Pioneer Memorial Theater Grows at U. of U

Manti Messenger, 28 September 1961, page 2

[The left edge of the first column of this article is missing. Missing text that cannot be guessed will be replaced with an ellipsis (...)]

The Salt Lake Theater, a ...lty of civic growth and ...cement, was torn down more than 30 years ago. With ...ssing went a physical tie ... one of America's most ...ns theatrical traditions. ... the minds of the thousands who sat enthralled within its walls, it became a “sac... ...brine symbolizing the ...ments and ideals of our ...ed Pioneers – the de... ...ers of state's very heart and soul.”

Nearing completion on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City is the modern counterpart of the old Salt Lake Theater. This new ... center is, in fact, ... the Pioneer Memorial Theater, and is ...ted, in the minds of ... instrumental in its con... ...n and realization, to the ... and traditions of our Pioneer theatrical heritage.

... the United States today, ... community theater on a university campus is a rarity. In ... the idea that there is a ... relationship between the ... arts and the visual and ...ming arts is comparatively new in American, and ... which might have surprised the ancestral Puritans – but not the early pioneers of Utah. Recently practical as well as theoretical affirmation of the tie between liberal and performing arts has come from such areas of orthodoxy as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose students are balancing the disciplines of science and politics with the pursuit of artistic ideas. Other colleges, notably in the west, have taken tentative steps toward this method of learning and expression, but few have become so involved in the theater as a means of expression, creation and of learning, as has the University of Utah.

The creation of the Pioneer Memorial Theater on the University campus has been a long-held dream of many Utah leaders in commerce, industry, Church, State and education. Our beloved President David O. McKay, an ardent supporter of the theater, with industrial, state and university officials brought into being the means for the construction of the theater building. The position of the new theater as a memorial to our pioneer heritage and culture is well defined. While it is pleasantly reminiscent of the Salt Lake Theater in architectural design, it is a modern, eminently functional building dedicated to the art of the performing and teaching theater.

The Theater's stone faced columns, massive cast stone and block walls will house a theater complex of service areas, offices, classrooms, a theater-in-the-round, practice stages and the main auditorium capable of seating just under 1,000. The size of the stage and hall will provide a full view of the performance from any seat in the house. It will create an intimacy between performer and audience not found in larger halls, yet it is large enough for full state and campus participation.

There are some interesting parallels between the construction of the original Salt Lake Theater and the Memorial Theater. Both were commenced on the 1st of July, the original in 1861 and the latter in 1960. It is expected that dedicatory ceremonies for the new theater will be held on the centennial of the original theater, March 6, 1962. Installation of special equipment never dreamed of by the original builders such as elevating stages, complex lighting and dimming devices, service areas not considered in the old building will undoubtedly delay full operation of the new theater until the fall of 1962. Historic similarities, however, sometimes point out that man has not become too far removed from his ancestors. The original theater was not completed for its dedication in March of 1862. It was dedicated as an unfinished building, just the benches and makeshift stage equipment. Fifteen performances were held between the March opening and April 19, 1862 when the theater was closed for finishing. Christmas Eve of 1862, the theater re-opened in tis completed state.

The Pioneer Memorial Theater will stand as a memorial, not only to the pioneer heritage, but to dedicated community and state leaders. Contributions for its construction have been received from the state, Kennecott Copper Company and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These sums of money have not be sufficient to complete the building, and so finish the job, individual contributions have been solicited and received from many sources. A unique plan to honor pioneers, and at the same time provide a place for such memorialization was conceived and is currently underway. Pioneers (defined as those being born in or entering Utah before May 10, 1869) will be honored by installation of small biographical plaques made of bronze and attached to individual theater seats. Family organizations and individuals have been given the opportunity to pledge a contribution to the Theater Fund and in return have the name of their ancestor so honored. Many such contributions have been received, and there are many more that can yet be accommodated. This plan is under the direction of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers at the request of President McKay, and information concerning the honoring of pioneer forbearers in this manner can be obtained from the Sons of Utah Pioneers Headquarters, Pioneer Village, Salt Lake.

Pioneer industry, both of the last and present centuries will be honored in a somewhat similar manner. Wall and floor plaques will designate the type of industrial or commercial activity in which the pioneers engaged. Modern pioneers in this space age will add interesting comparison.

The cultural life of a state must develop. It cannot be imposed. It must be encouraged, guided and sustained, and here it has been. Hence this pioneer community is unique – and must remain so. Its uniqueness is its strength. Its leadership is recognized. This leadership must be sustained through the participation of all of today's citizens. The building of the Pioneer Memorial Theater is but one facet of the state spirit. The men with the vision, strength and singleness of purpose necessary to bring about this monument are today's pioneers adding to a rich pioneer heritage. They are full contributors to a state already wealthy with the unselfish act of its forbearers.