Relates Romance of Old Theatre

Garfield County News, 5 May 1938, page 1
On one condition – that the girls' dresses didn't come above their shoe tops – Brigham Young gave his official sanction in the early days of the old Salt Lake theatre for the performance of a French ballet. He attended the first performance, thoroughly satisfied as t the ballet's propriety. The next night, however, Young was not to be present, so a “full six inches” was cut off the ladies' skirts and they had a “real French ballet” thereafter.

The incident was related by George D. Piper, author of the book “Romance of an Old Playhouse”, while tracing the cultural development of Utah drama for University of Utah freshmen. At present superintendent of Sunday schools for the entire Mormon church, Mr. Piper was one of the leading opera singers on the Utah stage, and for thirty years managed the old Utah playhouse.

Utah drama really began in Nauvoo, Illinois, he said, when Joseph Smith organized a company which played down the Mississippi river during the summer. The company broke up when Joseph and his brother were assassinated. Not until 1850 did Mormon drama revive, for real life was so strenuous for two years after crossing the plains the pioneers had no time for plays. At that time the Deseret Dramatic Association was formed and played in a government wagon box.

Then three years later the well known Social Hall was built, destined to play a great part in Utah life. IT was here the first state legislature met. Piper related that in plays acted there, some of the actresses with children attended nursing responsibilities between acts. Social Hall, now demolished, became very popular after Maud May Babcock arrived at the University of Utah in 1802 and organized the Varsity Players.

March 1, 1862, the Salt Lake Theatre was dedicated. Barney Adams, grandfather of the famous Utah actress Muade Adams, had hauled logs for its construction. Nails being scarce, metal was carefully gathered from old wagons demolished on the plains. Mr. Peirce recalled that President Heber J. Grant of the L. D. S. church was a pickaninny in the first performance of “Uncle Tom's Cabin”.

For many years the Salt Lake Theatre was one of the finest and most popular in the entire country. Great artists like Barrett, John Drew and Edwin Booth were eager to play there and praised the theatre and high standards of appreciation and art developed by Utah people.

The land the building stood on became valuable. The familiar relic dear to so many people was torn down a few years ago. A service station now occupies the site.