic development, not just some rarefied end in itself that somehow mystically fortifies the human soul (though it is that, too). His other point is that educationas-economic-engine isn’t a crazy idea up for debate much anywhere else except, incredibly, Nevada. How else

could a governor propose a 22 percent cut to higher education without so much as wincing? The dailies offer a running tally on gaming revenue and home prices, as though they comprise some nailbiter, real-time EKG of the Las Vegas Valley’s beating heart. That reading is important but incomplete. It lacks a similar real-time EKG of the state of education in Southern Nevada — everything from to graduation rates to college admissions to teacher turnover to new research initiatives. Education isn’t a troublesome hurdle standing in the way of a balanced budget. It’s the key to a healthy, diverse economy — and a better home for all of us.

Andrew Kiraly Editor


WONDER YEARS The Caesars Foundation believes life’s wonders grow over time. That’s why we donate generously to organizations that help seniors age in place and live their lives to the fullest. Please join us in supporting these efforts and organizations in our community.


desert companion magazine //



All Things to All People

Growing a garden of energy-efficient homes




A fresh wave of theater talent shakes up the scene By David McKee


The little ’hood that could By Heidi Kyser



Relish the vibe of hot dog joint the Lunch Box By Brock Radke




From rock to theater to dance, your guide to culture

Throwback looks make a stylish comeback on page 32.

features 32


Retro ’70s style mingles with modern in this spring’s fashion picks

Good things the walls don’t talk; guru Roberto Leyva has plenty to say

The bold and beautiful

Interior monologue



The design-savvy show off their passion and creativity, room by room

Habitat for Humanity aims to make sustainable homes affordable

Open house

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The greenback effect



Vegas needs a reality check (and a hug) By Juan Martinez

30 on the cover Elly sports a warm retro look, with a butterfly print top by Bluemarine, Tom Ford sunglasses and Tarina Tarantino necklace.

Photography: Madison Alexander Styling: Christie Moeller Hair & Make-up: Krystle Randall Model: Elly

Fa s h i o n : M a d i s o n A l e x a n d e r ; DOOR WAY C O U R T ES Y REAL M o f D e s i g n ; SHAW N HA C K LER a n d Ic e c r e a m wa ff l e s a n d w i c h : C h r i s to p h e r Sm i t h




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Desert Companion is published 12 times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free of charge at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Desert Companion and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the express written permission of the publisher. The views of Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Desert Companion or Nevada Public Radio.

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TAKE ACTION FOR THE ARTS The International House of Blues Foundation® (IHOBF) provides arts educational programs, resources, and performance opportunities to thousands of Nevada youth each year. IHOBFʼs Action for the Arts supports youth arts programs and creates opportunities for youth to present/exhibit their artistic works (including those pictured above) while raising public awareness of about the importance of the arts. To make a donation and learn more, including how to participate in IHOBF-Las Vegas Drawing Us Together visual arts exhibit (coming Spring 2011), email or visit

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Let’s kick some glass



Growth spurt It’s a well-polished platitude that the Southern Nevada housing market’s collapse is an opportunity to pause and decide what kind of community we really want to be. Hmm. Let’s see. Hyperbolically churning, stucco-armored growth machine? Been there, done that. How about a resource-savvy desert metropolis that respects its place in the Southwest? Yes, please. Some local developers are starting to bring that very vision to life. Near Charleston Boulevard and the 215 Beltway, Pulte Homes is about 30 houses into its 185-home Villa Trieste development. From the outside? Looks like a typical subdivision. The guts, however, are among the greenest in town. Homes include a solarelectric system built into the roof, a touch-screen dashboard that tracks energy use, a tankless water heater and a tightly insulated shell, all of which promises to slash energy bills by up to 60 percent. “When I started working for Pulte 10 years ago, talking about energy efficiency came down to using, say, sustainable wood floors or better insulation,” says Lindsay Motley, vice president of sales for PulteGroup’s Las Vegas Division. “There was no concept of an integrated solar system, or being able to (assess your energy use) from your iPhone.”

illustration by AARon Kent Warder

If Pulte’s Villa Trieste — which earned a gold certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — sounds like a science project, that’s because it is. Those upgrades were subsidized by a $7 million federal grant to Pulte, the UNLV Center for Energy Research and NV Energy. But the real gold will be in making this green tech affordable for the average homebuyer. In Centennial Hills, Meritage Homes is trying just that, having completed a model “Meritage Green” home that’s also 60 percent more energy efficient than typical tract house — for prices starting at $150,000. At the other end of the valley, boutique builder Blue Heron is breaking ground on a new development in an improbable market: sustainable luxury homes. Its latest development, Marquis Seven Hills, boasts passive solar design and a rainwater-collection system, among other perks. “People have different reasons for wanting an energy efficient home,” says Tyler Jones, a principal with the firm. “Some are interested in doing the right thing by the planet, others are concerned with paying less in the long term, but the appeal is becoming universal.” Even green architect Rick Van Diepen, who designed an ultra-efficient home for Habitat for Humanity (page 52), jokingly says he stole some of these ideas. When an avant-green guru takes cues from major developers, we’re living in new — and hopefully greener — times indeed. — Andrew Kiraly

Las Vegas tourists and locals like to drink — okay, they love to drink. No wonder the city generates more than 18 million tons of glass waste annually. Now some local companies are making a difference — and promoting fine design — by finding ways to recycle those glass bottles. Realm of Design, a Henderson architectural reproduction company, is approaching sustainability with a plan that’s artful — literally. After four years of development, this local business that produces stone mantles, columns and other pieces of art has created an architectural stone made from 99.8 percent renewable materials. Currently this stone is made from recycled glass bottles from Mandalay Bay and Luxor. “It’ll show Las Vegas and show other cities that Las Vegas can recycle and Las Vegas is conscious of all continued on pg. 10

A guide to greening up your own home. Spring style tips. Extensive dining listings. All at

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 9

N ews

continued from page 9

The ideas that revived the El Cortez can liven up your home too.

Do-tell hotel


This doorway entry came from the Strip — Strip glass, that is.

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Fresh from remaking a historic downtown hotel, design experts dish tips for sprucing up your own home by jarret keene

Last month, historic downtown hotel the El Cortez invited four Nevada design teams to each make over an outdated suite with a $20,000 budget. The results were spectacular, ranging from Urban Design Studio’s mob-themed “The Big Sleep” (complete with pinstriped carpet and bullet casings in a dish), to Worth Group’s “Rec Room” (boasting vintage cocktail bar and a classic black-andwhite wall photo of ’50s-era El Cortez). What lessons does this contest hold for your home? Plenty. Here are some tips from the winners. Misuse it or lose it: With their “El Contempo Suite,” Mikel Patrik and Patrick Peel’s signature piece was a wall mirror transformed into a headboard. “One thing you should always consider in home design is using a piece for something else, something most people wouldn’t think of,” says Patrik. They also gold-coated the suite’s ceiling and floor. “People worry about painting (ceilings) dark because they worry it will make the room feel smaller. That’s not really true.” One trick to make the eight-foot ceiling look taller: dramatic floor-to-ceiling drapery. For the mural, the designers used an archival photo of the El Cortez and printed it out on wallpaper. “These days you can put hi-res images on anything — plexiglass, leather, metal. If you choose wallpaper, find a cool image, have a designer print it out, then plaster it on there,” says Patrik. Let accessories reign: For “The Big Sleep,” Tina Enard’s Urban Design Studio team placed sheer material (which usually lies under or behind the blackout drapery) on the outside of the curtains. “On the outside, the sheer still functions the same,” says Enard. “A shimmery fabric can make the room feel light and airy. You can even add a colored fabric — plain or pattern — behind the sheer.” Another touch: placing a dresser behind the sofa. “You can use a dresser, a desk — anything like that helps to create the illusion of different spaces without actually having to put up walls,” says Enard. “With our suite, we didn’t use actual screens or walls. Instead, we let the furniture and accessories create rooms within the space, which makes the room feel bigger.” Update, don’t upend: “Striped walls that you find in a hotel suite can be recreated in the home quite easily,” says Nidia Settembre, who along with Charles Mais created “Hint Suite.” You can DIY such a project by measuring out the spaces with a tape measure and marking off the lines with painter’s tape. Put the kibosh on out-of-control remodeling dreams by simply updating fixtures. Or just use a headboard as a room divider. “Design is about larger-scale thought,” adds Settembre. “It’s about taking a regular idea and pushing it to that next level.” Encourage a gathering: Do guests and family tend to hang out around your kitchen’s island range? Keep it multi-functional by putting stools on just one side of the island. A big counter is best, but have it installed at the right height. “Go with a counter height of 36 inches rather than 42 inches, and insist on a big granite slab or, even better, a concrete or solid surface, which is easier to take care of and maintain,” says Worth Group Architects’ Jamie Thomas, whose “The Rec Room” garnered much attention and acclaim.

p h oto C O U R TE S Y e l c o r t e z

the glass bottles they use,” Realm of Design President and co-owner Cindy McCombs says. McCombs started the company with her husband Scott in 1991. Their aged stoned pieces include everything from Hoover Dam Bypass trash receptacles and benches to a mantle that appeared in rapper Lil Wayne’s music video “Lollipop.” McCombs explains that recycled glass bottles from the Strip could be made into environmentally friendly pieces for resort courtyards and other areas. They’re putting their money (or their glass) where their mouth is. Realm of Design’s new manufacturing facility will be made of their green stone. “We went in there and did everything as green as we could do it,” McCombs says. When completed, the project will use more than 125,000 pounds of recycled glass and 125,000 pounds of pozzolan-based cement, which is created with fly ash, a by-product of burning coal. The building’s design rocks in more than one way. It was inspired by a popular photo location for The Rolling Stones, at the Swarkestone Hall Pavilion in Derbyshire, England. In fact, McCombs has launched a campaign to get the The Rolling Stones to perform at the new plant. “We figure if Betty White could get on ‘SNL,’ we could get The Rolling Stones to come to Las Vegas,” says McCombs. Info: — Gregan Wingert









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Michele Diener leads a giant gaming company into thinking greener.


