Staging 'beautiful theater' continues as Hale Orem announces 25th anniversary season

Published: Saturday, April 26 2014 4:00 p.m. MDT

The Hale Center Theater Orem is "in the funniest-looking building in Orem," says the company's managing director/executive producer, Anne Swenson. "But Im proud to say were able to make beautiful theater."

Pete Widtfeldt ©2011 - CanIGetACopy.com

OREM — As Hale Center Theater Orem announces its 2015 schedule, the season also marks the company’s 25th anniversary.

“We operate in the funniest-looking building in Orem, but I’m proud to say we’re able to make beautiful theater,” said Anne Swenson, HCTO managing director and executive producer. “And we’re overwhelmed with gratefulness for our actors and our patrons.”

Under the direction of legendary theater producers Ruth and Nathan Hale, HCTO opened its doors May 25, 1990, in a residential area of Orem. The building had previously been a veterans hall and then a reception center.

“We had no money to produce shows, so we began by staging plays Grandma and Grandpa Hale had written because we didn’t have to pay royalties,” Swenson recalled. “Each of the shows only required a single living-room set. Tickets were $5 each, and cast members got a T-shirt if they were lucky.”

The Hale founders were the theater’s “training wheels,” and family members Cody and Linda Hale and Cody and Anne Swenson took over daily management and continued to nourish the nonprofit company. HCTO now stages 356 performances per year and averages 92 percent of the 300 seats filled.

Considering the exceptional theater widely available to Utah theatergoers, HCTO stands apart for its innovative abilities on a 320-square-foot stage — a postage stamp in comparison to other venues with similar creative theater productions. HCTO stages classic plays and musicals mixed with meritorious new theater pieces, yet each production is staged with consideration of community standards and values.

“We like to have a rhythm to our seasons,” Anne Swenson explained. “There is a variety of new and traditional, a variety of big and small, combined with historical and fantasy. Our patrons are experiencing something new each time they go to one of our shows. And the feedback we receive includes comments like ‘I didn’t know what I was going to think of this show, but I really loved it.’ We’ve been able to introduce new shows that have surprised our patrons, and we’re tremendously grateful for the community’s support.”

The 2015 season follows this successful tried-and-true variety, with one state premiere, a local semiprofessional premiere, two highly popular now-classic musicals, a historical drama and a comedy stalwart.

Neil Simon’s early comedy “Barefoot in the Park,” Dec. 29, 2014, to Feb. 7, 2015. “It’s funny; it’s still fresh," Swenson said. "It is the universal experience of two young people figuring out how to be a married couple that everyone can relate to.”

The epic “Les Misérables” by Boublil and Schönberg, Feb. 14-April 25, 2015. “This is a thrilling musical that is usually filled with spectacle, but we are going to focus on the intimate and beautiful story of Victor Hugo’s novel, which is essential to good theater," Swenson said.

The state premiere of “Big Fish” by John August and Andrew Lippa, May 2–June 20, 2015. “At its heart, it’s a wonderful story about fathers and sons," Swenson said. "It’s funny, and it’s bright. The buzz on the street has been that the musical is where 40-year-old men go to cry.”

“Into the Woods” by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, June 27–Aug. 15, 2015. “The musical teaches you about life," Swenson said. "It’s enlightening and inspirational, but it’s also a parable. The first half is a fantasy, and the second half discusses what to do with your dreams when what you’re given in life is not what you expected it would be.”

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