Friday, May 30, 2008

OHPAA Long Range Capital Plans

Rod, Joline and I (and Nolan for a few short minutes) met on Wednesday with Bob Bailey, a consultant, and a delegation from the county working to develop Salt Lake County's "Cultural Arts Master Plan" to discuss the future of OHPAA and the Empress Theatre.
We gave them a tour of the Empress Theatre and the Magna Hardware building, discussed what we've accomplished so far and what we plan to do in the future.
As some of you may already know, the Empress Theatre is the only live theatre serving the west side of Salt Lake County (HCT, located on 2200 W is actually east of the geographical center of the valley.) The only other live performance venue to serve the west side is the Usana Ampitheatre in West Valley City. The purpose of our meeting was to ensure that OHPAA and the Empress Theatre are included in the master plan so that we don't get bypassed as arts development monies are appropriated and locations for venues are chosen.
As part of the discussion, we talked about OHPAA's longer range plans. We still need to purchase the Empress Theatre from Leo Ware's estate beofre our purchase option expires in August. We are also working on purchasing the old Magna Hardware building right nextdoor to the Empress. That building includes the parking lot to the west and the alley easement that runs from the Empress to 9180 West and the building that currently houses Walgamott Realty. Further down the road, but not much further, we are looking at acquiring the old Dyches Drug building across the street.
The hardware building will be rennovated for use as a set construction shop, costume shop, storage and possibly some office space. We might also open the upstage wall of the Empress Theatre stage to communicate with the hardware store building to allow us to move scenery back and forth between the two buildings rather than take it through the lobby as we do now.
The 6000 square foot main floor of the Dyches building would be used as a rehearsal hall, classroom, reception area, and possibly a small eatery and gift shop. We could also use that building as a black box theatre or for non-play type performances like our show choir or for events like dances. (Despite the overwhelming preference for an outdoor party with live entertainment, I still want to have a formal gala. Probably in the winter. Fortunately, we can do both!)
Finally, the parking lot west of the hardware store would be paved and marked, while the alley behind the Empress Theatre and the hardware store would either become additional parking or would be landscaped for outdoor events. And we'd probably add the parking behind the Dyches building as well.
All told, it will take about $750,000 to $1,000,000 just to purchase the buildings and do enough of the rennovation to allow us to open them up. We'll have to decontaminate the meth lab in the Dyches building, tear down that eyesore on top, and fix the roof. And probably double that to actually complete the project. But I think it is well worth the effort for both OHPAA's sake and for Magna's.
These plans are still in the development stages, and haven't even been voted on by the Board yet, but I thought folks would like to know what we're looking at in the future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Family Friendly Standards

One of the things OHPAA prides itself on is production of "family friendly" live entertainment. So I was a bit surprised when someone commented that they thought our current show, The Foreigner, "violated OHPAA's standards." I've never seen The Foreigner any where else, so I don't know if other productions of it have included offensive content, but I have no problem taking my children to see the Empress Theatre's production. In fact, my five under-twelve children have seen it three times. I suspect the comment was made based more on reputation than on the actual production on the Empress Theatre's stage.

The Foreigner does present the Klu Klux Klan and a scheming minister as the bad guys. And it uses deception as a major plot device. And there is the matter of a pregnant debutant...

Okay, so...

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat presents attempted fratricide, slavery, the deception of Jacob, and the summary execution of the baker; not to mention a half naked Joseph cavorting about on the stage. And what about that whole scene with Potiphar's wife?

Shakespeare's classic Much Ado About Nothing is all about deception and, oh yeah, eveasdropping on other people's conversations, though sometimes the conversations were designed to be overheard. The false accusation that Hero is "a committed stale" who knows the comfort of "a luxurious bed" is equally a depiction of a moral question. (Don't even get me started on Midsummer Night's Dream and the whole sleeping with the donkey thing!)

What makes the character of Owen Musser different than the character of Borachio? How is the Reverned David Marshall Lee different than Prince John the bastard. How do we find the scheming of Joseph's brothers to be acceptible on the stage while rejecting the scheming of Owen and David as improper content?