‘We have an opportunity to educate’ It sounds like a title out of a David Foster Wallace novel. In 2008, Michele Diener was hired as MGM International’s Director of Corporate Sustainability Strategies. But there’s no satire here — it’s a serious gig. Diener is responsible for keeping not just the massive CityCenter complex green and lean, but also the company’s 15 hotels. She helped establish a green team at each resort, worked with each property to earn Green Key certification (similar to a rating system like AAA Diamonds, but ranking environmental sensitivity), and helped the company design the first fleet of stretch limos in the world to run on compressed natural gas. She even pioneered — yes — green beer. In a manner of speaking, anyway. One day Diener’s talking organic liquor and spirits (available at select MGM properties), the next it’s disposable to-go containers made from cornderived plastic, the next it’s about how to conserve water while thawing meat. “Best part of my job is the variety of challenges,” says Diener, a Cornell grad with a degree in design and environmental analysis. The trick: Building design is one thing, but green buildings require green minds inside them — every day. “A structure stands for decades, but it’s how you operate it every day that counts,” she says. In other words, sure, CityCenter is dazzling to the eye, but the buildings are only as sustainable as what you do inside it — cleaning supplies purchased, food prepared, waste recycled. And what a souvenir for tourists: lessons from eco-conscious luxury hotels. “With our city’s many visitors, we have an opportunity to educate employees and guests as well as reach out to the larger community.” — Jarret Keene

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Spring Forward for spring style? See our photo feature on page 32. Meanwhile, Wendy Albert has a few ideas too. She’s a shopping pro, senior director of marketing for Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and was recently named one of In Business Las Vegas’ “40 under 40.” As the shops start hauling in the latest looks, she’s got an early eye on this season’s style. Favorite spring trends? “Nautical stripes on shirts, pants, and skirts and in different widths to accentuate the best parts of your body. Lace is also an easy thing to add to your wardrobe to wear now, and when the weather warms up. Pair a lace top with jeans, wear a lace dress with tights or beautiful lace shoes with just about anything.” What trend will last through the summer and fall? “Seventies glamour. Think highwaisted pants with flared legs and print blouses with ties during the day, flowing gowns in fabrics with sheen for the evening.” What new pieces do you recommend for shoppers on a budget? “A white dress — in lace if you’re daring. An oversized men’s-inspired shirt, especially in a sheer fabric for layering. Platform wedge heels in a neutral shade. Coral makeup, especially nail polish or a sheer lip gloss.” — S.N.

Tivoli Village: A Summerlin retail cluster with something for everyone


It takes a (retail) village


This month, Tivoli Village opens

— the first phase, anyway. It’s a handsomely built, mixed-use development that could be Summerlin’s answer to Town Square. The architecture echoes that of the shopping center’s namesake Tivoli, Italy, offering a pleasant place to stroll after lunching at one of the center’s restaurants, which include Petra Greek Restaurant and Tivoli Irish Pub. We’re most looking forward to the opening of Charming Charlie, an accessory boutique that’s like a candy shop for grown-ups. The store offers jewelry, handbags and shiny little baubles at prices

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ranging from $4.97 to $49.97, so you can go totally overboard without overspending — or at least have a vast pile of glittering this-and-thats to show for it (minimalism is for suckers, anyway). Besides, you can hide it all in some new arm candy from Corsa Collections, a lifestyle store with an excellent selection of higher-end handbags. Should all that accessorizing prove hopelessly tiring, never fear: You can always treat yourself (some more) at the Ritual Salon and Spa. www.tvqr. com, 302 S. Rampart, Summerlin. — Sara Nunn

Wendy Albert

t i v o l i v i l l a g e p h oto b y c h r i s to p h e r s m i t h ; w e n dy a l b e r t p h oto c o ur t e sy k i r v i n d o ak

What’s on the horizon


Stage against the machine In a city mired in musicals, a new uprising of playwrights and actors is shocking! thrilling! inspiring! the theater scene

D by david mckee

Dimly lit bars, backyards in seedy neighborhoods, junkyards and living rooms — these unlikely spaces are fertile ground for a new wave of local theater talent. This isn’t some fresh-faced thespian community, either. Rather, it’s a hardscrabble dramatic corps that’s producing a surprising amount of original theater in a town typically drenched in musicals and revues. What it may lack in brand-name appeal, this Vegas fringe-theater scene more than makes up in sensation. A Los Angeles Times critic was referring to Las Vegas playwright Ernest Hemmings when he described his “flair for the outrageous and the risqué,” but that could apply to the oeuvre of several authors who represent the leading edge of local drama. Their plays grapple with sex, war, death and relationships — with keen dramatic intensity and sometimes biting humor. They generally draw small crowds, but occasional big critical acclaim — and sometimes sharp criticism. On March 18, Insurgo Theater Movement premieres Dave Surratt’s “Listen.” He summarizes the plot as: “Young audiophile brings a first date back to his place, manically plays a string of songs and bits of songs from different CDs that remind him of each other, and ends up (unwittingly) offending her.” “Listen” was born as a vignette originally performed at the Katherine Gianaclis Park for the Arts, a nondescript building next to some dodgy apartments on Boulder Highway in the east side of town. Another luminary of the alt-theater scene, Ernie Curcio also crafted works in that improbable place; his “Rambis” is a riotously black comedy about a dying casino dealer. His KGPA experiments also yielded the tortured monologue “Unfinished,” the Iraq-inspired surrealism of “War Mouth” and “Perturbed” (plot: school teacher makes “video love letter” to student). Their revival at alternative festivals and small theaters make Curcio the mostfrequently performed local author.



Hear More

Three theater luminaries who are acting up. From left: Ernest Hemmings, Dave Surratt and Ernie Curcio

Fans in high places College of Southern Nevada theater professor Joe Hammond — who’s helped workshop these plays and appeared in some of them — says gloom-laden comedy is Vegas playwrights’ genre of choice. “It’s as if there is an angst,” Hammond

says. “Everybody is looking for something that’s full of rage and find comedy in it.” They hope to find local resonance as well. Hammond says the unique sense of place and the fascination Sin City holds for Americans is generally lacking in local theater, which should “concentrate more on how to

Look ma, no script: Improv Vegas performs on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at

16 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

PHOTOGRAPHY By Christopher SMith

Artist’s rendering. Card not available.

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exist in this society that borders on the edge of madness and sin.” Hammond has kind words for any Vegas playwright you can mention. He affectionately calls Curcio “the madman” who “writes with incredible anger and rage.” He’s also complimentary of Erica Griffin (“intensely fascinating”), Surratt (“pushes on the edge”) and Hemmings (“Absurdist viewpoint that borders on the sarcastic and cynical”). He also singles out Mark Wherry, whose Bugsy Siegel musical, “It’s Only Business,” was produced by CSN, and Teri Harpster, who writes science-fiction theater and is most recently the author of the one-act play “The Lost.” Not every local author is a fan of this burgeoning stage-it-yourself movement. Playwright Shawn Hackler sees the flurry of activity as a double-edged sword. “While it gives our audiences something new to chew on — how many times can we really watch ‘Annie’? — we risk giving the scene a bad name,” he says, frowning upon the amount of “untested” drama that gets staged. “They produce it as much to see what works and doesn’t as to entertain audiences,” he says of his colleagues. “They haven’t been through (a) rigorous editing process and the results can sometimes be s---,” even though an editor’s hand can usher in “the commercialism that destroys good work.”

Junkyard dogma Test Market founder Hemmings defends DIY theater. “I highly recommend it,” he says. “There’s such a saturation of plays and submissions … You could be waiting years and years” for that first staging. “If you want to see it produced, you should just do it.” Being your own Harold Prince means adapting to oddball, catch-as-can venues. “We did our first show in a junkyard,” Hemmings recalls, “so it requires a great deal of imagination.” The Los Angeles Times compares Hemmings to confrontational ’60s playwright Joe Orton, calling a production of his play “Eccentric” a “black comedy about a sexually adventurous American couple’s disastrous London vacation,” in which an attempt to arrange a threesome goes fatally awry. The title, the Times critic wrote, “was probably the only act of restraint exercised” by Hemmings. Several of Hemmings’ short plays are available in their no-holds-barred glory on YouTube. Warning: In their brazen effrontery of conventional good taste, they’re not for the squeamish.

In on the act Even the establishment is getting into the act. Las Vegas Little Theatre, long syn-

18 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

Erica Griffin: “Wherever you’ve got a playwright and copies of a play ... you’ve got a workshop.”

onymous with safe fare, has been pushing toward the avant-garde under Walter Niejadlik’s leadership. The kernel was Las Vegas Little Theatre’s mid-decade Insomniac Project, a late-night showcase that presented multiple, brief plays under omnibus rubrics like “Midnight Snacks.” The catch: The works had to be staged within whatever set was already occupying the Las Vegas Little Theatre main stage. (That wasn’t necessarily a handicap. Playwright Erica Griffin’s “S.N.A.F.U.,” depicting a mental institution, dovetailed serendipitously with the standing sets for “Stalag 17.”) Griffin, who has four Insomniac productions on her resumé, considers it the seed of Las Vegas Little Theatre’s Fischer Black Box contemporary-theater series that has yielded much critical acclaim. Her method of theatercraft: Do it where you can. “Wherever you’ve got a playwright and copies of a play and some actors to read the parts, you’ve got a workshop,” she says. “You can have one in your living room if you want. … Just the sheer electricity of folks coming together to imagine a new play together is the essence of creativity itself.”

More established groups like Las Vegas Little Theatre hope to harness that lightning to attract a younger audience, who may eventually gravitate toward main stage shows. “The (audience) demographic that we like to shoot for is about 18-35,” says Las Vegas Little Theatre board member Courtney Sheets. The Las Vegas Little Theatre’s new-works competition yields each spring’s Black Box show. Employing a score sheet devised by Black Box Artistic Director T.J. Larsen, competing plays get points for smallness of cast and suitability to the venue. If the author is local, that’s good for extra credit. A three-judge panel vets the scripts — 39 were submitted in 2009 — and “nine times out of 10 our scores match for the final three,” Sheets says. The first contest winner, Eric Eberwin’s “Great Western Wanderlust,” got an unplanned bonus when Original Works Publishing subsequently purchased the script.

