Monday, March 31, 2008

"Work In Progress" in hiatus for two weeks

The Empress Theatre's resident comedy improv group, "Work in Progress" or "W.I.P" will be taking a short break for the next two weeks. The W.I.P performances scheduled for April 4, 5, 11, and 12 have been canceled to accomodate the added performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on April 4 and 11, and the later starting time for Joseph on April 5, and the short ramp up time for "An Evening of One Act Plays."

Jourdan Dixon, the tall guy in charge of W.I.P tells me, "We're still having workshops, but not just anyone can attend them. I've been willing to let a couple people come to workshops who aren't on the team, but generally they are just for the team and people who have auditioned who are on the team and are just getting performance ready. The workshops are Thursdays from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM."

"Work in Progress" will be back on the Empress Theatre stage on Friday, April 18, at its normal starting time of 10:00 P.M. following the opening night of "An Evening of One Act Plays" You'll not want to miss either show!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two Performances Added to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Due to the record setting audiences for the Empress Theatre's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the Oquirrh Hills Performing Arts Alliance has announced the addition of two additional performance of the popular musical.

The two new performances will be on April 4 and 11 at 9:30 P.M. (There will be 2 performances each of these evenings; one at the normal 7:00 P.M. start time, and the added performance at 9:30.) The comedy improv group, "Work in Progress" that normally performs at 10:00 P.M. on Friday and Saturday evenings will not perform on those two evenings to make room for the added performances.

For further details, visit the Empress Theatre's website at or call the box office at (801) 347-7373.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"An Evening of One Act Plays"

"An Evening of One Act Plays" opens on the Empress Stage on Fridady,April 18, 2008. Performance dates are every evening from April 18 tp Moday, April 26, 2008. Friday and Saturday tickets are $8, Monday through Thursday, $7. Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:00.

These plays were written by local Salt Lake area High School students, and we are very excited to be performing these original works at the Empress. I can't tell you a lot about them other than this: there are three comedies and one drama.

I've read the drama and one of the comedies, and I can't wait to see how the directors treat them. The drama, entitled Casulties was written by Megan Chase. It is a story of hiding secrets and seeking forgiveness that is surprisingly insightful for something written by a high school student.

The other script I've read is titled If the Shoe Fits, and is set in a fairy-tale kingdom, complete with, at least for now, a magic mirror.

You won't want to miss these four locally written and produced plays!

Friday, March 28, 2008

More than "Just Another Community Theatre"

As I talk to people from around the valley, they've either not heard of the Empress Theatre, or if they have, they immediately assume that the Empress is "just another community theatre," and they pass on the trip to Magna. Unless, of course, I'm talking to someone that has come to one of our shows. Then they ask me, "Where do you find all that talent? Are they all really local? Are they really just amatures?"

All three of those questions were posed to me by Betsy, a friend of mine from Holladay after she and her family came to a performance of Fiddler on the Roof last summer. Last Monday, she came back to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and brought 20 other people with her. This was her third trip back to the Empress... Somehow I don't think it will be her last. Several people, including my friend Betsy, have said we remind them of Hale when they were in their old digs downtown.

Clearly, the Empress is not "just another community theatre" in terms of our production quality and the talent of our performers. But there's more to the story than that. Over the next little while, I hope to post articles on each of the areas where OHPAA and the Empress are working. For now, here's a short list:

  • Historical Preservation: The Empress Theatre isn't just an old building. She's listed on the "National Register of Historic Places" for her place in local history and for her distinctive architecture. And OHPAA's interest in preserving the history and cultural heritage of Magna doesn't end with just preserving the Empress Theatre.
  • Educational Programs: We've already started working with local elementary schools to provide interesting field trips to introduce children to the performing arts, and even give some of them a taste of being on the stage. We're working on plans for a number of other educational programs. Afterschool, community, and homeschool group programs, personal lessons, and even a touring performance group.
  • Community Building: OHPAA is working with other organizations like Salt Lake County and the Arts Council of Magna to develop cultural and social programs in the Magna area. We're very proud to note that several new businesses have open near the Empress recently, and we hope that the Empress had a part in the resurgence of Magna's Main Street.
  • Arts and Culture: This would normally go without saying, but we certainly want the search engines to pick up on it! Beyond just producing plays and selling tickets, OHPAA has a committment to developing new talent and to exposing our audiences to other than the popular fare. We've committed to producing a series of One Act Plays written by Salt Lake Valley High School Students, we've produced two of Shakespeare's comedies and will produce more, we'll be producing an original musical, The Workshop, or trouble at the pole, by local playwright Jordan Dixon to premier this December.

If you haven't come to one of our performances, you're missing a treat! If you have, then consider either volunteering or donating to help us complete the project we've started.

Just another community theatre... Yeah, and Katrina was just another thunderstorm.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fund Raising Time

It's getting to be time to do some serious fund raising for OHPAA and the Empress Theatre. we've almost got the budget put together for the rest of the year, and it looks like we need to raise about $400-500,000 to reach the goals we've set. We're not going to do that with the donation box on the concession counter!

Here's the help I need:

Fund raising auction and dinner, or similar fund raising event(s). This will be the Fund Raising Events Team:

  • Somebody to organize a 'Support the Empress' auction and dinner event, or the like.
  • People to find things we can sell at this auction.
  • Someone to develop an entertainment program for the event
  • Someone to arrange the location and dinner for the event
  • Someone to do the invitations and so forth.

Direct Mail Campaign (Fund Raising Campaign Team)

  • Someone to help plan the campaign, set goals and figure out how to reach them
  • People to stuff envelopes and lick stamps (Hopefully, we'll have a non-profit permit and won't have any stamps to lick)
  • Help with the letter writing and brochure design for the mailing
  • Help with generating the mailing lists and identifying prospects

Grant Writing (Grants Team)

  • Help finding appropriate grant opportunities
  • Someone to write "Letters of Inquiry"
  • Help writing grant proposals
  • Help putting together the supporting documents for grant proposals.

Donor Tracking and follow-up.

  • Someone to enter data on current and past donors in our database
  • Some help developing the database and front end software to put the donor data into.
  • Some one to generate the thank-you letters and other follow-up correspondence

If any of this sounds fun to you, or if you feel guilty about doing a lot of fun stuff at the Empress, and feel a need to help anyway, send me an email at Remember, "It's only work if you'd rather be doing something else!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tricking Benedick

One of my favorite pictures from the Empress production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Heather Monson (as Leonata) and Chris Alderman (as Don Pedro) scheme to trick Benedick (played by Sean Keene) into falling in love with Beatrice (played by Laura Bedore) Photo courtesy of Heather Monson.

Coming Soon: Online Tickets to the Empress Theatre

Joline Walgamott, the Executive Director of the Empress Theatre, recently signed a deal with Arizona based to host online ticket sales for the Empress Theatre. Patrons will follow a link on the Empress main website ( to the secure EZTicketLive website, where they will be directed through the process of registering their account, selecting their seats, making a donation to OHPAA, and finally paying for the purchase with a credit card.

Once the tickets are paid for, EZTicketLive will email the tickets to the email address provided during the registration process, unless the patron chooses to have the tickets mailed or left at the will-call desk.

The box office will use the same system to sell tickets at the door or when a patron calls the box office.

We're still setting up the computers at the theatre, and the system will be available as soon as we get the box office wired and staff trained to use the new system.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Empress's New Clothes

Empress Costumer Linda Lyon has just donated a large inventory of costumes, costume materials and costuming tools, including sewing machines to the Empress Theatre. Our accounting people have valued the donation at $10,000. I don't have a list of the specific inventory she has donated, but I help carry a lot of it, and there is a ton (literally... maybe two) of it.