Guys and Dolls is all about gambling and depicts a crap game in a sewer. My Fair Lady uses the deception of passing 'Liza off as nobility and Alfred's panhandling of Higgins. In Oklahoma Curly suggests that Judd suicide and Judd has his "glass," presumably pornographic, in the smoke house; and don't overlook the knife fight and the "trial" Curly goes through after he kills Judd; or anything at all about Ado Annie...

Arranged marriages, Tevye's dream and a pogrom in Fiddler on the Roof; Sound of Music deals directly with the German takeover of Austria, and the von Trapp's flight from the very racist and brutal Gestapo. (As racists working under Hitler, the Nazi's did more damage than the Klan ever imagined. The KKK is ugly, the Gestapo was ugly, efficient, and had state sanction.) Polygamy and sexism are central to the plot of The King and I.

Yet each of these shows is considered a "classic" of American Musical Theatre.

Where and how then do we draw the line? What content is objectionable? What content is acceptable?

OHPAA is actually in the process of developing a formal set of standards, and we'd like your input as to what they should be.

Please leave your comments, but I ask that you follow a few simple rules: first, if you are going to comment on Foreigner, tell us if you've seen the Empress Theatre production of The Foreigner or if your comments are based on some other production. Second, please explain why you think a particular bit of content is objectionable as family entertainment, and whether or not you would consider it objectionable in other contexts. Finally, no dis-ing a show just because you don't like it; keep the comments centered on what type of content you consider appropriate for families and what you consider inappropriate.

I won't promise to post all coments, but I will promise to pass all on-topic comments on to the board and the standards committee. And I will post all comments that further a healthy discussion. And lets all keep in mind that not everyone will agree on every point.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dance the night away or big picnic in the park?

Would you rather dance the night away or chill out at a big picnic in the park with friends? Over the last month, there have been more than 100 visitors to this blog, but only 12 of you have voted in the poll in the left margin. There are five days left, go register your vote. Do it right now!
The big picnic is in the lead at the moment, followed a close second by the formal gala.
While I'm on the subject... Who'd like to help plan either of these events?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day: Profiles in Valor

Toward the end of our run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I had the privlege of putting on my old Navy uniform as we bid Douglas Butts, a member of our orchestra, "fair winds and following seas" as he will be departing shortly for Navy bootcamp. My own daughter, Lessa, will be leaving within a couple of weeks to Army Reserve bootcamp as well. We've had some fun with these farewells, and this is a good thing. But we must remember that these two, and many like them, are potentially going in harms way.

This Monday is Memorial Day, a day originally set aside during the Civil war to decorate the graves of our nation's war dead. Those brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we hold dear. I would like to share with you an article by Mark Alexander that I received in email this morning. We may not agree with all of Mark's politics (I have to reprint the whole thing), but I think we will all be edified by reading the citations he quotes from four recent Medal of Honor adwardees, each of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice for their comrades and for us. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13):

Profiles in Valor—Memorial Day 2008
By Mark Alexander (The Patriot Post
It is not surprising that many Americans no longer observe Memorial Day with reverence. Schools no longer teach civics, the courts exclude God (officially) from the public square, and the Leftmedia and malls “celebrate” Memorial Day with commercial sales.

Indeed, Memorial Day has been sold out by many.

Founding Patriot John Adams wrote, “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means...”

But is it?

Indeed it is.

Fortunately, millions of American Patriots still reserve Memorial Day to honor the service and sacrifice of our fallen countrymen, who donned the uniforms of our Armed Forces with honor and under oath to defend of our Constitution and the cherished liberties it embodies.

On 7 August 1782, General George Washington instituted the first formal military award of recognition for “any singularly meritorious action.” It was a purple cloth heart, the predecessor of the now-familiar Purple Heart, which is awarded to any member of our Armed Services who is wounded or killed in combat or combat-related actions. For this reason, the decoration carries the profile of George Washington.

But our nation’s supreme military award was instituted in 1861. That award is the Medal of Honor. (No, it is not the “congressional” Medal of Honor, and, no, it is not “won.”)

Some 3,400 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have been awarded the Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” Most have received this award posthumously.

On this Memorial Day, four young men who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be at the malls, nor will they be at the family barbecue.