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On the Fringe Last year also saw the debut of the Las Vegas Little Theatre-hosted Fringe Festival. “Walter, Frank Mengwasser, and I felt like the theater community in Las Vegas had grown to a point where we could conceivably produce a festival late in 2008,” says Larsen. Looking around Vegas, Larsen saw much quality work being done in a “segmented” fashion

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20 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

and believed “bringing like-minded people to a festival setting would be a great opportunity to build our connections and express our differences in a more public and fun way.” Although “timing and scheduling issues” kept Insurgo and other high-profile troupes out, Larsen found that a blessing in disguise as “it led to us getting to work with a whole lot of new companies and individuals that … we hadn’t really known before the festival.” Niejadlik left the choice of plays to participants like Born & Raised Productions, although musicals and pieces exceeding an hour were verboten. To help defray participants’ costs in the allvolunteer affair, Niejadlik & Co. “wanted to point out two shows as ‘Best of Fringe.’” A local theater patron and an educator judged all 10 productions. When the votes were tallied, Curcio’s “Unfinished” — a tragic monologue inspired by events in the author’s life — was one of the two plays chosen for an encore presentation at the festival’s close.

Curcio is a regular presence onstage at Insurgo, where he has directed “Rambis” and “War Mouth.” The company, founded by John Beane, tries to weave adaptations and original dramas into a steady flow of the classics, albeit in a less structured way than Las Vegas Little Theatre. Its efforts have ranged from late-night collections of themed playlets (“The Sex Comedies,” “The Superhero Diaries”) to Insurgo’s box-office smash, “Cannibal! The Musical.” But Insurgo’s flirtations with the abyss — even “Rambis’” crack addict who totes an aborted fetus in her handbag — are familyfriendly compared to the savage excursions of Hemmings, whose writing leaves no taboo untouched. Although Beane, Surratt, Griffin and others put great stock in workshopping, Hemmings does not. “It’s not really my style. I’m more of an author who thinks as an actor or director,” he says. “I build the (dramatic) arc on how I want the audience to react” and revises his plays based on how their first performances went.

Exit, pursued by a dragon Another author who goes his own way is Hackler. “The plays I write are to satisfy me. My anger. My sadness. My joy. I don’t typically think about the production in terms of budget or space requirements,” he says, almost defiantly. “If I want a giant dragon taking a s--- on stage, I’ll write that. Let the director work the rest out.”

Shawn Hackler: “The plays I write are to satisfy me. My anger. My sadness. My joy.”

It’s not authorial intractability that’s kept all but one of Hackler’s two-dozen plays off the stage, but his own ambivalence. “I often find myself loath to have people read it, let alone produce it,” he confesses. “Writing happens to be cathartic for me. I sometimes think that if people saw my work, they would see how pissed off I really am. Then I would lose all my friends.” Hackler’s lone produced play, the 2008 Kafka-esque fantasia “Morphotic,” was actually inspired by boredom — specifically, the ennui Hackler felt reading a “Metamorphosis” adaptation Insurgo wanted him to prepare. He sweet-talked Beane into letting him use Kafka’s stories to create a meta-biographical fantasy (“an extended panic attack,” according to the Las Vegas Sun) about the Czech author. Six months later, he had a finished script that was premiered by Insurgo and revived by Hackler’s own Butcher Block Productions, a pan-historical staging that incorporated dance, doo-wop, Beyoncé and video projections. “It would be overly generous,” theater critic Anthony Del Valle wrote in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, to deem “Morphotic” a good play but, “you can’t really appreciate the degree of skill involved in Hackler’s work unless you know Kafka and can see where the legend’s words end, Hackler’s begin, and the twain meet.” “It wasn’t too hard saying ‘yes’ to myself, so we took the production to Kansas City last year at the invitation of KC Fringe,” Hackler says. The Midwest revival was hailed by as “a heavy chunk of brain candy … solid, serious theatre” featuring writing that

was “polished, studied and dense,” and acting that was impressively character-rich for an abstract drama. That triumph didn’t come cheap: Hackler bankrolled the tour out of his own pocket, bolstered by an online fundraising campaign.

Over the Rainbow The only authors in town who can be assured of seeing their work staged are Rainbow Co. Youth Theatre’s artistic director, Karen McKenney, and her predecessor and muse, Brian Kral. Since 1978, Kral has seen 30 of his scripts produced by Rainbow’s troupe of child and adult actors, a long-term relationship that he credits with giving him the freedom to experiment. In addition to one Kral script per season, Rainbow presents a touring musical penned by McKenney and composer J Neal. “It’s exciting for the audience to come and see something that’s never been done,” says McKenney. Actors and technicians, she adds, become stakeholders in the drama: “A certain pride comes from having an impact on the final imprint.” But don’t count the dusty KPGA out. Griffin, who describes her aesthetic as character-driven black comedy, is incubating a play about homelessness, set in a tent city like those that have flourished in Las Vegas and Reno. Although she’s shopping it around to the Black Box and Insurgo, she laughingly notes that, “the outdoor stage at the KGPA is really the perfect location for a homeless black comedy.” That’s the Vegas fringe-theater scene: vagabond but upbeat.

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The little ’hood that could How one neighborhood got fired up, cleaned up and powered up to become a tight-knit community — and how yours can do the same by heidi kyser

22 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1


Sick of the perpetual garage sale

or auto repair business going on at the house next door? Irked by the graffiti and dead lawns left on your street by the foreclosure crisis? You’ll find inspiration in the story of the John S. Park neighborhood, to the south and east of Charleston and Las Vegas boulevards. This ’hood is a force to be reckoned with. Between the mid-1990s and today, John S. Park residents have established a neighborhood association; cleaned up the area and rid it of crime; landed local and federal historic district designation; and garnered official blessing of their 120-page neighborhood plan from the Las Vegas City Council. Its latest accolade: The John S. Park Historic District was named one of the 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2010 by the American Planning Association. “(Residents) didn’t want to keep going to planning commission meetings to argue the same things every month,” says Yorgo Kagafas, the Las Vegas City Planning and Development employee who shepherded the John S. Park neighborhood through its planning process. “Now, they have a

Bob Bellis says having a common enemy galvanized the John S. Park neighborhood.

plan. The community has spoken. It wants this; it doesn’t want that. … The plan isn’t binding, but it carries a lot of weight.” Think you and your block-party buddies could do the same thing? You could. But before you start knocking on doors, it’s worth a trip down memory lane (and the red-tape highway) to see how John S. Park got where it is today — and how you can use its story as a template for improving your own neighborhood.

Tip 1: Pick a fight (and win it) Nothing unites people like a common enemy. For the John S. Park neighborhood, that enemy was a famous sinking ship. Around the time Bob Stupak completed the Stratosphere in 1996, he unveiled plans for a hulking, 280-foottall replica of the Titanic that was to hold a casino and hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, just west of the John S. Park neighborhood. Bob Bellis, who’s been president of the John S. Park Neighborhood Association since its inception in 1995, recalls that the group had done

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some cleanup, code-enforcement and crimeprevention projects in its early years, but “it was this whole Titanic thing that brought us together. We’d get hundreds of people at the meetings, because they really wanted to fight it,” he says. According to the Historic John S. Park Neighborhood Plan, the Titanic Hotel and Casino would have cast a shadow over one-third of the neighborhood, pushed heavy traffic onto nearby residential streets and required the demolition of several homes on Fifth Place, the neighborhood street parallel to the Strip one block to its east. Stupak asked the Las Vegas City Council for permission to rezone part of Fifth Place for commercial development. According to Bellis, Stupak tried to persuade homeowners on the proposed site of the Titanic to sell their properties to him. Vocal John S. Park residents who were against the ship-themed hotel packed a City Council meeting where the rezoning request was being considered. It was denied. Kagafas says successful neighborhood groups are often the result of a battle fought and won. “Maybe a street is going to be widened and

affect traffic in their neighborhood,” he says. “Maybe the residents want a streetlight at an intersection. There is usually something that brings them to action together.” It helps to win. Then, Kagafas explains, a neighborhood realizes its power. Residents are galvanized to make other changes, beginning a cycle of positive reinforcement. “They’re unstoppable,” he says. After defeating Stupak’s Titanic, the John S. Park Neighborhood Association would go on to slay other dragons — a proposed vertical addition to the Olympic Garden strip club, a scheme for a rollercoaster extending from the Stratosphere over Las Vegas Boulevard, and the spread of adult-use businesses along Las Vegas Boulevard between Oakey and Charleston boulevards. Taming the tide of commercial encroachment became one of the founding principles of the John S. Park Neighborhood Association, along with reducing decay and blight, renovating Mary S. Dutton Park, preserving historic features and banning low helicopter flights over the neighborhood.

Strong neighborhood associations are key to improving the community.

Want to get fired up yourself? Code enforcement is a good place to start. The City of Las Vegas Neighborhood Services website lists the 20 most commonly asked questions of code enforcement, which clarify that, yes, it is a violation to park your car in your yard; no, you can’t drain your pool into the street; and many more of the finer points of good citizenship.

Tip 2: Spread the leadership around It wasn’t until the association sought professional help that things really started cooking. In 2000, Bellis contacted Las Vegas Neighborhood Services, which assigned Kagafas as the project manager for the John S. Park Neighborhood Association Plan. During the plan’s development, Bellis was backed up by a co-chair, Keny Stewart, and 28 planning team members. The planning team was divided into three committees: one for historic preservation; one for the redevelopment of Dutton Park; and one for land use. In order for a neighborhood association to succeed, it has to have “at least three resident

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 25


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“You have to go to meetings — city council, planning commission ... it’s almost like a proving ground for politics.” owners in different properties that are willing to lead,” Kagafas says. “If you just have one leading the charge all the time, and they have no support, it’s like a dictatorship, and people tend to resent that.” Kagafas adds, “A leader isn’t just a figurehead. You have to go to meetings — city council, planning commission — you have to respond to your neighbors’ issues. It’s almost like a proving ground for politics.” That proving ground is largely made up of — surprise — meetings. From 2000 to 2001, the John S. Park planning team led more than a dozen meetings. At team meetings, they would refine proposals to put before residents at community-wide meetings. Before each gathering, the team would plaster the neighborhood and flood residents’ and businesses’ mailboxes with announcements. Bellis estimates that he and the other leaders of the John S. Park Neighborhood Association have put in “thousands of hours” of work over the last 15 years. One important distinction: Unlike homeowners’ associations, neighborhood associations are “100-percent voluntary and grassroots,” Kagafas says. “Nobody is forcing you to do anything. You do it on your own because you want to better your community.” He adds, “I’ve often heard people say, ‘I don’t want my neighbors telling me what color to paint my house,’ but that’s not what neighborhood associations do. They don’t have the power to make rules, only to enforce what the city adopts.”

