SANDY — Ten days before the opening of the new Hale Centre Theatre at the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre in Sandy, Sally Dietlein, the theater’s vice president and executive producer, took a walk through the venue’s front lobby — past the pockets of space awaiting flooring, past the banisters in need of end caps and past the workers installing the wood details in the 40-foot-long concession stand.
“Hey guys! Look at what you’re doing!” Dietlein said excitedly as she waved to the crew. “It’s just absolutely gorgeous.”
Along the way, she pointed out where donor names will be displayed, where a series of LED screens will perch, where the box office employees would begin work in a few days and where various pieces of furniture would find a home once construction workers pack up their hammers, nails and drills for the last time.
Dietlein admits there’s still a lot to get done before the theater celebrates its grand opening on Nov. 16 with a gala and performance of “Aida,” which will run at the theater through Jan. 20, but she is only worried about one small detail.
“I’ve been worrying about my dress,” Dietlein said with a laugh.
After two years of construction on the theater’s new location and years before that planning for and dreaming about the space, Dietlein appears as calm as can be — considering the circumstances. She attributes her cool nerves to the people she and her husband, Mark Dietlein, HCT’s president and CEO, work with.
“That’s the miracle. Do you know what’s really great about Mark and me? We are the absolute best at knowing who to hire. We’re so good,” she said with a smile. “Really what you want to do is hire the best and let them create.”
The staff, cast and crew have been creating away, rushing to not only complete construction on the building but also put the finishing touches on the premiere performance in the new space.
“What makes me emotional right now is when I see people who are working endless hours and they’re just determined and driven,” said Kacey Udy, HCT’s production designer. “I’ll go in and I’ll see somebody (working hard), and I just kind of have an emotional moment seeing the passion that people have to make this work, whether it’s an actor or a technician or one of our designers.”
Udy, who has worked on more than 90 shows at HCT and played an intricate role in designing Hale’s new location and specifically the Centre Stage Theatre, said being in transition and adjusting to new circumstances is a natural part of the theater business, but the leadup to the opening adds a whole new dimension.
“For us, we’re used to brand new shows and technical elements and everything, and it’s kind of strange to have a show completely ready and rehearsed and set pieces, yet (we’ve been) waiting on a space to actually perform it in,” he said.
Members of the cast experienced the Centre Stage Theatre for the first time on Nov. 4 with safety training.
“It’s overwhelming but I think it’s more exciting than anything to sort of be on the forefront of this big exciting thing that’s happening,” said Kelly Hennessey-Pulver, one of the actresses who will play the role of Amneris in “Aida.” “And what’s really exciting too is to be a part of sort of the creative process as we get in here. All of us are on the same page of it being new.”
But even with the unknown factors of a new theater, the cast and crew have encountered pleasant surprises along the way.
“We had our sound check and it was just so interesting to watch the techs because they didn’t know what they were going to hear,” said Amy Shreeve Keeler, the other actress playing Amneris. “Everyone’s expecting for a mic check to go for a few hours because it was all unknown, but we were done within an hour. Everything was just so pristine sound-wise.”
Both actresses have previously performed in productions at Hale Centre Theatre — Shreeve even performed at the Sandy location’s groundbreaking — and acknowledged that the Sandy location’s larger size and expanded backstage areas will take some getting used to, but they said the cast is ready and eager to open next week.
“I feel like we’re in a perfect place, and I feel like our cast has been so on their game,” said Hennessey-Pulver. “We were, truthfully, in a really good spot two weeks ago, which gave us extra time to really detail and fine-tune and clean things, so to be able to come into this space with all the unknowns that we have, feels really comforting. We’re right where we should be.”
Udy said the general feeling at the theater fluctuates between varying levels of stress during the final stretch but that the anticipation for the finished product makes it worth it.
“The gamut changes every day,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to get done before this happens, so it’s a little overwhelming, but we’re really pulling together and are determined to make this something great.”
Dietlein said the final test for the space will be when the patrons settle into their seats for the first time, and that if the reaction to the Jewel Box Theatre, which opened in September, is any indication, then audiences will enjoy the Centre Stage Theatre as well.
“Everything will be loading in and finishing up in the last second. If it weren’t for the last second, I guess the old adage is, nothing would get done,” Dietlein said. “We’ll be working right to the last second, then I’ll run and put on my dress.”
If you go
What: Hale Centre Theatre’s “Aida”
Where: Hale Centre Theatre, 9900 S. Monroe St., Sandy
When: Nov. 17-Jan. 20, dates and times vary
How much: $39 for adults, $18 for youths in kindergarten through 12th grade