By Jackson Wilde and Brenna Kelly
Drywall dust lingers in the air and peppers the tools strewn about the floor. Drapes of translucent plastic cover the walls, protecting the newly painted art deco. Construction workers bustle about on scaffolding, while others thread wire behind walls in The Utah Theatre sublevels.
This has been part of the grind since the theater was purchased by The Utah Festival Opera Company in 2008 — and it will be for months to come.
Renovations began on the 91-year-old theater in 2008, but when the economy took a turn for the worse, so did the theater. Gary Griffin, the managing director of the company and overseer of the renovations, said he has been remodeling the theater “longer that I care to think about.”
The theater was scheduled to open in September 2015 but the date was pushed back to December. Due to continuing complications with funding and renovations, the theater may not be reopening until late spring.
Griffin said construction delays along with health complications and scheduling issues with specialists contributed to the rescheduling of the opening date.
“Just one thing after another,” Griffin said.
The biggest difficulty with the renovations has been plumbing and electricity. The walls of the theater are two feet thick, with reinforced concrete.
“If you want to build a door or add wires or plumbing, you have to cut through it,” Griffith said. “It gets messy.”
“It’s a lot harder to restore a historic building than it would be to build a new building,” theater manager Jared Rounds said.
But with some faith, trust — and a little bit of pixie dust — the theater should be ready to go when “Peter Pan” opens in June.
Rounds said the show will feature a “full flying system” used to pilot characters over the audience and would “show off all the bells and whistles of the theatre.”
Griffin said the theater will not only host live productions, but also modern films and silent films with a Wurlitzer organ accompaniment. Griffin said the company will be giving surveys to Utah State University students to understand which films will be popular draws.
“We’re excited,” Griffin said. “We’ll be doing a lot of different things there.”
“It’ll be unlike anything this valley has ever seen before,” he said. “It’ll be a live theater but also a movie theater, performance hall and recital hall. People can hold events and have dinner here. After a performance they can go on the rooftop to have dessert. It’ll be a very multipurpose theater.”