Tip 3: Learn to love paperwork The Historic John S. Park Neighborhood Plan includes carefully collected agendas, sign-in sheets and notes from every meeting. It has charts depicting property values, photos demonstrating significant architectural features and maps showing everything from streets that needed sidewalks to houses that needed roofs. On Dec. 19, 2001, the Las Vegas City Council agreed to integrate the neighborhood plan into

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its own planning process — the closest thing to a perfect marriage between community activism and city bureaucracy. In other words, the neighbors — not just the city — help make the rules — from the height of buildings (five stories or 60 feet), to the ratio of residential to commercial development (9-1), to the types of businesses residents support (coffee and barber shops, ethnic restaurants and delicatessens, hardware and book stores, travel agencies and medical offices). The city has to consider them when a planning request comes through that might affect the neighborhood.

“We’re proud of our work . . . our reputation and the company we keep. Thanks for the opportunities.”

Tip 4: Rally ’round a point of pride In addition to the benefits of a neighborhood plan, such as preventing the demolition of your neighbor’s house, John S. Park gained the benefits that come with historic designation, notes Courtney Mooney, the city’s urban design coordinator and historic preservation officer. Following its plan, the John S. Park Neighborhood Association obtained historic designation for a section in the northeast part of the neighborhood. It was added to the City’s Historic Property Register in March of 2003. “Historic designation can have economic benefits,” Mooney says. “It has been shown that properties located within historic districts typically have higher sales values than comparable properties.” There are intangibles, too. Mooney points out that historic designation is the only way to safeguard meaningful architecture, a neighborhood’s unique identity and — perhaps most important to ever-changing Las Vegas — its sense of place. “This is what unifies residents and creates pride in ownership,” she says. “Older neighborhoods contribute to lasting, sustainable communities where multiple generations can live and pass on their stories to new residents. They connect all city residents to real history; they tell about the development of the city, where founding fathers lived and raised their families, and how people lived during that time. Historic neighborhoods contribute to stable economies and environmental sustainability. They serve as architectural inspiration for new homes. It is history you can experience, not just read about.” Of course, not all neighborhoods in the Las Vegas Valley are historic, but finding a common point of pride can inspire a neighborhood to transform into a full-fledged community.

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community Tip 5: Stop fighting (among yourselves) The process can nevertheless be fraught with resistance. Just ask the members of the Westleigh Neighborhood Association, who unsuccessfully sought historic district designation in 2009. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, obstacles to historic district designation may include perceived incursions on private property rights, fear of additional expenditures, fear of displacement and gentrification, apathy, development pressure and lack of awareness of the significance of historical resources. Bellis adds that such fears can cause resistance even if a neighborhood isn’t seeking historic preservation. In the case of John S. Park, he says, a vocal minority of residents were against the neighborhood plan’s exclusion of commercial encroachment. “There were a few people on 6th Street and Park Paseo,” he recalls. “This was during the real estate boom. They saw what was happening across Charleston and they thought, ‘Hey, they can turn my house into a law firm.’ They thought they were sitting on a gold mine. One guy put his house up for sale for $1.2 million.” Bellis says he still gets calls from attorneys trying to help neighborhood residents get around the plan and sell their houses for commercial development. “They’ll plead with us to let them do it,” he says, “but it’s never going to happen. Never, ever, ever.”

Tip 6: Believe in magic But even with good leaders, a well-documented plan and lots of hard work, you could still fail. That’s when you need the magic – affection, loyalty, things that can’t be written in a plan. “We’ve always been a mixture of ethnicities, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. I have the grandest neighbors. They’re so friendly,” says Kerin Rodgers, a 35-year resident of the John S. Park neighborhood. The former hotel decorator and political activist is a self-described “trouble-maker” at neighborhood meetings, unafraid to voice concerns or disagree with the status quo. But as she rattles off a list of past and present VIP neighbors, from the Greenspuns to the Von Tobels, you sense that her concerns come from a deep-seated pride. “We had chemistry,” Bellis says. “There were old folks living there who’d been in the neighborhood for 50 years. There were young professionals who were willing to take on the work. There were businesses that were willing to come to the table. And there was the Titanic to bring us all together. It just worked.”

28 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1


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MARCH2011 News Reviews In t e rv i e w s

Joe Moore wants to serve up some tasty dogs — and spread a little community, too.

Bun in a million The University District’s Lunch Box serves up innovative hot dogs — and a distinct community vibe

L by brock radke

Let’s think about lunch. Sitting at a table, waiting for your order. You’re looking down at your iPhone, checking email, when you notice your tie doesn’t really go with your shirt today. There are young people at two other tables, happily munching and talking, almost certainly college students from across the street. There is a nostalgic vibe here, thanks to a funny little display of tin lunch boxes, like the one you took to school as a kid. You’re starting to like this place. Then you catch something else, something that pulls you out of your weekday routine. It could be the taste of what you’re eating, the music playing or the polite service that catches you off guard. Whatever the signal, it makes you realize lunch shouldn’t be just quick and practical consumption squished between hours-long blocks of work. Lunch is time to break, for real, and find something to enjoy. For me, the signal was a poster on the wall. It’s from a recent concert, when Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Deftones performed. I noticed it while I was waiting for the proprietor of the Lunch Box, Joe Moore, to fix my lunch, and it gave me two thoughts. 1. Why didn’t I go to that concert? 2. W  hy is this poster hanging in this neat little hot dog joint?

30 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

“I’m a pretty big metal fan,” Moore tells me. “I tried a couple of times to go just straight metal in here, but it can be a little polarizing.” Makes sense. “There’s this great place in Chicago called Kuma’s Corner, and it’s just a bar with bar food, but it is straight up metal. And the crowd is not really who you think would go there. It’s a bunch of hipsters. There isn’t really a spot like that in Las Vegas, but it would definitely be a fun idea to do.” Moore, 28, is from Chicago. He’s been in Vegas for about two and a half years. He came to

town as a breakfast line cook at Bouchon in The Venetian, and he decided to pursue his own “fun idea to do” about a year ago. He opened the Lunch Box adjacent to UNLV in March 2009, serving up tasty hot dogs in the style of his hometown, and a few other styles, too. The Lunch Box has evolved in a short time, mostly because of its location and because Moore is way open to new ideas. “I’m young so it’s easy for me to be here,” he says. “It’s easy to connect with students because I feel like I’m still part of that crowd. But


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Above: The idea for the Chliean Dog came from a student — from Chile, naturally. Left: The Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich: portably delicious.

it’s definitely not like any other campus town. It doesn’t have the same vibe of people just roaming about. But people are very welcoming to the idea of something local that they can watch transform, and stand behind it. That’s the whole idea here, to build a little community in this area, so I’ve tried to pay attention to what people like and what their habits are.” That’s how the glorious Chilean Dog was born, one of the most popular items on the menu. Moore serves Vienna Beef franks on soft, chewy buns from the local Great Buns Bakery. This dog, suggested by a student from Chile, tops it off with mustard and spicy mayo, tomato, sauerkraut and avocado. I’d never had avocado on a hot dog before. “Neither had I,” Moore says. It brings a creamy decadence to a supremely savory bite, and works surprisingly well with the tang of crisp ’kraut. Speaking of decadence, the Lunch Box’s dessert is a scratch-made Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich. “I did waffles all the time at Bouchon, and I just wanted to create a portable way to eat a waffle,” Moore says. “I thought, what’s better than ice cream with a hot waffle? And it worked out so well. Some people come in just for that now. It’s the aroma. You walk in and smell cinnamon.”

The discipline and quality-driven approach the young cook learned on the Strip transfers well to his casual street food concept. “It’s food with integrity. That’s what I’m striving for.” But that’s not all. You can tell by the feel and the food that Moore is making an extra effort to connect with you, Las Vegas. He’s recruited a local artist, Dominic Phelps, to create original visuals to help build the restaurant’s identity. He makes the rounds at our town’s coolest spots, from the Beat downtown to the Pinball Hall of Fame. And he has great taste in local eats, mentioning Chinatown’s Ichiza, tapas hot spot Firefly and The Cosmopolitan’s sorta-secret pizza place among his favorites. Best of all, he’s happy to be here, and that’s what we need most. “After being here a little while, you definitely hear about this lack of culture. But it’s there, it’s definitely there, if you are willing to look into it and connect with people,” Moore says. “Las Vegas has really grown on me, and I didn’t want to leave. It feels like the perfect place to get something started, like we are on the cusp of something great.”


