enculturating las vegas into the next millennium... art, dance, film, music, poetry, theater, history, nature and everything else that enriches the lives of those who live and visit southern nevada... Since 2003...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A weekend trifecta of Art, History and Theater...

First Friday South
@ Imperial and 3rd

This past weekend was absolutely amazing in the local cultural arts scene. It began with an almost flawless First Friday on August 5th. Though the main street festival along Colorado and Casino Center may not have happened and despite the news reports that the event was cancelled people came Downtown anyway. Like I said in The View last week, First Friday is, "an animal that cannot be stopped."

Derek Stonebarger founder of Theater 7 on Imperial and 3rd followed stepped up to the plate with his highly successful First Friday South. All the little shops surrounding the historic Snick's Place bar were open for business with artists and vendors taking over the streets. Even a traditional ice cream truck set up shop to sell a few cool goodies for the attendees.

Just walking around that little section of the arts district brought back some amazing memories.  I was reminded that a short 6 years ago a gaggle of artists, volunteers, and myself included came together and created a mural honoring the LGBT community on the side of Snicks Place. Today every little shop in that corner is filled up with galleries, art studios and even an independent movie theater, all working together to celebrate art and culture during First Friday! Who would have thought!

The Box Office @
Casino Center
Meandering from First Friday South I walked along Casino Center without any problem. With no fences to segregate the masses First Friday was much more walkable and bearable. Heck the whole reason why the city beautified Casino Center with trees and wider sidewalks was to make it more pedestrian friendly. Little galleries such as the Gypsy Den and City of the World were open and even the food trucks came down to set up shop without any issues. The police presence was to be expected, though a bit overkill in my opinion. The officers seemed chill and if anything many of them actually looked bored. So much for safety issues.

Metal Origami sculpture by
Luis Varela-Rico and Juan Muniz
@ Brett Wesley Gallery
Cion at the Box Office gallery and event space had the usual suspects with plenty of great art and a few outside vendors to mix it up.

Continuing my way down to Brett Wesley Gallery from the box office was especially chill as artist Luis Varela-Rico skated by on his long-board like the pied piper leading the children. In this case leading us to his amazing origami sculpture that he collaborated with artist Juan Muniz. Luis never ceases to amaze me with his amazing talent and penchant for the zen-like art of origami. By teaming up with Juan Muniz, one of Downtown's hottest up-and-coming stars, you know that they are on the cusp of many great things.

The crew at Skin City Body Painting
on Main Street
All and all First Friday could not have been more perfect and actually it was not as hot as many expected it would be. The crowds were lighter and definitely more interested in the art than anything else. As far as the need to shut down the streets and make space available for artists? First Friday South provided free space, as did the Arts Factory, and the little court yard next to Artifice Lounge had artists tents too.

If the September First Friday is anything as good as the one in August then this could set the stage for the future of First Friday. Keeping it simple and chill will not only cut down on the bad kiddies but it will make for a better more organic experience for all who love art and culture.


A Place in Paradise
@ the Boulevard Mall
(photo courtesy of the
Las Vegas News Bureau)
With First Friday behind us I still had to remember that Saturday was the unveiling of my own exhibition at the Boulevard shopping mall. As curator of the Las Vegas News Bureau archives I have the honor of working with an amazing collection of Las Vegas historical photographs. Considered to be one of the most extensive and comprehensive photographic collections of post World War II Las Vegas it is without a doubt a national treasure.  The archive is so extensive that we have been working diligently to document and digitize the collection so we can share it with the world.

Over the last several months I have been curating a photographic retrospective on the historic Paradise Palms neighborhood. A Place in Paradise... The Quintessential Las Vegas Neighborhood, features 24 large format historic photographs of the the Boulevard mall, aerials of the Paradise Palms neighborhood and the celebrities that lived there.

Many of the neighbors from Paradise Palms and aficionados of local history were on hand to celebrate the unveiling. After the opening, the neighborhood came together for their monthly Paradise Palms Social Club cocktail party. The social club is an informal gathering of the people that live in the neighborhood to celebrate the rich and colorful history of Las Vegas' first master planned community.

Working in partnership with the Boulevard to feature this fun and educational exhibition has been great and we at the News Bureau are excited to bring this show to the community. The exhibition opened on Saturday and it is located in the food court of the mall. Open everyday during mall hours.

For more information about Paradise Palms - http://www.paradisepalmslasvegas.com/

Vegas Seven article about the exhibition - http://weeklyseven.com/latest/2011/07/28/back-when-good-times-rolled

KNPR interview about the exhibition - http://www.knpr.org/son/archive/detail2.cfm?SegmentID=8082&ProgramID=2293


After the exhibit unveiling and cocktail party I decided to bite the bullet and stay up late and go see some theater. The Onyx Theater nestled on the north-east corner of Commercial Center off of Sahara is one of the jewels of the arts in Southern Nevada. I have seen lots of performances at the Onyx and Saturday nights performance of Charles Busch's Theodora: She-Bitch of Byzantium was definitely one of the best shows I have seen there.

The whole play is tragicomedy of sorts, taking place in what seems to be a cross between ancient Babylon, Greece, the Eastern Roman Empire, with a smattering of late 19th early 20th century Romania. I know, an odd combination but it works really well. The play is about a former circus performer and sexually frustrated Empress Theodora who is married to the "sexually" questionable Emperor Justinian. Aunt Vulva is the emperors auntie who scolds him for not having an heir to the thrown. There is also a plot to kill the emperor which adds to the overall drama. All in all the show was quite entertaining.

I am no theater critic, I leave that to Anthony Del Valle at the RJ, but I do have to say that Saturday nights performance was fabulous. I was not sure what to expect, except knowing that my good friend Princess Anne Mulford was in the cast. Thus far I have seen Anne perform twice, once as Squirrel in Casa De Nada at the 2nd Annual Fringe Festival held at the Las Vegas Little Theater, and last nights performance in her roll as Aunt Vulva. I do have to give Anne credit, she is good, and as the Emperors auntie she takes it home all the way. Though it is not a very big role, Anne commands it perfectly. Now of course the whole cast was amazing and they had me laughing all the way. It's great when you can sit back and look at a good work-of-art and be culturally satisfied.

Despite the fact that the performance goes on at midnight it is well worth seeing. I do plan on going back and seeing it one more time.


The Cast - Lysander Abadia, Anthony Avery, Breon Jenay, Gus Langley, Jason Nino, Anne Davis Mulford, Johanzen Palomata and Troy Tinker

Director - Troy Heard

The Onyx Theater
In Commercial Center
953 E Sahara Ave #16
Las Vegas, Nevada
For more information - http://www.onyxtheatre.com/

Performances -
Friday - August 12 - Midnight
Friday - August 19 - Midnight
Saturday - August 20 - Midnight
Friday - August 26 - Midnight

Tickets are $10 at the door - open seating

Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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