Facebook Twitter

Play’s not the only thing that keeps theater running

SHARE Play’s not the only thing that keeps theater running

I remember well when Provo Theater Company debuted in its own building 14 years ago.

They opened a small, nicely appointed theater in the center of Provo and announced a season of productions that would bring new life and energy to the area.

Filled with hope and good amounts of pocket change, Rich Hill and a host of local luminaries planned to pay their actors, upgrade the fare and expand the horizons.

And they did that quite nicely for a while.

Now, two years following the announcement of a hiatus in 2006 — their second — they seem to be dead in the water.

Maybe not. Some wealthy benefactor could still step in and save them. (Hill estimates it'll take a minimum $500,000 to resuscitate the cause.)

In the meantime, the little building is dark, another in a string of Utah County theaters that have given it the good fight and lost.

Among them you can count the Little London Dinner Theater in Pleasant Grove that has tried under three different owners to get up and keep going.

There's the Art City Theatre in Springville that was open for only a few months.

There's the new Face Theatre that hasn't yet officially come to be in Provo.

There's the tiny theater in Alpine that held on for almost two years.

In each case, the founders were enthusiastic and optimistic and full of good intentions. But in each case, they were disappointed.

Some may say they owe their demise to poor reviews or a lack of appreciation for quality theater among Utah County people, but I don't think that's it.

May I be so bold as to offer what I see as problems for wannabe theater owners?

Most of the time, the founders don't have enough money to make the transition from start-up to survival. I'd say it takes about three years for people to catch on and to start faithfully attending a new theater. In the meantime, somebody needs to plan to subsidize.

Almost without exception, the owners didn't advertise enough — and I'm not saying that because I work for a business that depends on advertising. It's not enough to have productions listed in community calendars or in newspaper stories. There needs to be a budget for flyers, ads, billboards and promotions. Underestimating this is fatal.

If seating is severely limited, either the tickets are too expensive for the typical Utah County attendee or the numbers won't support the costs. It's expensive to produce good theater. Costumes, royalties, props, lighting, it all adds up quickly and that's not taking into account the cost of hiring a good director and/or paying the cast.

I say "Bravo!" to those who endure and even make a little money at it because when a theater company tries and fails, it's tragedy indeed.

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com