Read these related stories at July/August 2010: “DEALicious Meals.” Seventy-five meal deals that’ll fill your belly — without draining your wallet March/April 2010: “Chow down downtown.” A foodie crawl reveals tasty things happening in the city’s core

The Lunch Box 4632 S. Maryland Parkway #20 702.722.6400 //

(702) 451-0021

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bold The


 his spring, the sumptuous ’70s T make a comeback — this time with a modern touch

Photography: Madison Alexander Styling: Christie Moeller Hair & Makeup: Krystle Randall Models: Justin and Elly story: Sara Nunn and Juan Martinez Location: El Cortez hotel-casino and Cabana Suites at the El Cortez hotel-casino

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| fashion

A playful print gives a cheeky bent to a game of “Strangers at a Hotel.� Nanette Lepore Boss-Zilla blouse in blush multi, $248 Nanette Lepore playing skirt in white, $298 Available at Nanette Lepore at Crystals in CityCenter

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Pair bold patterns and bright colors with a dark solid suit, and you’re set — and a little mobsterish in the best of ways. Etro goldfish shirt, $385 D&G black blazer, $745 Theory black trousers, $195 Tod’s white leather loafers, $395 Etro pocket square, $100 Available at Neiman Marcus

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| fashion

Announce your entrance in shades of black and nude for instant daytime drama. Phillip Lim black romper, $425 Christian Louboutin black wedges, $595 Available at Neiman Marcus Tarina Tarantino Sparklicity necklace, $500 Tarina Tarantino cosmic lucite stretch bracelet, $45 Tarina Tarantino stretch bracelet with elephant charm, $75 Available at

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Look to vintage Italian cinema for aesthetic inspiration for that final seduction — and then go get him, darling. Diane von Furstenberg orange dress, $345 Yves Saint Laurent brown platform heel, $895 Herve van de Straeten gold necklace, $425 Herve van de Straeten earrings, $380 Herve van de Straeten cuff bracelet, $668 All available at Neiman Marcus

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| fashion The rules say you should never mix two similar-sized patterns in an outfit. Note that this outfit breaks that rule. Note, too, that the outfit looks awesome. Etro plaid shirt, $385 Etro brown blazer, $1,395 Etro trousers, $385 All available at Neiman Marcus

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| fashion

This casual spring ensemble embodies the sensual side of prep. American Apparel cotton pique tennis shirt, $36 Available at American Apparel Etro seersucker trousers, $385 Prada white belt, $375 Gucci navigator sunglasses, $220 Tod’s white leather loafers, $395 All available at Neiman Marcus

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Want more savvy tips on spring style? Read Sara Nunn and Juan Martinez’s guide to springing forward fashionably at

Pleased to meet you. Again. Award-winning journalism. Lively arts and lifestyle coverage. Gorgeous visual appeal. No wonder Desert Companion is the must-have magazine for the savvy Southern Nevadan. And best of all, Desert Companion is now monthly. Pick up your copy at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice, or subscribe now at

Lifestyle. People. News. Arts. Now EvEry MoNth.


house Ever wanted to take a peek behind the curtains of your developer’s, designer’s or decorator’s home? With their magic, they turn the mushy domestic visions of the masses into art you can live in. What’s it like when they unleash that power on their own dwellings? Stunning. But what distinguishes the homes of the design-savvy elite is not special access to fellow architects, art collectors, antique dealers and contractors. Rather, it’s how the owners skillfully apply these resources to their own intention, producing a pure expression of themselves.

By Heidi Kyser Photography by Ryan weber/radiant Photography

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| design

Linear Equation It must be the construction background. When Trinity Schlottman, division manager of Urban Lofts for Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas, was customizing his own unit in the Fremont Street Lofts, he ran string from one side of the house to the other, and used it to line up ducts, lights, smoke detectors and sprinklers. He rerouted all the wiring in the threestory loft to one central closet so that no appliance or electronic would be “junked up” with exposed cords. “I thought about the livability of the house once I’d be in it,” he says. “I wanted everything to be clean, straight lines, with function in mind.” That function is entertaining — and enjoying art, Schlottman’s passion. The Michael Wardle painting and Leslie Rowland artillery shell shown are two of several works he’s acquired from local artists. The colorful elephant was a thank-you from L.A. artist Steve Kaufman after Schlottman bought one of Kaufman’s paintings in a charity auction. Schlottman wants nothing to detract from his art collection, going as far as removing one fancifully named appliance that was stealing the show. “Every time somebody would come in, they’d look at my Big Ass Fan, instead of my art, and I didn’t like that,” he says.

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| design

Celebrate the ordinary “We like to take ordinary things and celebrate them as art,” says Ken Kulas, principal of Cleo Design, summarizing the philosophy behind the home he and partner Scott Underwood created from scratch. Case in point: Over the twoway kitchen hearth hangs a well-framed paper grocery bag the pair brought home from a trip to Portland, Ore. On a wooden tray in the middle of the living room (pictured), an antique teapot they found in New York sits next to a pair of chopsticks they brought home from a dinner out. More important than labels or autographs are the memories objects carry. The hand-carved wooden bust on the bench by the piano came from Kulas’ aunt. She received several like it when she was a Peace Corps volunteer at a Nigerian leper colony in the 1960s. “We have very few pieces that are considered good fine art,” Kulas says. “Everything else is a collection of things that appeal to us and we’ve found a way to glamorize.” One exception: The painting by Nashville artist David Guidera hanging behind the couch.

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Gather ’round the table J. Christopher Stuhmer, owner and CEO of Christopher Homes, believes that “no matter what you do in any area of the house, design-wise, people always end up in the kitchen when you’re entertaining.” So in this custom home, he made the kitchen a place to entertain, and the living areas places to eat. Instead of closed cabinets full of dishes, kitchen shelving here is open to display artistically stacked dishes, spices and cookwear. The long rectangular island paneled with vertical grain zebra wood runs into an oversized round island, set apart with a brushed aluminum siding and a different colored stone top. Within 50 feet of the kitchen are five different places to eat, and the kitchen spills seamlessly into the bar/living area, which spills seamlessly onto the patio through stacked glass doors. “We wanted to make the kitchen the hub. When somebody’s in the kitchen, they want to be part of what’s going on,” Stuhmer says. This sense of togetherness extends to the art, too, such as sculptor Bob Wilfong’s piece, “Circle of Love,” seen through the kitchen windows giving way to the courtyard.

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Midcentury gold mine With a Ph.D. in archaeology, Bill Johnson is busy digging up his own past. Raised in Miami by artist parents, he loved the style that defined his childhood, and has spent the last few decades recapturing it. Partner Marc Comstock, a former Army engineer, provides the practical guidance, combing estate sales, researching authenticity and comparing prices. Between them, the two have amassed a Fort Knox of 1940s, ’50s and ’60s home furnishings, some of which can be seen at their store, Retro Vegas, in the Arts District. Johnson and Comstock’s current home was built by Jackie Gaughan in 1963 and still has some original lava rock and Moroccan-style stained glass to prove it. So pieces from Johnson and Comstock’s collection, like the 1950s Danish modern floor lamp shown, fit right in. Johnson coveted a $5,000 sofa he spotted at a furniture store on Maryland Parkway, but wisely held off; the similar one pictured cost him only $300 at a consignment store in Phoenix. As for the cool lamp in the corner, Johnson says he got it from Gypsy Caravan, evidence of downtown antique dealers’ practice of swapping finds. “When we first opened, we got a couch from Modify. Gypsy Caravan got it from us. The last time we saw it, it was at Sin City,” Johnson says.

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| design

 ne of the valley’s hottest design stores isn’t a O store. It’s the colorful Roberto Leyva’s seductive Living Penthouse By T.R. WITCHER Photography By Christopher SMITh

The philosophy behind the Living Penthouse: Your home is more than a place to just sleep and eat.

With all the seriousness in the world, Roberto Leyva says he could absolutely die the next time he walks into a $10 million house where the owners have spent only $50,000 on furnishings. “It’s completely unacceptable for a $10 million home to have a print from West Elm,” says Leyva. You might think Leyva is a tad extreme in his views, but then again, he’s explaining this to me inside a drop-dead gorgeous loft with enormous views of downtown Las Vegas. So when it comes to interior furnishings, I’m prepared to believe him. Leyva owns a novel furniture store, the Living Penthouse, which is novel because, well, it is a penthouse — a swank, 5,300 square-foot, two-level extravaganza at Soho Lofts. He likens his business to the “private home of a stylish art collector.” To say Leyva takes high design seriously is to understate the matter rather severely. For Leyva, luxury means going the distance, “not halfway.” It means you don’t buy a Rolls Royce and deck it out with seats from Kia. “Las Vegas has an incredible amount of wealth, but we still have so much to learn when it comes to design,” he says. “For a city that (where) 60 years ago there was nothing, we’ve come a long way. But it’s gonna take some time for the culture and design process to take place.” Leyva is here to kick-start that process, to remind style-conscious Vegas, a city driven on flash and cash and slick visions of the good life, that design is more than skin deep — and that our homes are more than just places to sleep and eat. He’s got high standards. CityCenter? A “monumental statement of architecture … but they fell short delivering on the interiors,” he says. The Cosmopolitan? It “could have been something very great,” he says. But instead, to him it resembles an overly busy Ed Hardy T-shirt. “They tried to create too much … ”

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Who is he to say so? Leyva grew up in a “very large colonial home” in Michoacán, a state on the Pacific coast of Mexico. He was always interested in art and design, and he eventually moved to Los Angeles to study fashion design. He later manned boutiques for Armani and Dolce & Gabbana in Orange County as he tried to make a go of being a fashion designer. Seven years ago he gave it up. He wanted his work “to be treated more like art than clothes, and that’s really not the right idea. I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with it and I gave it up.” He turned to another longstanding passion, interior design. He relocated to Las Vegas and launched an interior design business, ELITE Interior Design Studio&Associates. He opened a modern furniture store in Commercial Center, but too many people were drifting through without buying anything. So he went back to square one and in 2009 launched Living Penthouse. He calls it “a furniture store like every furniture store, except it’s completely different.” It is. Retail stores, no matter how much they resemble lofts, are still stores — with cash registers and logos and brochures, annoying sales people, price tags, other customers. Instead, Leyva operates out of an actual working condominium, a space filled not only with all variety of sleek, high-end tables, sofas, chairs and lights, but also rugs, art, books and music. Even the kitchen faucets work. “This space was conceived with the idea of getting to seduce people to want to live this way,” he says. “Everybody wants to stay here, hang out here.” He’s right. Walk into the penthouse and all you want to do is put down your reporter’s notebook and go mix yourself a highball, crank up some propulsive Flamenco by Paco de Lucía, lounge around on furniture that costs more than your car, soak in the views … and then call some friends over. The view of sumptuous sky and mountains, foregrounded by a lot of fabulous furniture, is subtly intoxicating.

