By a show of hands, I'd like a count of all the theatergoers who remember sweltering through those insufferably hot performances of "Saturday's Warrior" several summers ago when it premiered in the old South High School auditorium.
Well, all of those same thousands of people are cordially invited back this next couple of weeks to see what's happened to the old place since Salt Lake Community College has transformed the landmark edifice into its bustling South City Campus.Most of the time around here, it seems there are two options when it comes to historic buildings: A. Raze and put down asphalt for another parking lot, or B. Restore and preserve.
The leaders at SLCAC are visionaries. Instead of tearing down the 61-year-old building, they've taken the time, effort and money to carefully restore and enhance the site.
Oh, they did build a parking lot - but it's around in back where the football stadium used to be. So, in effect, the school's old back door will now be the front entry for students attending college classes. But the centerpiece is the wonderful 1,700-seat auditorium, with its intricate tilework, delicately carved moldings and craftsmanship that was prevalent during the 1930s.
Pat Davis, who is coordinator and artistic director for the college's Salt Lake Community Arts Center activities, is understandably excited about what's been happening the past several months in the auditorium.
Not only has it been restored to its former glory, it has been refurbished and improved with air conditioning, state-of-the-art computerized lighting and new sound equipment, especially designed to take advantage of the theater's excellent acoustics.
Backstage, there are enlarged dressing rooms and a newly expanded area for costume storage and scenery construction.
But one little storage area just off the south side of the stage has remained untouched.
"Don't you want this repainted?" the crews had inquired.
"Don't you dare!" was Davis' reply.
The walls of this two-story-high room are splashed with autographs from South High students who performed there in years past. There's something magical about theatrical graffiti and Davis, in the time-honored tradition of dyed-in-the-wool thespians, knows better than to obliterate this interesting bit of South High history.
During a tour of the facilities last week, Davis noted that "someone was visiting the auditorium recently and commented, `What a grand theater!' "
So that's what the auditorium will now be officially called - the Grand Theatre.
Artists have carefully restored the hand-painted floral designs over the doorways leading into the auditorium from the marble-floored foyer, and a new box office has been installed for convenient ticket sales. Eventually, a circular driveway will be constructed in front of the school (1575 S. State St.), but most of the parking will now be on the east side of the building, where a large new lobby has been built, including access for the handicapped for those parked in the huge lot in the center of the block.
- A GRAND THEATRE needs an equally grand production for a curtain-raiser.
Davis promises two weeks of memorable evenings with Robert Peterson and Carol Nelson as King Arthur and Queen Guenevere in Lerner & Loewe's "Camelot."
Peterson told us during a recent interview that Davis is restoring some of the music that is usually cut from other productions of the show, and this version should more closely match the show that was presented on Broadway.
The popular actor/singer should know. He's played both Lancelot and Arthur in more than 2,000 performances of the production, including Lancelot both on Broadway (replacing Robert