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Venerable moviehouse being renovated for live opera performances

July 30th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by Megan Hoth

LOGAN—Scott Theobald, architect of the renovation of the Utah Theater on East Center Street, announced Wednesday that he hopes to have the theater ready to show films at the 2012 Utah Festival Opera (UFOC).

Theobald made the presentation at the Dansante building Wednesday afternoon, showcasing the plans for the theater and the need for additional funding to complete the renovation.

“There has always been a strong operatic tradition in Cache Valley,” said Theobald. He said he hopes to keep that tradition alive by adding a beautiful theater to the area. The new theater will add an additional venue to the festival and will expand the number of works that can be performed.

After the previous owners wanted to retire and suddenly closed the theater’s doors in 2005, the theater was given to the UFOC as a gift from Larry H. Miller. Renovations began in 2008, said Theobald.

Theobald’s firm, Design West, has made a great effort to preserve the historical richness of the building.

“As an architectural firm, we wanted to understand the historic makeup of the building,” he said.

The firm is working with the Utah State ceramics department to recreate the art deco tiles that cover the front of the building. Most of the decoration of the building was covered with curtains and was found when construction began. Unlike the ornate details of the Eccles Theater, Theobald said that the Utah Theater is covered with simple art deco paintings, fixtures and decoration.

The theater was first built as a movie hall called the Roxy Theater, and was never a performance theater. Theobald said that because of this, it has been a huge undertaking to make it up to performance standards. The firm has added a fly loft for state of the art performance rigging, an orchestra pit, and an organ that can be raised and lowered. They also have kept a movie screen and have plans to continue to show classic movies.

One of the main features of the new theater will be the new elevated organ. The organ was a gift donated by a family from Palisades, Wash., who had built their home around the organ. Since its donation, the organ has doubled in size, acquiring pieces from such places as the Ellen Eccles Theater.

“It is the most astonishing this you will ever hear in your life,” said Michael Ballam, UFOC general director. Ballam has plans to start a theater organ training program once the renovations are finished.

Once complete, the theater will have a rooftop garden and patio area and will also house a 14-foot chandelier in the new lobby. Theobald said the final completion date depends on funding. Current funding will permit completion of the moviehouse, but more donations are needed to get it ready for live performances.

As part of its contribution to expanding the Cache Valley arts, the completed Utah Theater will host performances for the Opera by Children program. UFOC education associate Pamela Gee said the program travels around the state going to classrooms teaching students how to write and perform operas. The students previously have performed their operas in the Ellen Eccles Theater, but due to high costs, the program decided that the money would be better used by going to more schools around the state.

“We would be able to perform in a theater setting again” once the Utah Theatre renovation is complete, said Gee. “It’s not on the same scale as the Ellen Eccles Theater, but it would still be in a theater. There is always something different about performing in a professional theater.”


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