Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 | 2:56 p.m.
So rabidly popular is Super Summer Theatre, where audiences nibble on picnic dinners, sip wine and watch musicals under the stars, that fans arrive late in the afternoon, waiting for the gates to open.
It's a homespun, community dream-come-true for the entirely volunteer operation, now in its 34th year. The group is so dedicated to the idea of outdoor theater, 15 miles from Las Vegas, that several founding members put up their mortgages to secure a loan to build a stage in the meadow.
Problem is, Super Summer Theatre built its stage, reputation and livelihood in a public park that might become a casualty of Nevada's crippled budget. State Senator Steven Horsford suggested closing state parks as one alternative to adjusting the $900 million budget gap.
"I'm scared," Super Summer treasurer Jim McNutt said at last week's emergency board meeting, which drew some 40 volunteers, supporters and technicians. "We're going ahead with the season as if nothing is happening, but I am scared. If they close this down, then I don't know what we'll do. We'd never find another location for this kind of thing. We brought 36,000 people into the park last year."
The organization has already spent more than $250,000 of its nearly $500,000 budget for its upcoming season, which begins in June. In recent years, Super Summer has played host to talented theater companies veering from the traditional Broadway tuners — Oklahoma! and Hello, Dolly! for example — that held court for so long in the meadow.
Park supervisor Rick Keller says it's likely the park's small budget might save it from closure. But as Nevadans are learning all the time, nothing seems completely safe these days.