Saturday, March 7, 2009

High Praise Indeed

Last night my old drama and stage production teacher, Charlie Brown, was in the audience for Guys and Dolls. For those of you who don't know Charlie, he taught at Cyprus for about 30 years, and was the drama teacher there for about 25 of those thirty years.

Charlie grew up in the area, and we had talked before about how he used to watch movies in the Empress as a kid. After the show, he'd have to walk home; almost five miles.

Before going into teaching, he was an on-air radio personality for KKID radio in, I believe, Pendleton, Oregon. Before he retired 14 years ago, Charlie was known in theatrical circles throughout the Salt Lake Valley. After he retired, he served a senior mission at the Bountiful Regional Center (formerly Valley Music Hall) for the LDS Church. His son, Spencer, is a professional lighting designer who has worked in New York, and now does most of the shows at Hale Centre Theatre. Spencer is but one of Charlie's students to go into a professional career. And Charlie taught me most of what I know about theatre.

So I was anxious to hear what Charlie would have to say about the Empress and our production of Guys and Dolls. Here are some of the highlights of our telephone conversation this afternoon (we talked for more than an hour).

  • He was extremely impressed with our Adelaide, and mentioned that she would make a wonderful Annie should we decide to do Annie Get Your Gun.
  • He found Porter William's choreography to be extremely effective. He especially liked the way that Porter used the choreography to advance the story rather than making it a showcase of dance. His comment about the crap game ballet was interesting, he said, "I wouldn't have done it that way, but after watching it, I think it worked better [the way Porter did it].
  • He loved Thomas Gasu's performance as Nathan Detroit.
  • He thought Nate Unck did a wonderful job as 'Big Julie" but thought the character should have been named "mean Julie" because of Nate's smaller stature.
  • He had tremendous praise for Rachael Dugan's sound mix. He said she did it better than the guy at Hale Centre.
  • He thought Glen's portrayal of Nicely-Nicely was a hoot.
  • And the list could go on. These are just the things I remember.
The comment that most struck me however, was when he said that our show was better than some things he's seen at Hale or Pioneer! Kudos to the entire cast and crew!

I asked him if he had any suggestions for us, and his biggest suggestion was that we needed to get the word out so we could fill the house for each performance. He told me that once people know about us, we'll be full for every show.

But we already knew that.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Open House Reminder

Reminder that the OHPAA board will be holding a public open house at the Empress on Tuesday, March 3, 2009, from 7 to 9 PM. This event is open to all patrons, volunteers or anyone else that has an interest in OHPAA or the Empress Theatre. The purpose of the open house is to take feedback from patrons and volunteers about how well we are doing. Come tell us your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Titles for One Act Play Fesitfval

Here are the titles of this years One Act Plays:

Beat! by Lorenzo Bindrup Weber High School
Thinking Out Loud by Theresa Serrian Olympus High School
Yellow (verb) by Nicole Roylance Riverton High School
Sky Blue-Pink w/ Purple Polka Dots by Amanda Massengale Lehi High School

Looks like it will be a... umm... colorful festival this year!

Auditions for See How They Run

Join in madness, mayhem and mischief in the classic British farce, See How They Run. This delightful play has everything... snooping neighbors, escaped convicts, priests and ex-actors! The action doesn't stop! The play is sure to thrill all audiences and be the highlight of any actor's resume. All roles are open. We're looking for women ages 18-40 and men ages 25-65. Cold reading auditions on March 14 2009, 11-1 at the Empress Theatre 9104 West 2700 South Directed by Sherry Smith.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Guys and Dolls opens next Friday

If you're looking for a sure bet for family entertainment, you can't lose with the Empress Theatre's production of Guys and Dolls. The show opens Friday, February 27, and runs every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday through March 30.

Come watch as Nathan Detroit, host of the longest continously running floating crap game in New York, finds himself in a bet he just can't afford to lose, and a situation where he can't possibly win. See the indomitable Miss Sarah Brown try to reform the gamblers on Broadway. Based on the short story "The Idylls of Miss Sarah Brown" by Damon Runyon, with book by Jo Swerling and Abe Bellows, with music by Frank Loesser, this classic musical can't lose.

Directed by Shawn Maxfield, with musical direction by Trent Oliphant, and staring many of your favorite Empress stars, you'll want to reserve your seats early, and come back more than once. And you'll want to bring all of your friends. Call the box office now, (801)347-7373) to reserve your seats. Or click on the link on the left.

