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

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

“The Diary of Anne Frank” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Aug. 19–Sept. 26, 2015. “This is a story that needs to be told again, for another generation," Swenson said. "There are people who don’t know the story of Anne Frank. It’s an important story and a hopeful story, told with a beautiful spirit.”

A Utah first in a semiprofessional theater, “The Addams Family” by Brickman, Elice and Lippa, Oct. 3–Nov. 28, 2015. "This is just a hilarious romp," Swenson said. "It’s the story of a girl who brings home a boy to meet the family and hopes the family isn’t too weird for her boyfriend. And this family is especially weird. It’s a little bit spooky but not too spooky. We decided, ‘Let’s throw some camp in the season'.”

The Hale annual tradition since its founding, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens with music by Cody Hale, Dec. 2–Dec. 23, 2015. “For so many people, ‘A Christmas Carol’ launches their Christmas season." Swenson said. "What I love about the show is the message of redemption. That, for me, is what makes the Christmas season and why we will do it every year.”

What does the future hold for HCTO?

“Boy, do we need a new building,” Swenson said. “We need more space, more capabilities, a higher ceiling, more electricity. In order to grow, I need more inventory. A theater with one or two additional rows would make a significant difference. The community needs it, the patrons need it, the actors need it, our education programs need it. The support is there.

“We will still be intimate, with only a few more seats but not that many. We don’t want to stray from what we do. However, what we are limited by increases our creativity, and that’s something I don’t want to lose. One of our most talented directors, Dave Tinney, has said this theater propels him to think outside the box.”

“I love working at the Hale Orem for that very reason,” said Tinney, director of HCTO's current production, "Peter Pan." “As a director, the intimacy and the space limitations bend my brain in great ways. It forces me to think in nonliteral ways and to use nonliteral storytelling methods. It has taught me more about directing than any other space I've ever worked in. I think it also invites the audience to participate in the story much more actively if they aren’t given every detailed element but are asked to use their imaginations. I think they invest a little more.

“I also adore the producers,” he continued. “They are incredible, hard-working people who love theater and really care about serving their audience and their community.”

Mark Pulham, an actor who performed in the company's first production, Ruth Hale's autobiographical "Thank You, Papa," shared his own enthusiasm for HCTO.

"It's like a big family that I was adopted into, the royal theater family in Utah," said Pulham, who was in the cast of the recent "Kiss and Tell" that opened the 2014 season. "It's always a joy to perform at Hale Orem. The Swensons and the Hales value the talent. You're not just a commodity; they treat you with respect. You always feel that you want to give your best. That's why so many talented people keep coming back."

“Over our 25 years, there have been many, many good friends,” Swenson said. “There’s been a lot of joy and gratefulness, along with melancholy for people who have passed on or moved out of the area. There is also a whole lot of ‘I can’t believe we really did this.’ ”

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