Guest Columnist

Stars give back to Las Vegas at Mondays Dark

Mark Shunock, left, and Terry Fator chat during an episode of “All The Vegas Podcast” at The Space, Shunock’s multipurpose arts complex on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Charity begins in the Dark. As in Mondays Dark — which shines a bright spotlight not only on Vegas performers, but on deserving local charities that benefit from their talents. Its big-hearted maestro? Actor/announcer/humanitarian Mark Shunock.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to catch the perpetually energetic Shunock as Lonny, the loony, hilariously tart-tongued narrator of Rock of Ages during its run on the Strip, or as the host of Magic Mike Live. Perhaps you know his voice as that of the in-arena host for the Vegas Golden Knights. Does “Live from Las Vegas, It’s Knight Time!” (suffused with the Ontario native’s icy passion dating back to his days as a goalie in the Canadian Hockey League) ring a bell? Perhaps you’ve also heard it as co-host of the All the Vegas podcast with entertainment scribe Brock Radke.

 Most importantly, you’ve heard it (or should makes plans to) as the emcee/founder of the ongoing Mondays Dark variety show that attracts stars and performers from throughout the Vegas celeb-o-sphere to take the stage at The Space.

 Just a smidgen of the talent that has streamed through: Clint Holmes, Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys), Jennifer Romas (Sexxy), Kellie Wright, Earl Turner, Jeff Civillico, the Las Vegas Tenors, Eric Jordan Young (Rock of Ages, Vegas! The Show), Lisa Mack (Menopause The Musical), Paul Shortino (Raiding the Rock Vault), Drew Thomas, Michael Grimm and Mary Wilson (The Supremes).

 And just a fraction of the local charities that have benefited from the performers’ largess: AFAN; the Douglas J. Green Memorial Foundation; the Healing Curve; His Love Street Nevada; The Miracle League; Neurofibromatosis Network; NSPCA; Opportunity Village; the Rudy Foundation; Safe House; Saint Therese Center, SHINE; and Vegas Shepherd Rescue. Plus tons more.

 Why did Shunock propose this marriage of showmanship and philanthropy? Read on …

 

Often, I get asked: “How come you spend so much time producing Mondays Dark?” If you could read the emails I receive from local families and charities, you wouldn’t need to ask the question.

When Mondays Dark launched, it was simply to launch. There was no big plan, no timeline. It was just an excuse for some performers from various shows around town to get together on our off night and give back. There was a loose — very loose—structure, and a band. That’s it.

Today, we are looking forward to partnering with our 100th local charity and hitting the $1 million mark in total funds raised. Don’t get me wrong: Early on it was not easy to get people to turn out, donate, or simply understand.  Some of our early charities took home less than $5,000 at times. However, for the past 48 months, our goal of $10,000 in 90 minutes has been met and helped us grow in ways I could never have imagined. 

Mark Shunock

The success of the program lies with volunteer team members who continually give to make Mondays Dark go: my wife, Cheryl Daro; Rusty Bridges, our treasurer; Amanda Ayers, our event coordinator; Lenea Sampson, who manages The Space; Joy Scheafer, who handles our production needs; and Jassen Allen, who co-produces the show. These people are saints in my book. They understand my goofy mission and never doubted what I wanted to pull off. What that is still remains to be figured out. But we keep rolling with it, continuing to grow. Continuing to give.

The biggest reason Mondays Dark works is because Vegas is home to some of the most generous talents on the planet. Kenny Davidsen, who leads our band, is the consummate professional, going above and beyond to bring together some of the city’s greatest players. And then it’s those who take the mic and do what they do — some headliners, some not — but all with the genuine need or desire to perform and give what they can, because they can.

The saying “Because We Can” has become somewhat of our internal thought process for Mondays Dark. We put on these parties because we can. They’re fun, they work, and people want to come. When that changes, we’ll probably stop.  But every other week, I’m amazed at the gift of talent from my friends who show up to perform. The audience, many I know by name, continue to donate. It’s what I look forward to the most now: hosting, cursing, singing, fooling around in order to help raise some money for a worthy cause.

Mondays Dark has been around for six years, but it feels like we are just scratching the surface of what we can actually accomplish. This $20 variety show could probably charge more, we could probably raise more each time, but to me, that would change the dynamic of what’s been created. The idea that for $20 you can see some of the best talent in town, from all your favorite shows on the Strip, and in the process help raise $10,000 for a cause? That simply works, and I don’t want to change that. Our home at The Space makes for quite the crowd. And because our ticket is $20, you never know who’s sitting beside you and I love that.  

More than 150 local charities are on a Mondays Dark waiting list. I don’t know if we will ever get through them all, but for now, next Monday is what I look forward to. And the Monday after that.  And the one after that.

I love what this has become, but I love that others love it too and it keeps me going.

See you at the show.

Upcoming Mondays Dark showcases will benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Southwest Chapter (Feb. 4); Jake Kielb’s Hockey Foundation (Feb. 18); Communities in School Nevada (March 4); and Nathan Adelson Hospice (March 18). To see a schedule, purchase tickets and get additional information, visit www.MondaysDark.com. Follow @markshunock on social media.


Voices of Vegas features guest columnists from all walks of public life in Las Vegas. With columns touching on local cultural, historical, social, civic, educational and humanitarian topics, among others, they weave a tapestry of perspectives that emphasize the dynamism, depth and benefits of the Southern Nevada tourism industry. 

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.

 

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MARK SHUNOCK, Creator of Mondays Dark benefit talent showcase

MARK SHUNOCK, Creator of Mondays Dark benefit talent showcase