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Community kick(start)s in to help performers produce their dream

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A new definition for “community theater”—Spencer Novich, left, and Brett Alters used Kickstarter to put on a show.
Photo: Andrea Domanick

In a town where multimillion-dollar productions are the benchmark of entertainment, two little-known Strip performers are trying to launch their own show. They’ve developed character sketches and costumes designs, while plastic props, synthetic wigs and hand-sewn costumes are scattered about their Henderson home.

The biggest challenge facing Brett Alters and Spencer Novich: raising the $20,000 to bankroll their dream. Vegas might be famous for its shows, but not for its deep-pocket investors. This isn’t Broadway. But that’s not stopping them. “In our society and this economy, you have to make things happen yourself,” Alters says.

Alters, 25 and Novich, 24, began performing as a clown duo in 2006, when they met as theater students at NYU. After graduating, they found work in top-tier Vegas shows—Alters as a clown in Le Rêve and Novich as the villainous counselor’s son in . At the same time, the pair continued to perform their theatrical physical comedy in short variety showcases organized by and for local entertainers, honing their art until they decided it was time to pursue their own professional-quality show.

The result is Two Little Girls in the Bayou, an hour-long theatrical revue that’s equal parts dark comedy and physical spectacle, about two orphaned sisters and their survival guide to life in the Southern swamps (audiences can expect to be enlightened on topics ranging from capturing alligators to “purposeful drowning”).

Alters and Novich initially estimated their budget at around $3,000. It turned out that was just the cost of props and equipment. They quickly learned how deep the rabbit hole of professional-level show production runs. In addition to paying their production team, they had to commission original music, rent a theater, pay start-up fees and establish themselves as a limited liability company with a corporate bank account and insured contracts. Total cost: $20,000.

After investing $12,000 of personal savings, the pair turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter to raise the remaining $10,000—and succeeded. Individuals who pledged $5 toward the making of Two Little Girls will have their name appear in the show credits; those who pledged $500 will receive four VIP tickets to the show and the opportunity to sit in on a closed rehearsal.

Alters and Novich aren’t the first members of the local arts community to use crowd-funding. Cockroach Theater opened Downtown’s Art Square Theatre as its new home this summer thanks to $20,000 raised on the crowd-funding website IndieGoGo.com; local artist Jerry Misko used Kickstarter to raise more than $10,000 in June to help fund a Downtown mural project; and the Burlesque Hall of Fame successfully completed a $20,000 IndieGoGo campaign to relocate its collection.

Alters and Novich are, however, the first to use Kickstarter to directly fund a theatrical production. “People who give on Kickstarter have no other motives than just wanting to see the project get made,” Novich says. “They don’t expect anything except to get to see a show. This is literally people funding the arts.”

Now it’s time for Alters and Novich to focus on giving backers their money’s worth. They’ve got a hefty to-do list, including locking down a performance schedule for December and January, finalizing their off-Strip performance space and calculating the costs of operating the show. They’ll also drill scenes together, hold full-crew rehearsals and work on sound effects and costumes.

The biggest challenge, however, will be marketing the show. December’s initial run will feature performances at 12:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; at those hours, finding audiences of about 200 to fill seats in an off-Strip theater isn’t as simple as putting up posters and passing out fliers.

“At 12:30 people are either out drinking or at home with their kids,” Alters said. “The huge thing we have to worry about is figuring out who and how to get people to come to see it.”

It may sound daunting, but then again, so did raising $10,000 in less than a month.

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Andrea Domanick is an award-winning reporter covering the behind the scenes stories of life in Las Vegas. Her work has ...

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