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A Show For Las Vegas: 'Mondays Dark'


For the last two years, I've called Las Vegas home, a place where people from around the world and the country had to play. They drink. They gamble, see magicians, musicals, acrobatic shows. And they eat at opulent buffets or restaurants by celebrated chefs. But Mondays - well, Mondays are for the people who live there, who make the strip and this city function. It's a night for locals to play.

MARK SHUNOCK: Hello, "Mondays Dark."

FADEL: And Mark Shunock is the host and creator of a show called "Mondays Dark."

SHUNOCK: We have an amazing lineup of talent that have given their time to be here with us tonight. And it's going to be an incredible show. (Unintelligible) Beatles fans?


FADEL: The show is centered on the idea that performers are usually off on Mondays so they can donate their time for a performance for and about the people that live in this city.

SHUNOCK: Six years ago now, we opened "Rock Of Ages" at The Venetian. And my wife and I moved out from Los Angeles.

FADEL: Like most people in the city, he's a transplant, a Canadian via Los Angeles that now calls Las Vegas home. He moved to star in the '80s revival musical "Rock Of Ages." And he pretty quickly started searching for a way to give back to his adopted city, to foster community. When he couldn't find it, he created it with his wife. He started cold-calling other entertainers.

SHUNOCK: Hey, it's Mark. I play Lonny in Rock of Ages - putting together this night variety show - you want to come do a number? We'll give all the money away. And that's how it started.

FADEL: Every other Monday, Shunock and his wife put on a show with other local performers like themselves. The proceeds go to local charities. We speak inside a warehouse-turned-event-space in the shadow of the dazzling Las Vegas strip. Workers clean around us.

SHUNOCK: Where we come in is our lobby. And now you're hearing the carpet-cleaning truck - just really simple. You know, we created a little box office so you could buy your ticket to whatever's going on.

FADEL: The lobby is black and red, leather and glitz. There's a throne, a grand piano, a polar bear with a gold chain and a bar.

SHUNOCK: This is our main space. This is where we hold "Mondays Dark." It can seat up to 400 depending on how we set it up.

FADEL: And on Monday, Mark preps the volunteers pre-show.

SHUNOCK: All right, everybody. Let's gather over here where it's a little quieter.

FADEL: The money they make tonight goes to an organization that serves veterans.

SHUNOCK: How many people have been to a "Mondays Dark" before? - just a couple - good. This is not a charity event. This is a party.

FADEL: The head of security greets the regulars at the door. And people chat, drink and peruse the silent auction before the show starts. And pretty much every audience member is local, like Claudia Newbury. She's with a group of girlfriends.

CLAUDIA NEWBURY: It's just so much fun. The music is really great.

FADEL: Newbury's lived in Las Vegas for 30 years. She's retired now and had nothing to do with the entertainment industry. She managed the science program for the Yucca Mountain project. And she's been to "Mondays Dark" more than 20 times.

NEWBURY: Talks about - a lot about our community and what kind of a community we are - that it's very supportive of each other - I mean, people who come to visit the strip, they see the strip. They don't see us.

FADEL: Each night of "Mondays Dark" has a different theme. And tonight, it's Beatles night.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) What would you think if I sang out of tune?

SHUNOCK: The performers aren't usually the headliners like Gwen Stefani or Barry Manilow but the stars of the musicals, the lounge singers or the experimental musician from a "Cirque de Soleil" show. On this night, Grammy-nominated Clint Holmes, a Las Vegas entertainer and singer-songwriter, is on the roster. He says "Mondays Dark" is different than most other performances.

CLINT HOLMES: It's an energy on a night that there isn't a lot. Some of the shows are closed in town. So you can get a lot of entertainers who are working in - on the strip.

FADEL: And it's one of the few places that showcases city, a city most out-of-towners don't think of as anything beyond that 4-mile strip of glittering hotels and casinos.

HOLMES: When I first came here, people would say, well, what hotel do you live in? And I'd said, no, no. I have a house. It's a (laughter) - and there's a store and a church, you know?

FADEL: For Holmes, it was supposed to be temporary.

SHUNOCK: People used to be very transient who came here. They came here as long as they had a job, and then they left. Now people are - I mean, I'm one of those people. When I came here 20 years ago, I kind of came here - well, I have a show that's going to run for a couple of years, so I'll come. Well, my kids live here. My grandkids live here. We all live here and probably will forever.

SHUNOCK: This gentleman is something special to Las Vegas. And he's here tonight. Please welcome, Mr. Clint Holmes.


FADEL: Holmes takes the stage in a gray blazer and jeans and starts to sing.

HOLMES: (Singing) All the lonely people - where do they all come from?

FADEL: There are a few hundred people here, an intimate performance for the city. And the audience and entertainers are familiar with each other. That's the atmosphere that Mark Shunock wanted when he created "Mondays Dark" with his wife Cheryl Daro. She also performs.

CHERYL DARO: I guess unknowingly. We were - we wanted in our souls, like, Mark and I, to create a party where the community could also feel like they're a part of the entertainment community. And...

FADEL: It's family, she says, a way to root themselves in Las Vegas.

DARO: It was aimed - always aimed for locals. It was never really anything that we wanted tourists to be a part of because we were really interested in coming together essentially.

FADEL: Nearly six years later, "Mondays Dark," this night, is for and about the people that live here, the people that call this city home.


THE BEATLES: (Singing) One thing I can tell you is you got to be free. Come together right now over me. He bag production... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.