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Seduction connection He says clients — around one a day — have been finding him, despite little marketing and no website. Clients come by appointment only. “It’s a one-on-one experience,” he says, “where we can talk about product at length.” You can spend a little — glasses for $20, for instance, but really, why would you? — or you can spend a lot. Like that batch of sofas that you can position together to make one big sofa unit, with seating on four sides for a few dozen friends. That’ll run you around $74,000. That’s more like it. There are many sublime selections. Like the $3,750 UP5 chair, a Gaetano Pesce piece of art-design-politics that’s shaped like a woman’s body. Sit down and the chair envelops you — the ottoman is shaped like a ball, with a “chain” (actually a cord) attached to the chair, which is supposed to symbolize the continuing subjugation of women. Then there’s the Great JJ Lamp, an outsized fixture based on an architect’s lamp crafted in the ’30s by Norwegian designer Jac Jacobsen. Think of a 10-foot high Pixar Studios logo lamp, and you get the idea. ($8,165.) Or the circular 1907 Fortuny Lamp, designed by Mariano Fortuny, which looks like it belongs in a photographer’s studio. ($5,000.) But the prize piece? The piece Leyva retreats to at the end of the day in his own home? Antonio Citterio’s Mart Chair, a sort of large sculpted saddle, stitched with buttery-smooth leather, mounted on a chrome frame.

| design From left to right: Crystal decanters (and their contents) make the Living Penthouse a place you want to hang out in; Roberto Leyva relaxes in his favorite chair; a designer bedroom in the 5,300-square-foot design store

Don’t flip it, live it Hang around Leyva for more than a few minutes, and he’ll drop the names of top designers like Cittero, Piero Lissoni or Patricia Urquiola as though they’re family. He says his store is the only one that stocks elite Italian brands such as B&B Italia and Maxalto. For him, folks scrimp on interiors when they think of their houses as investments, properties to flip rather than homes to raise their family in. A $15,000 sofa might cure that. A $15,000 sofa, he says, is “made to last you your whole life, number one. Number two, you can change the covers and switch the covers on them every two years if you want to. Not because they’re torn apart and they need to be changed, but because you want to freshen them up, and it’s not going to cost you another $15,000 to do it anymore.” What about those of us in the real world? Leyva says we just have to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. “They should treat themselves to indulge themselves into this type of luxury for their home. Enjoy it. It will change their life. It will help them enjoy their home more than they ever could imagine.” For Leyva himself, work is his way of enjoying life. He never really takes time off — relaxing is poring through his MacBook on his own Mart Chair in his own high-rise home, where he lives with his wife and newborn son. “I want to be around it. I want to be around design.” Leyva’s got dreams as well. His own fantasy home, which he plans to build someday, will be both classical and “way ahead of our time,” perhaps bringing his colonial Mexico upbringing together with his sense of sleek Vegas modern. But whatever it looks like, you can bet that the furniture will be amazing.

The welldesigned life Roberto Leyva isn’t just an aesthete. He’s something of a philosopher, too. Here are some of Leyva’s tips on living well — even if you’re not in the market for a pricey Gaetano Pesce chair. Live well — and pass it on. “We should all begin our own family traditions of living well. Just like a good watch, a sofa can be handed down to our next generation.” Make a statement. “There are items to furnish your home — and then there are items that define it. … There are always great items to buy that will define the look of your home, for instance, in the Living Penthouse, the Great JJ Lamp. Guests remember that lamp. They talk about it. It defines the living room.”  Spend now — or spend later. “Quality is unmistakable. A quality product is created to last you for many years. Fabrics can be removed and replaced if (you) need to, materials used are of the highest quality possible, the finished details are obvious in the way the items are stitched and put together. Cynical, vulgar, mass-produced merchandise has poor finished details altogether.” 

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Habitat for Humanity helps

Habitat for Humanity’s ultra-efficient new homes save families money — and may spark a new wave of green housing for all

By Tony Illia Photography by Christopher Smith

put budget-strapped families into affordable homes — but that dream can suffer a few dents when those families later face $500 power bills in the notoriously hot Vegas summers. But now Habitat, a nonprofit that sells homes at-cost to families earning less than 80 percent of area median income, plans to help families save even more — with an ultra-sustainable house. Think monthly power bills that cost about as much as two tickets to the movies, carbon emissions slashed by a third and even a rainwater collection system that encourages families to grow their own vegetables. Habitat officials hope to clone their recently completed Henderson prototype home to spread the green — and the savings — to other candidate families throughout the valley. d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 53

“We wanted to see  how sustainable we  could make a home  while still making it  affordable,” says  Habitat for Humanity’s Guy Amato. Habitat for Humanity’s prototype home earned a rare platinum LEED rating.

“We wanted to see how sustainable we could make a home while still making it affordable,” Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas President and Chief Executive Officer Guy Amato says. “It’s twice as energy-efficient as a normal house.” He’s being a bit modest. Completed in September, the one-story, three-bedroom home at 1808 Merze Ave. landed a rare, platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is a building sustainability report card that awards points for air quality, recycling and energy efficiency. (Platinum is the equivalent of an A plus.) And there’s a local hero in this story, too. Rick Van Diepen, an associate principal with architecture firm PGAL, gave up his weekends and spare time to design the roughly 1,200 square-foot home. Van Diepen knows green. He served as the Green Building Council’s 2010 Las Vegas chapter president. “I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity while I was in high school,” Van Diepen says. “I always liked their mission. This is a lifelong dream for me.”

Green inside and out The modest-looking home is a dream for its owners’ pocketbook, too, with money-saving features that lower utility bills while reducing impact on the environment. Light-colored reflective concrete roof tiles and low-energy windows, compact fluorescent lighting and a solar-powered, tankless hot-water system trim electrical costs. There are also tubular skylights in the hallway and bathroom for bright and lamp-free interiors. “We opened up the living area to let in more natural light, making the space feel larger than it really is,” says Van Diepen. “It also creates natural ventilation to move through the house from east to west.” The residence is sealed up airtight with caulked joints and rigid, Styrofoam insulation that keeps heat from escaping through the building’s wood frame. It works similar to the way a Styrofoam cup keeps coffee warm. The result is high-efficiency air conditioning and heating that doesn’t bust the wallet. “We suspended insulation from under the roof tile, which moves the building envelope up to the roof,” Van Diepen explains. “The mechanical


You don’t need a high-tech home to save on power bills. for tips on greening up your home affordably.

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Reflective roof tiles and a solar-powered hot-water system trim energy consumption by 30 percent.

equipment consequently operates at near-ambient temperature, thereby reducing the system needs by a ton.” The green thinking ventures outside as well. The home also reduces water use through drought-tolerant landscaping, and low-flow showerheads and faucets. A rooftop collection system, meanwhile, gathers rainwater for planted fruit trees and a vegetable garden that lets homeowners grow their own. As a result, the prototype design trims water use by 40 percent. And as long we’re talking stats: Compared to an average home, the Habitat house cuts carbon emissions by 35 percent, solid waste by 70 percent and energy consumption by 30 percent. But for homeowners, those stats translate into bottom-line savings. “Habitat wants to help people help themselves by become more financially stable,” says Van Diepen. “That becomes possible when utility bills are lower and homeowners can grow their food.”

What about everyone else? Construction of a similar home might be pricier, since the project attracted 50 civic-minded sponsors who donated time and

| home

The green knight

Who will bring eco-friendly living to the masses? This guy with the $20 power bill might be the one Rick Van Diepen wanted to become an architect since he was 5. “I liked drawing, so I thought architecture would be a cool job,” he explains. He’s achieved that dream — and then some. Today he’s an associate principal with PGAL, the architecture firm designing McCarran International Airport’s $2.4 billion third terminal building. It’s a far cry from Van Diepen’s first job after college, designing an office building for a nonprofit radio station in Ecuador. The pro-bono project lasted only three months, but his passion for civic-minded projects still persists — and his modest but quietly marvelous home is a fertile lab for common-sense approaches to making our homes more environmentally friendly. Van Diepen’s inspiration comes from architects such as Glenn Murcutt, who’s known for his simple, vernacular architecture that focuses on nature. Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect Murcutt is a sole practitioner known for economical and multi-functional work that takes cues from the environment, resulting in innovative and technical architecture that is nonetheless forthright and honest. “Murcutt lets the site and climate govern the design, which is often modern and clean but still rooted in the land,” says Van Diepen, who served as 2010 local president of the U.S. Green Building Council. “He believes in touching the earth lightly.” Van Diepen’s own architecture follows a similar philosophy. And he has the perfect laboratory for it: His 1,723-square-foot Las Vegas home.

Rick Van Diepen gets some of his greenest ideas by experimenting on his own home.

“We try to do one or two major upgrades a year,” he says. “Our power bill is $250 a year, which makes people’s jaw drop. It makes us feel good. Some homes spend that much in a month.” Van Diepen began piecemeal improvements to the 33-year-old, semicustom home near Flamingo and Pecos roads in 2001. He began with cheap, quick upgrades such as weather-stripping and new insulation before taking on bigger projects such as placing 15 photovoltaic panels atop the roof. The home, which generates 2.1 kilowatts of solar-powered electricity, also has an evaporative cooler and an attic ceiling fan for high efficiency operation that slashes energy consumption. And let’s not forget about the Solatubes — think skylights on steroids. The roofmounted tubes capture and magnify daylight for brightly lit interiors that trim the need for lamps and cut the energy bill.

cash, materials and labor. Kitchen cabinets, for instance, were built and installed by Sierra Vista High School wood shop students using reclaimed materials. “This house had a lot of sponsors because we went for the LEED certification. So, people viewed it as a sustainable showcase opportunity,” Amato says. “We want to get the most bang-for-the-buck and incorporate those design elements into future homes.” Habitat built a mirror image of the prototype on the lot directly behind at 1809 Berden Ave. The two residences share a fenceless and communal backyard. Although both homes have since sold, more are on the way. Habitat bought six residential lots across the street with future plans for duplicating the super-green scheme. Prices are expected to run about $140,000 to $150,000. Habitat helps qualified

“The Solatubes were our best dollarfor-dollar investment,” says Van Diepen, whose home has been featured on HGTV. “Our hallway is a long, picture-lined corridor that previously required turning on a light. Now, it’s a nice gallery that feels much more pleasant with natural daylight.” Van Diepen’s comfy yet practical home is also a comfy yet practical lab that enables him to field-test green building products. For example, he experimented with flooring in three different areas; he tried stained concrete (which scratched easily), bamboo flooring (which dented) and recycled carpet tiles. That trial and error gives Van Diepen firsthand industry knowledge while creating a fun and functional home. “You’re saving energy and it’s more attractive,” Van Diepen said. “Community and environmentally friendly design is a passion of mine.” — Tony Illia

buyers with financing. The Henderson hamlet could consequently become the country’s first LEED platinum neighborhood. “It’s a very community-minded project,” says Van Diepen. “I always felt, as an architect, that energy efficient, high quality homes could be built for around the same as standard tract homes.” And now, much more earth-friendly.

