Daughter of Hale founders reprises role in 'The Foreigner'

Published: Monday, Dec. 30 2013 3:38 p.m. MST

Brandon Green as Ellard Simms and Tanya Radebaugh as Betty Meeks in "The Foreigner" at Hale Centre Theatre.

Hale Centre Theatre

WEST VALLEY CITY — Tanya Radebaugh played the role of Betty Meeks in “The Foreigner” at Hale Center Theater Orem five years ago. When West Valley City’s Hale Centre Theatre was holding auditions for its own staging, she knew she had to revisit the character.

“Everyone had been telling me, ‘You (have) got to play that role again, you (have) got to play Betty again,’” Radebaugh says. “But mostly, because it had been so long since I’ve acted, I knew my mom and dad would be mad at me if I didn’t.”

The mom and dad she is referring to are Ruth and Nathan Hale, founders of Hale theaters.

The youngest of the Hales’ five children, Radebaugh was selected by Ruth Hale to take on the roles she made famous.

“Tani has an innate sense of timing that allows her to hilariously throw off a line much like her mother, Ruth Hale,” says HCTO’s Anne Swenson, who worked closely with her since the beginnings of the Orem theater, where Radebaugh has performed in at least 15 shows and directed a few more.

“There are many roles Ruth made her own, in plays Ruth and Nathan Hale wrote themselves and in so many other shows,” Swenson adds. “And for the people in this community, and the communities in California and Arizona that Ruth touched, Tani is the one who, while honoring her mother, can make the roles her own, and she still is able to channel Ruth’s fun sense of comedic timing and acting brilliance.”

Radebaugh estimates she has performed in nearly 50 plays with her parents. Ruth Hale died in 2003; Nathan Hale died in 1994.

“They threw me on stage when I was 3 years old, so I never knew that life was any different,” she says. “I can still remember the show, ‘A Young Girl’s Fancy.’ Acting was just one of those things that we did in our family to make a living. And I got to spend so much time with my parents and it brought me closer — to the point that if I wasn’t in a show, I was pretty upset.”

The roles Radebaugh has performed are memorable.

“I loved her Miss Hannigan in ‘Annie,’” Swenson says. “It was so early, I don’t even remember the date — in the early ’90s, maybe. She was a delight.”

Reprising her role in “The Foreigner” is her fourth performance at the West Valley Hale theater. While rehearsing, especially considering the precise delivery and intricate wordplay the part requires, Radebaugh has recalled performing alongside her mother:

“If I said a line that she didn’t think was loud or clear enough, she would say, while on stage and in character, ‘What was that you said?’ And I had to repeat the line and make sure everyone in the back row heard it.”

Radebaugh has been an “anchor” in the development of the Hale theaters.

“Tani made a significant contribution to the Hale legacy in Utah that began at the South Salt Lake theater and continued at Hale Center Theater Orem, which is just minutes from her house,” Swenson says. “During HCTO’s early years, we were so grateful to have such a talented family surrounding us, and Tani was at the center of that.”

“I still pinch myself that I am even in the same family, when I think of all the lives they touched,” Radebaugh says.

The Hale legacy continues.

If you go ...

What: “The Foreigner”

Where: Hale Centre Theatre, West Valley City

When: Dec. 31-Feb. 1

How much: $16-$27

Tickets: 801-984-9000 or hct.org

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