Robin Barcus Slonina always has a number of things going on, creatively speaking. She’s the proprietor of Skin City Body Painting; a producer and judge on the Game show Network’s body painting competition show Skin Wars; and she’s involved with several local art ventures at any given time.
But when COVID-19 hit, she and her husband, Cirque du Soleil performer Jimmy Slonina, and their young son were caught unprepared, like thousands of other Vegas entertainers and their families. “We have no income right now,” she says.
That doesn’t mean Robin Slonina isn’t busy, however. One of her long-term production projects came to fruition at just the right time—a syndicated local show called Vegas Unveiled. Created in collaboration with show host Ross Gibson—in less-stressful times, a star of Cirque’s Mystère—and Kenneth Johnson, president of local production company Vegas the Network, Unveiled is a “variety docuseries” that endeavors to shine a light on the entertainers, artists, industry specialists and behind-the-scenes folks that make this city a showplace.
And while the coronavirus has strongly affected production of the four-days-a-week show—the cast and crew were only able to complete three days of studio filming and a few days of remote production before the shutdown—Vegas Unveiled is still a compelling watch, largely because of its limitations.
“We’re getting behind-the-scenes stories about all of these Vegas personalities,” Slonina says. “This is a city that depends so much on visitors and tourism, and we’re all just in this suspended animation, this weird holding pattern where we’re trying to figure out our futures.
“This TV show [looks at] what all of these creatives are doing with this time off—and where they’re pivoting, like the stilt walker who’s now doing paintings in a home studio. Everybody’s finding their other skills and talents, and we kind of go to their homes and are privy to what those things are.”
Slonina dreams of immaculately produced segments with eye-catching establishing shots and gliding camera work—“really tight and beautiful, like a travel show.” But due to the coronavirus shutdown and the show’s breakneck production pace—it’s producing 12 segments a week—there are lots of provided clips, interviewee-shot footage and Zoom calls.
But every now and again, there’s a guest like Cirque performer Jonas Woolverton, whose segment reveals the show’s incredible potential. Woolverton, a master of the Cyr Wheel—a giant metal hoop he uses to roll and spin his entire body across the stage—is shot two ways: via Zoom and in a series of gorgeous Gibson-produced vignettes, of the (safely masked) performer twirling and rolling silently down the abandoned Strip.
Hosts Gibson and Amy Ling conduct fascinating interviews with the likes of Lijana Wallenda, the high-wire performer who rebounded from what could have been a career-ending injury to conduct a historic wire walk across Times Square; mentalist Paul Draper, who manages some mind-blowing magic even over Zoom; and the artists and business owners who transformed Main Street from a boarded-up wasteland to a drive-through art gallery pretty much overnight. There are food segments, clips of performers bench-pressing other people and even “story time” segments featuring local artists like Joseph Watson and Susan Jean Deneau. It’s nothing short of a love letter to our town’s furloughed creative workforce, at a time when we need it most.
Vegas Unveiled is showing on the YTA network (ytatv.com), a dedicated channel for Roku subscribers. For those of you with a digital antenna, it plays over the air locally on channel 18.2. Or just subscribe to Vegas Unveiled’s YouTube page (bit.ly/2ZeCN3m). Whichever way you take in the show, it should calm your nerves, while simultaneously stoking the fire burning under your motivations.
“One of our taglines is, ‘It’s your virtual Vegas vacation’,” Slonina says. “Sit back, relax, take a break from the news of the day and let us take you to the local hot spots—like, let’s go down this alley to a karaoke bar, or let’s go to Rockin Bettie’s boutique. It’s a little bit of escapism.”