These young men are not much different from others who have served in the past or those serving today in our nation’s Armed Forces but for the fact that they responded to extraordinary circumstances with extraordinary courage.

They are Corporal Jason L. Dunham, USMC; Master-at-Arms Second Class Michael A. Monsoor, USN; Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, USA; and Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, USN.

Their Medal of Honor citations read:

DUNHAM, JASON L. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004. Corporal Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers to the west. Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander’s convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah. As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy. Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart, Corporal Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons. As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham. Corporal Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and in the ensuing struggle saw the insurgent release a grenade. Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

MONSOOR, MICHAEL, A. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as automatic weapons gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army Sniper Overwatch Element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element’s position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy’s initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

SMITH, PAUL R. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a.50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of the Marne,” and the United States Army.

MURPHY, MICHAEL P. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005. While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his Headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless
leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

In my lifetime, I have been honored to know five men who have been awarded our nation’s Medal of Honor. To a man, they are among the most humble Patriots I have ever met. To a man, they have told me that they did nothing more than the men next to them would have done, but for fate, it was their turn to act.

All five of those men are now in the company of their Creator. Each of them could claim 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Monday, 26 May, is Memorial Day. Please set it aside in reverence for all those who have served with honor and are now departed. And please join me for a moment of silence at 1500 hours your local time, for remembrance and prayer.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Eyes Have It

A trip back to the silent film days of the Empress Theatre... This short clip is definitely "eye catching"

The actress is Colleen Moore, and the clip is from the 1926 movie, Ella Cinders

They had a date with fate in ... Magna?

Marketing the Empress Theatre presents two distinct challenges, both of which are summed up in this blog post by Jason Bennion.

Magna doesn't get a lot of respect around here. It began a century or so ago as a company town housing workers for a nearby mine and smelter, and it's never managed to live down its humble roots or its rough-and-tumble reputation. It's certainly not a place you'd think to go in search of an enjoyable night of live theater.


I wasn't expecting much. Utah often seems to be the world capitol of community theater -- the impulse to "put on a show" is one of the strongest threads in the tapestry of Mormon culture -- and I've always reflexively dismissed that sort of thing as the worst kind of amateur-grade fromage.

In short, people don't think Magna has anything cultural to offer, are reluctant to make the drive all the way out here, and they have expectations that our "community theatre" will offer only amateur and mediocre fare.

Jason, who learned about our little secret because he came to support a friend in the cast, then found his expectations to be somewhat over met...

And then the play began. And I was very pleasantly surprised. With the exception of one cast member who seemed to keep forgetting his lines, the caliber of the performances was only slightly below the professional theater I've seen in Salt Lake.

Uh huh. Yep, its like that. Happened to me the same way.
Once the secret gets out, everyone will come to Rick's The Empress. Realizing the importance of the case, my men are rounding up twice the usual number of suspects.

Louis Jason, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Here's looking at you, kid.

(With apologies to Casablanca and a hat tip to Bennion Gardner.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Cognitive Surplus" and Community Theatre

This video presents an interesting point of view about leisure and entertainment. He talks about "Cognitive Surplus." The presentation is about Internet technology, but I think it applies to theatre as well.

The part that struck me as being so relevant to Community Theatre was his idea of a "triathalon." Not only are we "consumers" of entertainment, but we also want to produce and to share.

So, who was cuter, Ginger or Mary Ann?

Music Summer Camps at the Empress Theatre

OHPAA is sponsoring four music camps this summer. The first set of 2 will be between July 14-18, with a performance on July 19th at 1:00 PM. The second set will be between July 28 - August 1, with a performance on August 2nd. The camps are open to ages 12 - 18.

Anna Hunter will be the music director for the camps. Each camp will be 4 hours/day with one camp in the morning and the other in the afternoon, and will last for 5 days. There is room for 15-20 participants in each camp. There will be a $75 tuition cost for each session that includes the camp, t-shirt, snacks, performance and a CD of the performance.

The camps will take place at the Empress. The performances may or may not be at the Empress Theatre. We're still working through some conflicts on the performance location. Each camp will have a different theme, and anyone wanting to participate in more than one camp is welcome to do so.

