Our Pioneer Memorial Theater

Deseret News, 10 October 1962, page A16

Utahns, from one end of the state to the other, salute the completion and dedication of the Pioneer Memorial Theater. The magnificent building is an inspiring symbol of the burgeoning growth and development of the cultural arts throughout our state and nation. It is also a tribute to the heritage in the performing arts to which our early pioneers gave enthusiastic artistic dedication.

Tonight's glittering dedicatory performance of Shakespeare's immortal “Hamlet” should also begin a thousand and one brilliant evenings in the theater for our drama patrons. Tonight's opening brings not only its breathtaking new opportunities, but also its cultural and moral challenges.

We recall the words of Benjamin Franklin, a staunch supporter of the arts, who wrote to his friend, Samuel Johnson in 1750. “Though the culture bestowed on many should be successful only with a few, yet the influence of those few and the service in their power may be very great.”

In a word, the relatively few who will have the opportunity to direct the activities of the new Pioneer Memorial Theater in the years to come will also have the power to influence many. They can present plays, either tragedies or comedies, that will uplift, or they can present cheap and vulgar plays, either tragedies or comedies, that will degrade.

Those who attend the plays also have their challenge. They also have power, the power to encourage uplifting plays or plays that are shoddy and morally offensive. The decision whether the beautiful new theater – and it is, indeed, just that – climbs the stairs to a high destiny or sinks into morally and socially objectionable performances is a two-way affair; it involves those on both sides of the curtain.

In keeping with the matchless greatness of the first production, “Hamlet,” and the striking beauty of the building (really an “institution”), the Pioneer Memorial Theater has been conceived and is now being dedicated as a powerful new influence in Utah's cultural heritage. It must never be permitted to become tainted if it be true to the ideals of today's builders.