Plans are under discussion to make this costume inventory available for rent as a revenue source for the Empress as soon as we can get them situated and organized in the Magna Lumber and Hardware building adjacent to the Empress Theatre.

A lot of work has already been done to get the costume shop set up, but there is still a lot to do. Anyone wanting to volunteer to assist in cleaning up the hardware building or helping put the costume shop together can call the box office at (801) 347-7373.

Lighting Upgrade - volunteers needed

The Empress Theatre has received a $2500 grant from the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation to upgrade our lighting system. The money will be used to purchase about 50 lighting instruments that we've been borrowing from Ballet West, three cabinets of dimmers (a total of 90) and an ETC Expressions control system. We've also been borrowing the control board from Ballet West for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

This is an incredibly good deal; it would cost us about $30,000 to purchase all of this equipment new.

The next phase of the upgrade is to transport the dimmer racks from the Ballet West warehouse to the Empress and install them. In order to complete the installation, we will need to upgrade the Empress's wiring capacity to handle the increased load. We need electricians to help with this, and we need to acquire the wire to run from the meter to the dimmer location(s). And we'll probably need some stong bodies to help move the gear. If you can help with this, please contact me at or call me at 987-3361.

For anyone interested in such things, the upgrade will:

  • Add 90 6.8 kW dimmers. Each dimmer will allow us to bring as many as four of our stage lights to full power where our current dimmers are limited to one instrument at 80% power. Our total dimmer inventory will consist of the 90 new dimmers, 80 600 W distributed dimmers and 16 300 W distributed dimmers. The increased number of dimmers will allow us to overcome some of the lighthing challenges we've faced in past productions, especially in some of the secondary performance areas.
  • Increase our inventory of Ellipsoidal Spot Lights (the main lights we use to light the stage) to about 100 instruments. More importantly, this increases our inventory of lenses of varying focal lengths, providing much more flexibility in lighting the stage and other areas.
  • Replace the software based "Stage Console" software we've been beta testing with some very sophisticated control equipment. The Stage Console software is not reliable and had several "bugs" that we had to work around, and didn't have all of the capabilities of the new control board.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Joseph Setting Attendance Records

The first six performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat have set a new attendance record for the Empress. All six performances went "solid" (meaning that there were no remaining seats in the theatre. ) Joline tells me that the box-office phone won't stop ringing.

The Magna Times gave the production a "glowing review," with critic Dan Workman saying that he and his wife couldn't stop talking about the show for their entire 40 minute ride home. The review has been taken off the paper's website, but it was full of spoilers anyway. Probably just as well.

If you haven't come to see Joseph yet, don't wait. This isn't the typical Joseph you've seen before. Director Nolan Mitchell and Musical Director Trent Oliphant have taken some, um, well, liberties with the script and music that make this production different in many ways. Audiences have loved it.

Reflections of the past year

April 5, 2007, was my 10th wedding anniversary, and I wanted to do something a bit different for my wife to celebrate. She had already seen Little Women at Hale, and I didn't want to drive all the way to Centerville to see Sound of Music at Rogers Memorial. Pioneer was dark. Then I remembered that the Empress had reopened. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was running. It was perfect.

I misread the curtain time, and we arrived at the Empress a bit early. Joline Walgamott introduced herself and offered to take us on a tour. Our lives were changed by that tour, and it seems incredible that so much could change in so little time.

After Amy and I watched Charlie Brown, we brought the kids. Then I agreed to do lighting for Dreamscape and Fiddler on the Roof. Amy, Mirinda, Damia and Mara auditioned for Bye-Bye Birdie. Next thing we know, we're selling our house in West Valley and moving to Magna to be closer to the theatre. Okay, so we're obsessed.

As our anniversary approaches again, I've been reflecting on all that we've accomplished with the Empress over the last year. With each show, there has been at least one improvement in some area of the theatre. This blog is the latest. I hope that it will be a place where our friends can come to get the latest news, leave a comment or suggestion, or just discuss the Empress related topics.