Call the box office at (801) 347-7373 to register or for more information.
The photo is of Tomaso Angotti, Alfonso Cairo, and Filippo Notarianni, a Magna based Italian performing combo from the 1920's.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Items in the Gift Shop

We've added a few new products to the Empress Theatre's online gift shop, including the cute li'l fella to the left.

  • Among the new stuff:
  • Joseph T-shirts, light and dark
  • Joseph Mug
  • I Love the Empress Theatre Mug
  • I Love the Empress Theatre T-Shirts
  • 2008 Empress Theatre Season Clock
  • I Love the Empress Theatre golf shirt
  • I love the Empress Theatre ball caps
  • I Love the Empress Theatre tote bag
  • I Love the Empress Theatre Kids stuff like Onsies and bibs.

If there's something that you'd like to see here that we haven't done yet, let me know. We can put any of the shows or other artwork on any of the products, and there are still other products we haven't put up yet. If we have enough interest in these products, we will upgrade our store to be able to offer more than one of each product at a time.

Go check it out. Let us know what you think.

Value Beyond the Price of Admission - My view

Okay, I guess it's time for me to answer my own question, and say what I think the value beyond the price of admission is.

Lets start with the value of the price of admission. That value is the value of the entertainment; the value of seeing the show on the stage, complete with all of the ooohs and ahhhs and teary eyes and belly laughs. The value of the one time experience. I may want to share that with a friend, and so I will buy my friend a ticket and come see the show again. I feel that the entertainment is worth more than the price of the ticket and drop some cash in the donation box or send in a check. But all of these are things that are included in the price of admission.

But the one time experience doesn't justify tax payer funded subsidies or large grants from philanthropic organizations. As I reframed the question, what is it about some performing arts programs that allows them to compete with cancer research or public education for funding? What is the common thread? Here then, is what I think...

Things like medical research or education or environmental science or poverty programs are worthy philanthropic areas of focus because they seek to improve the quality of life. Some, like environmental science or education, seek to reach the broadest possible scope; while others like poverty reduction or medical research, seek to improve the quality of live for a select sub-group of the human population. Yet even with the most tightly focused field, we all gain because we push forward the field of human knowledge. An idea or discovery in one area often translates into advances in other areas as well.

Whether you believe that Man was created by deity or evolved from a primordial sludge, one thing we can agree on is the one of the more remarkable things about human beings, which sets them apart from all other forms of life on Earth, is the use of language. All animals can communicate with each other, but only Man uses language to communicate ideas. In fact, the ape named Ape from George of the Jungle aside, Man is probably the only creature that thinks in terms of ideas. We not only think and communicate ideas, but we have developed the ability to record ideas and save them for people that come after us. So ideas, and the ability to communicate those ideas, is what makes Man unique, and also gives Man both the ability to rise above a base existence, and the ability to befoul his existence.

Were it not for this ability in Man to create and then communicate ideas, then the medical research, the poverty program, the environmental science, and education would not be possible. Is it not then, extremely important to support the further development of both ideas themselves, and the means through which they are preserved and communicated? And since Man can both elevate and debase himself depending on which ideas he chooses to pursue, is it not in the best interest of Mankind to support the higher ideas?

Mortimer Adler, one of the chief editors of Encyclopedia Brittanica, calls it the "great conversation." He collected close to a hundred of the best works of classical literature, from Plato to Shakespeare to Freud, in to a large set of books he calls "The Great Books of the Western World." Each of the books was chosen because it makes a major advance in human thinking; each book is a classic in its field. But books are only part of the story... and not always the right way to preserve or transmit an idea.

Theatre, Dance, Opera, and Symphony (I didn't chose these categories... they came from a comment in the Salt Lake Tribune), and in fact each of the fine and visual arts, embodies both a means of communicating ideas and a means of preserving ideas. Performance actually came before the written media, and it is likely the oldest means of transmitting and preserving ideas. All of these prompt us to use our brains differently than we might otherwise. And by stimulating our brains differently, prompt us to look at our worlds differently; they encourage us to create new ideas.

