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Artwork by Kinateder Inc.
An artist's drawing of the $7.5 million Hale Center Theater Orem to be built at Midtown Village.

OREM — Hale Center Theater owners have long felt they worked and lived within a puzzle.

"I think of this building like it's one of those little puzzles with the movable squares. We're always trying to move things around to fit," said owner Anne Swenson.

"For 'The Scarlet Pimpernel,' most of the sets lived outside the theater," said Cody Hale, also an owner. "We had to put a bridge in that spanned the entire stage. We had to bring it in from two sides in pieces that we could put together in the dark in less than 30 seconds. It required making absolutely sure no one was in the hallways. It's like an entire ballet."

This next year should bring considerably more breathing space as the current facility is replaced by a facility three times larger with ample parking, almost twice the seating, restroom and rehearsal space.

The current building on 400 North and Orem Boulevard was originally built to be a veterans hall. It's been used as a school, a dance studio, an alternative school, a church and a reception center. In 1990, the Hales and Swensons opened it as one of the Hale Center Theaters, the fourth in a chain.

The building consisted of 11,000 square feet of space and held 305 seats.

The new $7.5 million building — to be built in the southwest corner of the Midtown Village complex at 320 S. State — will have 522 seats and 39,686 square feet of space. Ground was broken on Nov. 16, 2007.

It will still be theater in the round.

"In traditional proscenium theater, there are great physical distances between the artistic elements and the patrons," said Cody Swenson. "At Hale Center Theater Orem, that has never been the case. The audience has been and always will be so close to the stage and the performers that some can literally reach out and touch them.

"Grandma and Grandpa Hale used to say, 'Patrons want to leave having had an emotional bath,"' he said. "When you are up close and personal with the show and feel like part of the action, it is so much easier to be swept along with the magic."

Currently, Hale Center shows are consistently sold out. Shows being prepared for the stage are rehearsed either off the property or downstairs in space shared with the costuming shop, set and prop storage and offices.

The new theater will feature a new winch-driven fly system, a stage with slip stages and movable sections, a tension grid ceiling and a slightly larger stage.

It's expected the new building will be ready for the 2008 production of "A Christmas Carol."

Executive producer Linda Hale said the increased classroom and rehearsal space will dramatically improve the situations. "As you know, we have outgrown our theater. We have had to schedule like crazy to fit in recitals and showcases for parents and friends. Ryan Radebaugh (who is the theater school director) and I have many more fun classes that we will offer as soon as we have the space," said Hale.

The new building will also have a costume rental shop with a storefront on the main level. Currently Archive Costumes — which supplies the show costumes as well as offering a large inventory of costumes for rent to the public — is shoehorned into the facility basement.

In May the privately owned theater became part of the Hale Center Foundation for the Arts and Education, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and is asking for community help in raising money to pay for the new building.

"We are currently friend-raising as well as fund-raising and invite everyone to help us, as best they can, to reach our organizational, programmatic, educational and financial goals," said Jim Murphy, chairman of the foundation's board.

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