Theater honors legacy of performing arts master


    By Gretta Parkinson

    Most people have fond memories of their grandparents, but when one BYU student recalls her grandfather, she sees a musical marvel.

    Mackenzie Purles, 24, a marriage family and human development major from Draper, is the granddaughter of Robert Peterson, a Julliard trained actor and vocalist who performed in New York City and in musical and theatrical productions across the country. The Magic on the Mountain project in Draper, is an endeavor to solidify Peterson”s legendary status by christening their Legacy Theater in his name.

    Peterson replaced Robert Goulet in a production of “Camelot” on Broadway, starring opposite stars like Julie Andrews and Richard Burton. Peterson became an artist in residence at the University of Utah when he returned to Utah to raise his family. He also made appearances on stage with the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City and the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, Utah.

    Mackenzie said the efforts of the community to honor her grandfather have made a powerful impact on her.

    “President Monson [spoke] at my grandpa”s memorial and talked about living the legacy,” she said. “I thought that was really cool now that they”re naming this theater after him so that the legacy can be carried on. It”s just neat knowing that the community appreciates his talents.”

    The process of fundraising for the amphitheater has been a valuable learning experience, Mackenzie said.

    The committee of the Magic on the Mountain project, headed by Mackenzie”s mother Terri Purles, hopes to raise $250,000 to be matched by the city of Draper in order to finish construction on the Legacy Theater. Terri said she hopes the amphitheater will provide a place that residents of Draper can use to come together and celebrate the performing arts.

    “I”m so proud,” Terri said. “I”m just so thankful that we can remember [my father] in this way, in a way that can help inspire others to be their best.”

    Mackenzie said the memory of her grandfather still motivates her in many facets of her life.

    “Whenever I sing, I think of my Grandpa,” she said. “It does inspire me to keep going.”

    Mackenzie said Peterson was one professional entertainer who was able to follow his dreams without losing sight of his values. Peterson”s signature role, Don Quixote in “The Man of La Mancha,” sang of the impossible dream. Mackenzie said the way her grandfather lived his life exemplified that ideal.

    “He dreamt the impossible dream and he did it,” Mackenzie said. “It”s encouraging to think of that.”

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