So, to summarize, the performing arts are a means of preserving and communicating classic ideas that are part of the Great Conversation, and stimulating new ideas that will advance that conversation. They are worth the support of governments and the donations from wealthy foundations because they not only improve the human condition, but because they preserve and advance the mechanism that makes all other improvement to the human condition possible. They are not just a part of what humans do, they are what makes us human.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Donate to OHPAA Through Google Checkout

Google Checkout, the online shopping service operated by Google, has agreed to allow OHPAA to use their service to collect donations from visitors to our website and blog. The really cool part of it is that Google isn't going to charge us the normal credit card transaction fees and gateway fees and such that we'd be charged if we used a conventional merchant account. So 100% of your donation goes to support OHPAA's operation. Now that's kewl!

I'm still working on the details for various sponsorship and membership levels. If you have any ideas, post 'em as a comment or send 'em in email.

I will be answering my question about why organizations like OHPAA can operate as non-profits in the near future, (It'll probably be a couple of posts to do it justice), but in the meantime, consider this:

  • The Empress Theatre is the only live theatre west of I-215 in the Salt Lake Valley.
  • The Empress Theatre building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for both its role in local history and its architecture.
  • The Empress Theatre is dedicated to providing family friendly entertainment; which means wholesome and clean shows at an affordable price.
  • The Empress Theatre is becoming the social "center place" in Magna.
  • The Empress Theatre provides a place for local youth to work and learn after school, and provides a significant educational experience.
  • The Empress Theatre is helping to revitalize Magna Main Street by attracting patrons from around the valley and beyond.
  • The Empress Theatre and OHPAA partner with other local organizations to help bring a measure of culture and art to the West Bench.

If continuing any of these things is important to you, then please click on the 'Donate Now' button on the left side of this blog or on our main website, and make a generous contribution.

Seussical Auditions!

Auditions will be held on
Saturday, June 7th from 9am to 12:00pm at the theatre.

This family friendly retelling of
Dr. Seuss classic tales will be
directed by Glen Carpenter
with Musical direction by Erik Mourtgos, choreographer will be Shana Davis.

Directors are looking for Auditioners from age
12 to 60. Please bring 32 bars of an upbeat song (an accompanist will be provided), a head shot, resume and a list of conflicts from June 10th to October 6th.

For more information or to schedule an appointment please call 801-347-7373.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2009 Season! New Board Member!

The OHPAA board of directors approved the schedule for the 2009 season last night. We haven't secured the rights to these shows yet, so there's a chance that something might change, but here is the list we approved:

  • William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew Jan 22 - Feb 9
  • A "Valentines Special" Feb 13-14
  • Guys and Dolls, Feb 27 - Mar 30
  • One Act Play festival, Apr 10 - 18
  • The Big Bad Musical (with an all star grown up cast), May 1-18
  • See How They Run, May 29 - Jun 29
  • Young Performers Theatre, actual show to be announced
  • Once Upon a Mattress, July 31 - August 31
  • Arsenic and Old Lace, Sept 11 - Oct 2
  • Little Shop of Horrors, Oct 16 - Nov 13.
  • A Christmas show to be announced later.

We also approved Babes in Toyland as the replacement for this year's Christmas show.

Other developments from the Board of Directors: Bennion Gardner was unaminously approved as the newest board member, and has accepted the position of Treasurer, replacing Stephen Burton. Bennion brings his experience as a branch manager for Zion's First National Bank to this board postion and will be working to create OHPAA's accounting procedures manual and develop our operating budgets. Bennion also occasionally writes articles for the Magna Times, the Kearns Dispatch, and the West Valley News as "a hobby." Bennion and his wife, Kiera, both residents of Magna.

Steve will remain on the board as an "at large" member, and will continue to be a member of the finance committee. He is stepping down from the role of Treasurer due to increasing time pressures from his other committments.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Empress Theatre Products Available

Do you like the artwork we've used for Empress Theatre shows? Would you like to take some home with you? Well, now you can!

For Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, we ordered a bunch of t-shirts with the plan that we'd sell them to patrons that wanted them, and sell whatever was left over to the stage crew. Turns out that there weren't any leftover, and now I have a couple of crew members ticked off at me, so...

