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.

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