Hurry while there are still seats left!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Salt Lake County Cultural Facilities Master Plan

I received an email this evening from Salt Lake County requesting comments on the recently released draft of the Salt Lake County Cultural Arts Master Plan.

SL County Announces Public Meetings
On Cultural Facilities Master

The Salt Lake County Center for the Arts has scheduled a
series of public meetings to find out what the public thinks about its draft
Master Plan for Cultural Facilities. The 84-page draft plan is posted on line at

“As our county continues to grow,
facilities to house cultural events become a key factor in community planning,”
says Mayor Peter Corroon. “That is why Salt Lake County embarked on a countywide
Cultural Facilities Master Plan as a tool for future County support for
development of arts and cultural facilities serving our

The meetings will feature a brief overview of the draft
plan followed by a question and answer session. Comments will be taken in
person or on line, and will be considered for inclusion in the final report, due
for review by the Salt Lake County Council in late March.

current timeline calls for the final draft to be presented to the Council for
approval April 7, 2009.


East Planning Area
Olympus High School, Art Space
South 2300 East, Salt Lake City

Wednesday February
25th 6:30-7:30pm
Southeast Planning
South Towne Exposition Center, Meeting Room 200A
9575 South State
Street, Sandy

Thursday February
North Planning Area
The City Library, Conference Room B&C
lower level
210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City

Monday March
Southwest Planning Area
Riverton Library, Meeting
12877 South 1830 West, Riverton

Thursday March
West Planning Area
West Valley Library, Meeting Room
West 3650 South, West Valley City

The draft documents are at the following links:

My favorite part of the master plan is on page 35:

One particular project in the West Planning Area meets a need to serve the
emerging arts scene and population of Magna and the surrounding areas. The
proposed Empress Theatre expansion and renovation could serve the community
arts needs of the West Bench and form the nucleus of an arts district. The
Empress Theatre has rapidly developed as an active provider of programs and
has met with singular success. The leaders of this organization have
demonstrated a strong commitment to revitalize both an historic facility and
the surrounding downtown district. The Empress Theatre project
is included as a Master Plan Project.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another Famous Patron from Empress History

In past blog entries, we've seen that Claire Huffaker, a Hollywood screen writer, and Glade Peterson, the founder of the Utah Opera, spent their youth here in Magna, probably enjoying a movie here at the Empress from time to time. Here is another former Magna native that made a name for himself. Howard Jarvis.

Stories differ on whether Jarvis was born in Magna or in Ogden, but he was raised here in Magna, and graduated from Cyprus High School in 1921 or so. It seems likely that Jarvis would have seen the Empress being built in 1917. It is certainly likely that he spent a few evenings watching early movies as a young man.
For those of you who don't recognize Jarvis, this is what Wikipedia says about him:
Howard Jarvis (September 22, 1903 - August 11, 1986) was an American politician.

Jarvis was born in Magna, Utah, and died in Los Angeles, California. In Utah he had some political involvement working with his father's campaigns and his own. His father was a state Supreme Court judge and, unlike Jarvis, a member of the Democratic Party. Howard Jarvis was active in the Republican Party and also ran small town newspapers. Although raised Mormon, he smoked cigars and drank vodka as an adult. He moved to California in the 1930s due to a suggestion by Earl Warren.

Jarvis was a Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate in California in 1962, but the nomination and the election went to the liberal Republican Thomas Kuchel. Subsequently, he ran several times for Mayor of Los Angeles on an anti-tax platform and gained a reputation as a harsh critic of government. An Orange County businessman, he went on to lead the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and spearheaded Proposition 13, the California property tax-cutting initiative passed in 1978 which slashed property taxes by 57% and initiated a national tax revolt.
Jarvis collected tens of thousands of signatures to enable Prop. 13 to appear on a statewide ballot, for which he garnered national attention. The ballot measure passed by a two-thirds margin. Two years later, voters in Massachusetts enacted a similar reform measure

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Auditions for the Second Annual New One-Acts Festival at the Empress Theatre

Auditions will be on Saturday the 28th of Feb from 10:30 to 12:30. Cold readings only. Please bring resume and headshot (optional) and conflicts.

Show opens April 10th and runs through the 18th.

Ages: Women 12-25 Men 17 and older

Friday, January 30, 2009

New for '09:
Thursday Performances

Something new for the 2009 season: Thursday Performances! That's right, Empress Theatre productions will be four days per week this year, instead of three. All shows will perform Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. So if you're wondering what to do on a Thursday evening, come join us.