We've hooked up with a company called Cafe Press to create "print on demand" items from t-shirts to coffee mugs with Empress Theatre poster art. We've got t-shirts and mugs with Heather Atkinson's design for The Foreigner available now, with more products coming in the future. Prices range from about $13.00. If there is a specific product you'd like to see offered, please let us know.

This is a great way to support the Empress Theatre, and it's also a great way to support the artists that design our posters and other art. Our poster artists donate their work for use in our marketing materials, and spend many hours working on on them for free. For each item sold through CafePress, the artist will receive a small royalty for the use of his or her artwork, and the Empress will receive a little to support operations and future productions.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's Opening Night for Foreigner....

I'm really looking forward to seeing the premier of The Foreigner tonight. For those of you who came to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, you probably remember being surprised by some of the things we did in the show. Well, the Foreigner production team has been up to some similar shenanigans...

I've had a chance to see the sets as they've been put together, and, well, Ty Williams has designed and our set builders have put together, and Chaz Wallgamott, our set painter, has painted another masterpiece. And Douglas Nelson, the production technical director, has inserted a couple of neat surprises.

It's a hillarious show "with more twists and turns than a tormented pretzel," it has a great cast and a wonderfully talented director, and it's at the Empress Theatre. So what are you waiting for? There are still seats available, it's Friday night. Click here and reserve your seats right now!

See you there.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

So you think you're funny? Come prove it! WIP is holding auditions

Just in from Jourdan Dixon at WIP...

Work In Progressor Quick As A WIP will be holding improv team auditions on
Saturday, May 24th from 3 PM - 5 PM. Anyone High School age or older is invited
to attend. There are 2 positions for High School age students and 5-8 positions
for high school graduates.

These are open auditions. Plan to be there the entire 2 hour period. They
will be held at the Empress Theatre. The address is: 9104 West 2700 SouthMagna,
UT 84044. Please visit
for directions. Please bring a resume. Please bring a headshot if you have one.
Please email
if you have questions.


Jourdan Dixon

The Value Beyond the Price of Admission

Every now and then I am confronted by someone who complains, as did a commentor in today's Tribune (see the comments associated with the letter): "What is it about dance, theater, opera and symphony, that they can't finance themselves like so many other artistic genres?"

This person is probably suffering from a common delusion that most of the operating money for live theatres like the Empress and organizations like OHPAA come from government grants. For the record, OHPAA received a whopping $3,000 in government subsidies last year; compared to over $500,000 in donated cash, volunteer labor, and materials from private sources and over $70,000 in earned income from ticket sales, etc. And that was just our first year of operation. We expect to make about $150,000 from ticket sales this year.

Nevertheless, the question is valid and deserves an answer. I think however, that we must first reframe the question slightly. Dance, theatre, opera, and symphony and all of the other performing and fine arts are all able to "finance themselves," but they don't do it strictly from the money collected from admission to events or sale of artifacts. These art forms are funded by a combination of "earned income," sponsorship revenues (from the sales of advertising and promotional partnerships) , and donations or grants from private and public sources.

For what it's worth, TV, movies and even professional sports wouldn't make it on admissions alone. They need sponsors and they get subsidies too! There is just a different mix and visibility, as well as different production & distribution efficiencies.

Next, I think we need to ask the question: Why is this this model used? This question is really two questions: What are the alternative models and why is this model chosen over them? And Why does this model work at all?

We can take up the first question at a later time, but for today, lets examine the 2nd. Why is it that "dance, theatre, opera and symphony" can finance their art and the operation of their venues with tax subsidies and private donations?

What value exists in the performing arts that justifies governmental subsidy programs like the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program or a grant from the Utah Arts Council or the National Endowment for the Arts? What prompts a charitable foundation like the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation to establish arts as a philanthropic focus? What inspires a private donor to write a check for several thousand dollars and give it to an organization like OHPAA? And what's up with all the donated labor and time?

I have my thoughts on this, but I think I'm going to leave the question open for today. Instead, I'd like to hear your ideas about why it is even possible for a performing arts organization to acquire funding beyond what it can earn from the sale of tickets. Click on the comment link below and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Funny Spot

OK, so this isn't exactly related to the Empress Theatre, but it was so funny I thought I'd pass it along any way. I got it courtesy of Jane Straus the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. She credits it to one of her readers, Lester K.