FROM THE ARCHIVES Read these related stories at May/June 2010: “Deeper shade of green.” Locals with serious green credentials September/October 2010: “Guided by voices.” One locavore’s quest to change the way Las Vegas eats

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A rt Music

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

T h e at e r Dance FA M I LY



For “The Tried and True and the New,” Nevada Ballet Theater is bringing in guest artists from the acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for its presentation of George Balanchine’s classic, “Donizetti Variations.” But there’ll be more modern fare, too, including NBT Artistic Director James Canfield’s “*Still,” featuring live music, and “At the border,” by Pennsylvania Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Matthew Neenan. It happens 8 p.m. March 4-5 and 2 p.m. March 6 at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall. Tickets $10-$75. Info:


The alt-country of The Clydesdale is said to be so raw and rollicking it’ll make you instantly grow a moustache. Already got a moustache? Better check down below! The Clydesdale and A Crowd of Small Adventures perform 7 p.m. March 4 at Winchester Cultural Center. Info: 455-7030

The Clydesdale

Guest artist Clifton Brown performs with Nevada Ballet Theater.


When not injecting pure joy directly into people’s dopamine receptors, Cirque du Soleil is doing things such as promoting safe water and fighting poverty with initiatives such as ONE DROP. At “Run Away with Cirque du Soleil” at 7:30 a.m. March 19 at the Springs Preserve, you’ll support that cause with every step along the 5k Run or 1 Mile Fun Walk. Bonus: It’s emceed by Nevada Public Radio General Manager Flo Rogers. To register, visit

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“I looofe yooo, man!” We’ve all slurred it to someone in our lives as we simultaneously spilled merlot all over that someone’s khakis. Now slur it to students at UNLVino March 31-April 2, where your ticket supports the college’s hospitality student scholarship. Tickets $50-$100, various locations. Info:

Carnaval - Rio de Janeiro percussionists drum up some fun.


From waxing to soccer, Brazilians take everything to the extreme, often removing unwanted hair in the process. Add drumming to that. UNLV’s percussionist king Kurt Rasmussen takes you on a follicle-ripping musical journey at Carnaval – Rio de Janeiro, which takes place 3 p.m. March 13 at Grace in the Desert at 2004 Spring Gate Lane. You’ll also be treated to samba dancing lessons and Brazilian martial arts demonstrations. Tickets $15. Info: 255-0695

ART First Friday March 4, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. The Arts District’s monthly cultural event features artists, music and more in a street festival atmosphere. $2 suggested donation. 384-0092,

Ansel Adams: Distance and Detail Through March 5 This exhibit offers an opportunity to view 30 of Adams’ works from the Bank of America Collection, including well-known pieces like “Moonrise over Hernandez.” Free, UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum

Kaleidoscope: Visual Inspirations March 5-June 12 Mary Warner has taught in the College of Fine Arts for many years at UNLV. This exhibit showcases Warner’s work along with that of a variety of her former students’ work. Big Springs Gallery at Springs Preserve.

Be the Man You Want to Marry Through March 11 Danielle Kelly’s art ensures that viewers have no idea what to expect as her work evolves from abstract to frightening and crude to precise and modern. Clark County Government Center Rotunda

Time for a Hundred Visions Through March 12 Young upcoming artists Abraham Abebe and Lance Smith showcase their paintings. Left of Center Art Gallery, 2207 W. Gowan Road, 647-7378,

work and has surprises in store in this exhibit. Clark County Government Center Rotunda

Year of the Rabbit Through April 15 Numerous artists from a variety of different cultural backgrounds present their versions of Chinese New Year in celebration of the year of the rabbit. Bridge Gallery, City Hall

Cubism Juxtaposed Through April 30 Nigerian native Day Adelaja has won numerous awards for his Summerlin floats, oil paintings and his continued exploration of cubism. West Las Vegas Arts Center Community Gallery

Poem Cycle Through May 14 New work by artist and art professor Dan Scott will explore unique investigations of the traditional still-life genre. Charleston Heights Art Center

MUSIC Opulent Operetta and Marvelous Musicals March 4, 7:30 p.m. The UNLV Choral Ensembles perform choruses, solos and duets from the golden age of Viennese operetta, plus excerpts from the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire, early American musicals and Broadway classics. $8-$10, UNLV’s Lee & Thomas Beam Music Center’s Rando Recital Hall

Decade Through March 13 Curator Erin Stellmon exhibits the last decade of change in downtown Las Vegas through photographs. Historic Fifth Street School Gallery

Getting Close to the Event Horizon Through March 20 Artist Andreana Donahue explores ideas of the impermanence of place through sculptural hand-cut paper installations that relate to various forms found in non-desert landscapes. Winchester Center Cultural Gallery

The Clydesdale and A Crowd of Small Adventures March 4, 7 p.m. These alternative country, folk and rock bands are two reasons critics think the Southern Nevada alternative scene is in the middle of a golden age. A Young Originals concert. $5, Winchester Cultural Center

Brass Roots Quintet Concert March 5, 2 p.m. The Brass Roots Quintet members, led by trombonist Walt Boenig, embrace all styles of music, from classical to contemporary. $5, Charleston Heights Arts Center

Those We Call Century March 28-May 20 Chad Brown is wellestablished as a painter, but he is also accomplished in three-dimensional art. He’s been thinking about kinetic

Eric Clapton with Los Lobos March 5, 8 p.m. Directly on the heels of Eric Clapton’s critically acclaimed new album, the artist performs on his 2011

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 57

tour. $49.88-$137.25, MGM Grand Garden Arena

Irina Kulikova March 9, 8 p.m. Called “a powerful presence on the guitar scene” by Classical Guitar magazine, Kulikova performs from her rich and varied repetoire. $37.50, UNLV Performing Arts Center

Brubeck Brothers Quartet Concert March 12, 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Enjoy an exciting jazz group with creativity, strong technique and improvisation. $10-$15, Historic Fifth Street School

Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan March 18, noon-1 p.m. Married couple Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan gives a heartfelt performance of music woven from folk, blues, rock and country. Free, Lloyd D. George U. S. Federal Courthouse Jury Assembly Room, 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 229-3515,

City of Lights Chorus — Unplugged March 26, 2 p.m. The City of Lights Chorus presents inspirational songs in barbershop harmony with the entire chorus and its member barbershop quartets. $6-$12. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

Las Vegas Philharmonic’s Pops III Concert: An evening with Rodgers & Hammerstein March 26, 8 p.m. Guest vocalists Lynnette Chambers, Derrick Davis, Larry Morbitt and Joan Sobel join the Las Vegas Master Singers. $35-$75, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall

DANCE The Tried and True and the New March 4-5, 8 p.m., March 6, 2 p.m. Nevada Ballet Theatre presents this dynamic and varied dance program that will include George Balanchine’s classical one-act ballet, “Donizetti Variations” and will feature guest artists from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Matthew Rushing and Clifton Brown. $10-$75, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall

Gateway Arts Foundation hosts Carnaval – Rio deJaneiro March 13, 3 p.m. Celebrate and discover the history and culture of Brazil. Witness Brazilian drumming, demonstra-

58 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

tions of Brazilian martial arts called Capoeira and participate in Samba dancing. $15, Grace in the Desert, 2004 Spring Gate Lane, reservations 2550695

Student Dance Concert March 18, 7 p.m. Join CSN dance students as they present their 12th annual concert in this entirely student-generated display of kinetic ability. $5-$8, CSN’s BackStage Theatre

Mardi Gras Dance March 26, 7 p.m. The Mardi Gras dance will feature a costume parade, Creole and Cajun food for purchase and a no-host bar. Music will be provided by Myrick “Freeze” Guillory and Nouveau Zydeco. $10 -$15, Charleston Heights Arts Center

Ethnic Express International Folk Dancing Wednesdays, 6:30-8:45 p.m. Have an evening of international fun learning Armenian, Bulgarian, Israeli, Arabic, Macedonian, Russian, Greek, Turkish, Chinese and Serbian folk dances. $4, Charleston Heights Arts Center

THEATER Summers of Fear March 4-5, 10-11, 12, 8 p.m.; March 6, 13, 2 p.m. This original play by Robert Benedetti chronicles the Jonas Salk’s quest for a polio vaccine in the 1950s, and the controversy it caused. $20-$30, UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theater

The Little Prince Through March 5 This stage adaptation follows a traveler stranded far from humanity who happens upon a young alien prince who helps him learn to love again. For all ages. Insurgo’s Bastard Theater, $11.50-$16.50

Listen Through March 12 A play about love, cancer and the problem with Radiohead. Insurgo’s Bastard Theater, price TBA

Godspell March 11-12, 17-19, 7 p.m. March 13 & 20, 2 p.m. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, a group of hungry wannabe musicians play haphazardly in front of the Capitol Records building. A stranger appears and teaches them the ideals of faith and love and they begin mak-

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 59

ing music instead of noise. $12-$15, Jim3 House of Performing Arts, 5959 S. Hualapai Way,

illusions, engaging the senses and the imagination all while conveying an inspirational message. $10, Winchester Cultural Center, Register at

FAMILY EVENTS Magic Unmasked

In the Dark

March 12, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Magician Jeff McBride moves far beyond tricks and

Through May 15, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Explore caves, the depths of the sea, a night-

Viva la Vita Bella: A Day to Celebrate Italy Saturday, March 26 at 11 a.m. Ciao! Take a day to celebrate Italy. The festivities include musical performances by Richie D and the Hi-Lites, Nathan Brian Wine, Franco and Ivana Valeriani, and Girasole. Siena Deli will also be dishing up some Italian creations. Free, Sahara West Library, 9600 W. Sahara Ave., 507-3631

Rockin’ the garage Now here’s a lesson in versatility. Musical artist Claudia Russell is equally adept at blues, country, folk or pop, and when she fuses her powers to the rest of her trio 8 p.m. March 18, brace yourself. Her musical versatility is matched by the venue she’s playing: Garage-Ma-Hall, a hushhush gem of a local venue for shows, rehearsals and just the pure fun of sharing great music with fellow audiophiles. Don’t be fooled by the garage reference, either. This low-key, cozy venue has hosted some of the most original acts to come through the Las Vegas Valley. Info:

time swamp and other mysteries in this new interactive exhibit that includes walk-through dioramas and specimens. Included with general admission; free for members. The Origen Experience at Springs Preserve

