PROVO — Nicole Boulter and her husband, Matt, along with Jeffrey and Juliana Blake, believe in theater enough to spend weeks scraping aged tar off wooden planks, hauling out mountains of garbage and repainting walls in the building at 145 N. University Avenue that used to be a skate shop and heavy metal music store.
Jeffrey Blake, who has produced and directed for BYUtv, was willing to spend his time writing a comic farce that could be staged at the new Echo Theatre.
Together, the group hopes to bring quality theater to Provo's downtown.
They opened in March with "Woman in Black" and are now just finishing up the production of "Accident, West Virginia," a spirited show that includes a talking moose and a cast of crazy and wildly eccentric characters who spend the night at Mama Turner's backwoodsy cabin.
The show has its own Accident Menace, or Big Foot; lots of intrigue; and door slamming in the vein of "Noises Off," with well-played scenes and a depth of acting that is refreshing.
Next they'll bring "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" to their stage, which is set up like a black box theater with 70-100 seats on three sides.
The plan is to add a musical puppet show and films in the winter season and a Christmas show.
"We're new. We're all volunteer," said Patrick Newman, spokesman for the group and the actor who plays Clive with four roles in "Accident." "We're right now getting established."
The founders are putting in their own money to get the theater up and running, along with some serious sweat equity.
Nicole Boulter can show patrons before and after pictures that speak of a tremendous amount of work.
"We've had to do quite a bit of renovation," Newman said.
Auditions for each Echo Theatre show are open and donations to support the theater are welcome, he added.
If you go:
What: Accident, West Virginia
When: 7 p.m. through June 16
Where: 145 N. University Avenue, Provo
Cost: Tickets are $10, ($7 for students); buy at the door, online or by calling 801-691-0724
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.