The Funny Spot

Washington Post's Mensa Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here is an edited version of this year's winners.

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until
you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido: All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to
seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at 3:00 a.m. and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Extra points to the first person to correctly identify the actor laughing in the photograph. Hint: Nobody could hear him laugh in the film.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Help Wanted

Do you like to work with Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign? How about Dreamweaver? Do you like to write or is photography more to your liking? Would you like to plan parties and events? OHPAA and the Empress Theatre need people who like to do all of these things and more to help out in our Development and Marketing Departments.

We need artists to design and produce our posters, fliers, postcards and programs. We need photographers to take publicity and production pictures, and to take "head shots" for our programs and other printed material. We need copy writers and proof readers, and people to chase down errant actors to get their biographies. And people to deliver fliers to businesses and other locations around town.

We need folks to work with our web team to maintain and update our website, our blog and our presence on Facebook and other "social networking" sites. There's a need for people to work on our email newsletter and announcements.

And we need folks to help plan fund raising events and campaigns; help develop our sponsorship program and maybe even help with designing T-shirts and such. And if you'd prefer to be more of a behind the scenes player, we need people to manage our patron and donor database, research grant opportunities, and manage grant programs.

There's a ton of fun stuff to do. And it is all important and rewarding work. Exeprienced or just learning, we need your help! Come join our team! This is a great opportunity to exercize your creativity and do something for the community at the same time.
If any of this sounds interesting, shoot an email to and let me know what you'd like to help with.

Monday, May 5, 2008

'Foreigner' pays visit to Magna

The Salt Lake Tribune has given the Empress Theatre a little more ink today, complete with the photograph of the Foreigner cast you see here. Here's what they say about us:

Exotic or not: The Empress Theatre's production of the comedy classic "The
Foreigner" opens Friday, with the run continuing through June 9.
Larry Shue's play, directed by Porter Williams, is the story
of what happens when Charlie, a shy Brit, visits a rural Georgia fishing lodge.
Charlie is too depressed to mingle with other inn guests, which is why a story
is concocted to explain that he's from an exotic land and doesn't speak English.
Charlie inadvertently becomes the confidant of just about everybody in town -
which is how he comes to find out about a dangerous plan that has been set into
motion, and eventually, channels his resources to thwart it.
Curtain is at 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Tickets are $11 ($9
children, $10 students/seniors, $8.50 Mondays), available by calling 801-347-7373 or visiting The theater is at 9104 W. 2700 South in Magna.

Photo credit: Chaz Walgamott

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Empress Theatre Rennovation Pictures

If you've been to the Empress Theatre for a show, you've probably heard the story of how Leo Ware purchased the building in 1987, then worked for 17 years to retore and rennovate it into the live theatre it is today. These pictures document some of that story.

This is what the Empress looked like early in Leo's work on the theatre. Note the triangular marquee over the sidewalk. Leo believed that the marquee was added after the building was finishished originally, because the neon tubing used in it wasn't readily available in 1917. Salt Lake County ordered the marquee removed in order to lift the demolition order.

In the second picture, you can see the original doors and a small box office. The box office was probably removed in order to make the front wall of the building seizmically stronger to satisfy the county inspectors. The box office and the double swinging doors in front of the theatre today were installed as part of the Dadnapped set and were left behind at our request.
A fire and rotting wood had caused the #3 roof truss to fall to the floor on the east side of the building. Leo had to lift this truss, install gussets to hold it and the other 4 trusses in place, and reinforce all 5 trusses in order to restore the roof of the building. The fallen truss is over what is now the stage floor.

After Leo removed the sloping (or raked) original floor, he decided he needed to put in a basement for dressing rooms, a green room, and other "back stage" uses. The doors to the theatre were too small to get any power equipment through, so Leo dug the basement by hand, using a pick, shovel and a wheelbarrow. He went through several temporary workers, but found that they "couldn't keep up with a 70 year old man."
This is a picture of Leo, was extracted from a video called "Rebirth of the Empress" shot somewhere in 1999. Leo is seated on what appears to be the south seating risers. In the video, Leo quips, "I enjoy solving problems. I've got a lot of joy over these 12 years. More than I wanted! But I'm just looking forward to the day when you people out there can share the joy."