Wings Over the Springs

One of Nick Cave’s

The Claudia


Russell Trio

Saturdays and Sundays in March, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Audiences can get up close and personal with majestic birds of prey and explore the role they play in sustaining our environment. Included with general admission; free for members. Springs Preserve

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FILM Blacks in Hollywood and Film Series March 27, 2 p.m. Enjoy these films and learn more about African American film actors, actresses and behind-thescenes professionals. A question and answer period will follow each film. Moderators and special guests include: Nate Bynum, UNLV theater professor; Merald “Bubba” Knight, R&B and soul singer best known as a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips; Antonio Fargas, veteran actor; Rayme Cornell, UNLV theater instructor; and Stephan Reynolds, dancer, choreographer, singer and Cirque du Soleil performer. West Las Vegas Library, 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 507-3989

LECTURES, READINGS AND PANELS Sacrifice and Sacred Honor: Why the Constitution Is a Suicide Pact March 2, 7:30 p.m. Speaker Peter Brandon Bayer, professor of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, argues that the fundamental respect for liberty outweighs even the survival of the nation. Free, UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium

Spring Fling Local Authors Book Fair March 5, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Discover mysteries, memoirs, historical fiction, romance, humor, sci-fi and fantasy, children’s books and much more at book fairs featuring over 50 local and regional authors. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3489

Diet and Human Population Density in the Paleolithic Mediterranean March 7, 7:30 p.m. Professor Mary Stiner, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona speaks on the legacy of the human ecological footprint by examining features of Paleolithic meat diets in Mediterranean Eurasia. Free, UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium

Are You an American?: History at the Arizona Border March 9, 7:30 p.m. Professor Katherine Benton-Cohen, of Georgetown University’s history department, addresses the contentious and violent history of Arizona’s border and immigration politics. Free. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 61

The Harry Claiborne Case: Justice Served or Justice Denied

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March 10, 7 p.m. Nevada’s Harry E. Claiborne was the first sitting federal judge in U.S. history to be imprisoned for a crime committed while on the bench, as well as the first in 50 years to be impeached by Congress. The panel, including Michael Vernetti, author of “Lies Within Lies: The Betrayal of Nevada Judge Harry Claiborne,” discusses the case against Harry. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3459

Jazz: America’s Gift to the World March 24, 7 p.m. Dave Loeb, Ellis Marsalis and Ishmael Reed discuss the origins and impact of jazz. Moderated by Marlena Shaw, and featuring the UNLV Jazz Ensemble. Free, UNLV’s Beam Music Center Doc Rando Recital Hall

Revising for Royals: Performing Shakespeare at Court March 29, 7:30 p.m. The Ohio State University English professor Richard Dutton argues that the multiple versions of certain plays may best be explained by Shakespeare’s revising

VENUE GUIDE Bridge Gallery On the second floor of City Hall and along the breezeway connecting City Hall to the Stewart Avenue parking garage. 400 E. Stewart Ave. CENTERpiece Gallery In CityCenter 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 736-8790, Charleston Heights Arts Center 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383





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At participating locations. Not valid with other offers. Other restrictions may apply. Expires 12/31/2011

Clark County Government Center 500 Grand Central Parkway, 455-8239 College of Southern Nevada BackStage Theater, Nicholas J. Horn Theater, Recital Hall, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas, 6515483, Historic Fifth Street School 401 S. Fourth St., 229-6469 House of Blues Inside Mandalay Bay 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Insurgo’s Bastard Theater 900 E. Karen Ave. D114,

www.AUToREPAiRLASvEgAS.NET Kurtis 702-480-7676 62 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Centennial Hills, Clark Coun-

Marlena Shaw moderates the panel, “Jazz: America’s Gift to the World,” 7 p.m. March 24 at UNLV’s Beam Music Center Doc Rando Recital Hall

ty, Enterprise, Rainbow, Sahara West, Summerlin, Sunrise, West Charleston and Whitney libraries, 734READ, MGM Grand Garden Arena In the MGM Grand 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., The Orleans Showroom Inside The Orleans 4500 W. Tropicana Ave., Reed Whipple Cultural Center 821 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 229-1012

The Springs Preserve 333 S. Valley View Blvd., 822-7700, UNLV Artemus Ham Hall, Judy Bayley Theater, Beam Music Center Recital Hall, Barrick Museum Auditorium, Black Box Theater, Greenspun Hall Auditorium, Paul Harris Theater, Student Union Theatre. 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, 895-2787, Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Dr. 455-7340

the drama for different audiences. Free. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium

How Should Judges Interpret the Law?  March 31, 7:30 p.m. The question of how judges can and should interpret case-law precedent, statutes and the Constitution is critical in democracy. Speaker Dean Francis J. Mootz III of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law will offer a historical overview of legal interpretation. Free. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium

Nobody does it like us!

FUNDRAISERS United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council hosts its annual Women’s Luncheon March 2, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The exclusive event honors three exceptional women leaders in United Way’s focus areas of education, health and financial stability. The keynote speaker will be Maureen E. Peckman, chief emerging business officer for Cleveland Clinic Nevada. Caesars Palace, Palace I Ballroom. $80 per person or $800 per table, proceeds will benefit United Way of Southern Nevada. 892-2319

Las Vegas Philharmonic presents the Diamonds Are Forever Gala

Run Away With Cirque Du Soleil March 19, 7:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Cirque du Soleil puts the funky fun in the 5K Run or 1 Mile Fun Walk, so join the performers on the Preserve’s trails for the valley’s most entertaining and scenic race event. To register, visit: Cirque5kReg. Springs Preserve

UNLVino March 31-April 2, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.“Take a Sip for Scholarship” at this 37th annual event that offers wine enthusiasts and winemakers a chance to meet and enjoy the latest releases, the best vintages and the finest varietals in support of scholarship. $50-$100, various locations,

Schilling Horticulture approaches the design, installation and maintenance of landscape as a combination of art, science and craftsmanship. We create outdoor living space that fulfills YOUR desires, while simultaneously achieving sustainability and incredible beauty throughout the year. We do the best landscape work in Southern Nevada! “The thing is, desert landscapes can be incredibly beautiful AND low maintenance, when they’re done well. And you get to feel good about it!” — Norm Schilling, of KNPR’s Desert Bloom

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March 19, 6 p.m. The event will include cocktails, silent and live auctions, dinner, Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show and performances by members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Tickets start at $500, Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, 888 W. Bonneville Ave. 2585438 ext. 221,


We’re all here with you, Vegas! In these times, Vegas needs a little pep talk. Hey! Here’s one!


by juan martinez

I know things are tough, Vegas, and

I know that most of the resolutions you made a couple of months ago have gone out the window. I know you took a long hard look in the mirror, told yourself it was going to be different, it was time to make a change, you really meant it this time, and now you’re pretty much back to doing what you’ve always done. Which is bad. Because some of us have bailed on you, and those of us who have not bailed on are all, “No, Vegas, you’ve bailed on us.” I know that — right now — you are not terribly keen on us. We’ve disappointed you. We’ve let you down. We said we would stop building things and behave like reasonable adults and — next thing you know — we’ve built like 56 more unreasonable projects on your flank and are busy with all these plans that we’re pretty sure are going to work, even though they’re plans we’ve tried before and which haven’t exactly worked for the last few years. Look, we’re like that kooky couple in that romantic comedy you like! The one partly filmed on top of you! You know the one. We can’t remember the name right now. But you can’t remember much either, yes? None of us can. We are all having a hard time remembering how your strip malls look when they’re full of actual stores and not so full of signs promising a half-year’s worth of rent plus three Himalayan ponies just to agree to maybe think about stopping by and talking about how we’d totally put a supermarket in there. We’ve all agreed to not talk about the weird creepy caved-in burned-out Burger King on the corner of Tropicana and Pecos. When we are feeling kindly we call that Burger King your beauty spot.

64 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n M a r c h 2 0 1 1

Vegas, things are bad. Things are tough. Bette Midler apparently did not disagree when someone said that performing on you was like performing on the Titanic. The Titanic! You! You’ve got a Titanic artifacts exhibit! And a Titanic showgirls-tribute that pops up at a pretty incongruous moment in “Jubilee!” If performing on you is like performing on the Titanic, Bette would be singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” while a tiny model of the ship hits a tiny iceberg, just at the exact moment that you hit the actual iceberg. But there is no iceberg, you are no Titanic: The hard economic realities you’re undergoing (which are not to be denied and which really do suck and which have put some of us, even those of us who really like you, through the wringer) are one thing, but it may help to remind you — to remind us — that we were never in it for any sort of economic reality. We never bothered to do the math because we knew none of it actually added up. You are a fever dream, a burst of light and sound built on sand and chutzpah, even if you’ve got an actual bit of a fever right now. It will pass. You will come out of it and shake it off and forget all

about it, because that is what you do, because that is what all of us help you do. And you will do all right. This is how I know: I was in Florida in December (you had the shivers, you were so cold, and Ft. Lauderdale was not), and passed a billboard that claimed that what happened in Vegas also happened in Seminole County. But you know what? It happens everywhere now, what happens on you, in you. But you are still you: you run on the idea of you, and others borrow your lights, borrow your chutzpah (I’m looking at you, Macau), but they are not you. Vegas, for all your troubles, you are bigger than yourself. You are the idea of yourself, and you keep going because the idea refuses to stop thinking itself anew: you’re still here, still loud, still bursting at the seams, still terribly bad at math, and we’re still with you, because how can we not be? You’re too much fun. Get well soon. We’re all here with you. Juan Martinez’s McSweeney’s Internet Tendency satire, “Karaoke Don Quixote,” will be performed March 26 as part of the Selected Shorts 2011: Delicious Fictions series at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

ILLuSTRATION BY christopher smith

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Desert Companion - March 2011  

Your guide to living in Southern Nevada. Spring fashion home and design. Visit the greenest homes in Las Vegas.

Desert Companion - March 2011  

Your guide to living in Southern Nevada. Spring fashion home and design. Visit the greenest homes in Las Vegas.