Last night was the inagural Thursday performance. Taming of the Shrew played to an enthusiastic audience, and if I'm not mistaken, I saw KOSY's Laura Bedore in the audience. So you never know who will be there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Roof, New Paint, Super Volunteers & Contributors

During the last few weeks, the Empress Theatre has received a new roof, a fresh coat of paint in the lobby and other enhancements.

Empress patrons who came to see Babes in Toyland may remember all of the plastic sheeting in the north end of the house, especially near the sound booth, and some may even remember finding some wet seats in the back row. The old membrane roof on the north side of the building had been failing for some time, and a decision was finally made to replace the entire roof rather than keep trying to fix the leaks. The new roof should keep the water out in the future, but there is still a bit of work to be done to fix someof the things that were damaged by the leaks. The new roof was arranged by the family of Leo Ware.

A small army of volunteers dedicated their Saturday, and a few evenings of the last couple of weeks to moving props and costumes from the Empress basement to another storage location, patching walls, giving the lobby a fresh coat of paint, and installing carpet tiles in the prop room. Curtis Bailey, Michele Brown, Kathy Wilcox and a host of others whose names I don't have put in many hours of hard work. We thank all of these wonderful volunteers for their great work!

Michael Harman, a local youth frequently seen on the Empress stage, and son of Steve and Charlen e "Charlie" Harman, lead another group of volunteers who cleaned and organized the green room and installed some much needed shelving and lighting as his Eagle Scout project. Thank you, Michael and crew.

The Empress is fortunate to have so many willing and able volunteers and contributors. Without the hard work and financial contributions from you, the great plays and musicals just wouldn't be possible.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taming of the Shrew a Hit

Taming of the Shrew opened Friday to rave reviews. Seriously folks, even the scene changes are funny in this show. If you haven't yet, reserve your tickets now. This is an incredibly talented cast, led by a phenomenal director.

By now the word of mouth is out that we've added a little bit of music to the Bard's classic tale, with some custom lyrics to classic country and western songs by the production's 'artistic consultant,' Laura Bedore. I've missed seeing Laura on stage as she was in Midsummer Night's Dream, and Much Ado About Nothing, but rest assured, her talent is still very much a part of this show!

Those of us that are regular listeners to Laura's "Showtunes Saturday Night" on KOSY-FM may have noticed that the five hour radio broadcast aired without its host last night. My wife and I received an email from Laura this morning indicating that KOSY is thinking of cancelling the show. Station manager Jeff Cochran says were ahead of ourselves to write Laura off, but nevertheless, now would be a great time for all of Laura's fans to email or call KOSY and let them know how much we love Laura and "Showtunes." (Oh, and let them know you're from the Empress Theatre crowd. It would be great to have them as a sponsor too!)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dadnapped Promo

Here's another promo for Dadnapped. You might recognize some of the buildings in the first few cuts... Still don't have an air date yet. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: This just in... According to Multichannel News, Dadnapped will air on February 16, 2009. Also airing that date will be new music videos from the Jonas brothers and Hanah Montana. Disney is billing the night's schedule as, "the equivilent of the Beatles and Rolling Stones apearing on the Ed Sullivan Show on the same night."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Opposite of a Spagetti Western...

Early in his career, Clint Eastwood made a number of Western movies that were produced and directed by Italians and shot in the Andalusia region of Spain. These films became known as "Spaghetti Westerns. " Well, director Drew Keddington has turned the tables and, as can only happen on the Empress Theatre stage, we're producing the opposite of a Spaghetti Western.

William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew has been transformed into one of the funniest westerns you could possibly imagine, complete with a bit of western music that will surprise and delite. If you like Shakespeare, you won't want to miss this interpretation of the Bard's classic; If you are more of a Clint Eastwood fan, even better! Fersooth!
But what do we call it? "Hamburger Romance," "Taco Eastern," ... Heck, I don't know, so let us know what you think in the comments!
Reserve your seats now! Or better yet, call the box office at (801) 347-7373 and order your 2009 season tickets now!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dadnapped Update

For all of the Empress faithful that have been breathlessly waiting for the release of the Disney Channel Original Movie, Dadnapped, starring Emily Osmet, it looks like its finally on track for a February release. The Disney Channel and website have been showing the trailer, and IMDB has put the release next month. More details as they become available.

In the meantime, you can go play the trailer and prove that you are "Zomme Enough" on the official website.