Thanks Leo.

BTW, to see more pictures of the Empress Theatre restoration and rennovation extracted from the video, visit

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tribune Close-up Story.

Steve Koecher, close-up correspondent for the Salt Lake Tribune did a story on the Empress Theatre headlined, "50 years in the making: Historic Empress Theater was reborn after 50 years." Story ran in the May 1. 2008 Tribune. (Quick, somebody get a copy of the print version and cut it out for the scrap book archives.)

The story has a couple of inaccuracies:

  • OHPAA has not purchased the Empress Theatre building from Leo Ware's estate yet. We've paid an $8,000 premium to secure an option to purchase the building, but we need to raise an additional $12,000 to complete the $20,000 down payment. The purchase price for the building is $240,000. Donations are welcome and encouraged!

  • Leo Ware purchased the building in 1987, not 1983, and Leo worked until about 2004. Stephen Barker purchased it and the Gem in 1983.

  • It would be really wonderful if "Since opening day, the theater has sold out most of its shows" but it just isn't so. Maybe in the future... Nah, we start selling out most of the shows, we'll put on more performances.

One thing he did get absolutely right, "It took a miracle for The Historic Empress Theater in Magna to reopen, luckily it got several." And I don't think they've stopped yet.

The photo is of Nolan Mitchell, as the Seargeant Major, from the 2007 production of Pirates of Penzance and accompanied the Tribune story. It was taken by Erica Jones.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cast for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!

Cast for Seven Brides:
Adam- Stephen Harmon
Millie- Mindy Heywood
Benjamin- Chaz Walgamott
Caleb- Tyler Kofoed
Daniel- Curtis Nash
Ephraim- Jacob Hurst
Frank- Adam McKinley
Gideon- Dallon Thorup
Dorcas- Erin Fair
Ruth- Erica Jones
Martha- Skye Jahlstrom
Liza- Carrianne Jones
Sarah- Courtney Heywood
Alice- Macall Herpich
Suitors- Michael Thrall, Robbie Wright, Austin Watkins, Michael Todd McKinley, Stephen Bradford, Michael Harmon
Preacher- Troy Larsen
Preacher's Wife- Charlene Harmon
Mrs. Bigsby- Peggy Scripter
Mr. Bigsby- Brady Flanagan

See, we told you there was a ghost in the Empress Theatre

When we host field trips for elementary school kids, we tell them there's a ghost in the theatre. Sometimes, if there happens to be an actor handy, we'll even show them a ghost. But when a group of paranormal investigators came to visit us a few days ago, this is what they reported:

The first thing we did was go down in the cellar and use Laurel's Pendulum. When we were heading down there Mary and I, and few of other people smelt something like a pine tree smell. We thought it might have been all the props, because in a theater props do smell. Tom, who is the teacher of the ghost buster’s class, said there were a few ghosts, or more like five.

Okay... But it gets better.

We started to ask questions like is there someone in here? What’s your name? Are you a little boy or girl? All of a sudden we heard some little boy laugh in the auditorium up on the deck of the seats. So Tom asked if there was a boy here. The angel board said "yes'.

Aparently there are several ghosts in the Empress Theatre. Their names are David, James, Anna, Jim, Andy and Jenny. David is allegedely the original owner/builder of the Empress and fell to his death from the balcony during construction. He's not the friendliest of ghosts. Andy is a little boy, and I think David's son, but I'm a bit unclear on that.

Jenny supposedly was a dancer at the theater in the "early 1990's." That's a stretch! But one of the investigators said this, "Talking to Jenny and then hearing her laugh in the background on the recorder was a trip." A third member of the investigation team reported, "And the EVP's of Jenny are so amazing! If I hadn't been there it would have just been another story I heard from someone else. But I was there and it was great." Perhaps she was one of the Burlesque dancers in the early 1920's?

I was a bit surprised that they didn't find a ghost actor named Leo... Or maybe they did, and all of the other ghosts were just Leo playing several roles.