Community theater enjoys growing popularity

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    By JILL CRANDALL

    Community theater is gaining popularity in Utah County.

    Throughout the past years, live theaters have experienced tremendous growth, said Mary Kay Pierce, office manager for the Orem Hale Center Theater.

    “I’ve worked at the Hale Theater for five years, and it has definitely gotten more popular. We are so much busier now than we were five years ago,” Pierce said.

    The Hale Center Theater was started by Ruth and Nathan Hale in California, 51 years ago, Pierce said. The Hale’s children and grandchildren started the chain of Hale Theaters in Salt Lake and Orem later on. The Orem theater has been operating for nine years.

    Pierce attributes the popularity of community theater to people’s want for wholesome entertainment. Theater is especially popular in Utah and Salt Lake Counties because of the predominant LDS culture, he said.

    “Mormons are especially always searching for quality family entertainment. People are starting to turn to live theater because it’s getting harder to find good entertainment in other places,” Pierce said.

    Founder of the Villa Playhouse Bill Brown thinks live theater has become more popular because people want an alternative from television and movies. Live theater is beneficial for both the actors and audience because it requires interaction between the two.

    “Live theater brings the community closer together. Many friendships are established here,” Brown said.

    The SCERA Center is the only theater in the valley to offer both live theater productions and movies, said April Wetzel, assistant to the president of SCERA. It is starting the fifth year of the SCERA Encore Season, a 15-event program designed for the community.

    In the past, theater productions for the Encore Season have been held in high school auditoriums, Wetzel said. This year the SCERA Center will be opening up its second theater, Showhouse 2, for both live theater productions and movies.

    SCERA’s 1998-1999 Encore Season will open with the production of “Trail of Dreams,” a story taken from journals of the pioneers, written by playwrights James Arrington, Marvin Payne and Steven Kapp Perry, Wetzel said. It will run Oct. 1-Nov. 16.

    Showhouse 2 was built three years ago with the intent to show live theater productions, but did not have enough funds for live theater, Wetzel said. After receiving numerous donations, the SCERA Center has been able to remodel Showhouse 2 in order to accommodate theater productions.

    “Showhouse 2 is built so that it can go from showing movies to theater in a day if needed,” Wetzel said.

    The movie screen is being prepared so it can be used as a background screen for the live theater productions and then moved back in place for movies.

    Bruce Covington, an Orem resident, said his family is looking forward to having live theater productions in SCERA’s Showhouse 2.

    “I think Showhouse 2 will be wonderful. There is a great need for more community theater in Orem,” he said.

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