Children's Theatre celebrates new home in historic Avalon Theater

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 8:14 p.m. MDT

Emily Parker and her daughter, with Tom and Joanne Parker, the founders of the Salt Lake Children's Theatre, at the open house. The theater is now located at 3605 South State St. in South Salt Lake City.

Rosemarie Howard

SOUTH SALE LAKE CITY — After 27 years as a vagabond, the Salt Lake’s Children’s Theatre and School of Arts has found a permanent home in the newly remodeled Avalon Theater at 3605 S. State St.

Friends of the Children’s Theatre had a chance to see the new space, still under construction, during an open house held Saturday.

“The building is virtually new,” said artistic director Joanne Parker. “It has a brand-new roof and it’s all new electrically. But the thing that’s so exciting is that it belongs to us.”

Managing director James Parker, the youngest of Joanne and her husband Tom’s five children, spent the past four years searching for a permanent home for the theater. With the help of an anonymous donor, James located and negotiated the purchase of the historic Avalon Theater.

Tom and Joanne Parker, founders of the Children’s Theatre, moved to Utah from the Seattle area in the 1980s to manage the Promised Valley Playhouse. Within three years, the theater closed and the couple found themselves looking for another job. They decided to stick with theater.

Since then they have mounted theater productions in the ZCMI Mall, outside the arts center at Symphony Hall, and at Kingsbury Hall and the Capitol Theatre.

For the past 15 years, the Children’s Theatre has been located at 637 S. State, in the old Ballet West training rooms. It was an intimate theater with only 99 seats.

Although the theater was small, “We found that the children and the adults just loved the accessibility of the actor, in a way we had not guessed they would,” Joanne said.

Sticking with a stage design they know works for them and their audiences, the new theater has the same thrust-stage configuration as the old space, but seats around 200 people.

“We have been on so many stages,” Joanne said, “that now we are able to create a stage that we know is beautiful for children. The seating is such that every child will be able to see the stage, even if they’re very small.”

Joanne described the under-construction dÉcor as “almost a filmography” look. “We’re all film buffs,” Joanne said. “There’s a great nod to the black-and-white film. So you have kind of a film feeling combined with very much a theater feeling.”

Painter Owen Richardson is creating two retro-style statuette designs for the theater, one to represent comedy and the other tragedy.

No shows have been canceled — they have just been moved forward. “Flash Gordon” will open the new venue on April 20.

“It’s based off of the old 1936 movie serial,” Jim said. “It’s sci-fi, it’s action, it nods to the old, but kids will still love it. It’s absolutely perfect to open at this theater.”

For more information on the new performance schedule, visit tctheatre.org/.

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at www.dramaticdimensions.com.

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