SANDY — Athletes have cheerleaders. Rock stars have groupies. And actors? They have Superfan.
A property manager by day, Sandy resident Doug Edmunds is known as Superfan to local theatergoers. And though he may not fly or save people from bad guys, his passion for performing arts is extraordinary.
“I have a drug habit,” he said. “It’s the theater, no question.”
If you’ve been to a local performance, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed this addict, clad in his signature royal blue sweatshirt and white turtleneck. Edmunds, who often sits front and center, pops out of his seat once actors begin the curtain call, hollering and clapping in hopes other patrons will follow his lead.
“Many people have called me the loudest 80-year-old in the theater with my hooting as the actors take their bows,” he said.
Edmunds, it seems, lives for the next show. And once he starts talking about theater productions, it soons becomes clear that this is a fan who is as happy to talk about shows as he is to see them.
“I broke my record in October,” he said with a grin. “Thirty-five performances in one month, four in one day.”
Edmunds opens a thick, white binder and pulls out a calendar template with dates and shows scribbled in the boxes.
“See, right here? Oct. 21. I went to Hale Centre Theatre’s ‘A Bundle of Trouble’ for the noon matinee, and then I went to the second matinee at 4 p.m. because I wanted to see the other cast. At 7 p.m. was ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at The Sandbox Theatre Company in Midvale and at 11 p.m. I went to ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ down the street at Midvale Main St. Theatre,” he said. “This could be a record year.”
Edmunds doesn’t care if the show is in Centerville or St. George. He doesn’t care if the actors are teens stepping on stage for the first time or professionals carrying an Equity card. He just wants to see it — and quite possibly more than once.
My fair fan
You could blame the dame, in part, for Edmunds’ addiction — Dame Julie Andrews, that is.
Edmunds was stationed as a clerk typist in the Air Force outside of London from 1956-59. “That’s where I got hooked on theater,” he recalled. “I saw about 100 shows.”
While his first production was “The Mousetrap,” which is celebrating 65 years on the same West End stage this year, it was a young Andrews who captured his heart as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.”
“One time I was bragging about how good it was to a friend who lived in London,” he said, pulling out a gently wrinkled program with a 1 pound, 5 shillings ticket stub stapled inside. “She said, ‘I know a person who knows a person who’s neighbors with Julie. Treat us to three tickets, and we’ll get you backstage.”
The friend of a friend came through. After the show ended, Edmunds got a hug from Andrews and shook hands with Rex Harrison, who was playing Henry Higgins.
“I wish I had gotten a picture,” said Edmunds, who later worked as a professional photographer. “But taking pictures back then wasn’t like it is now.”
Photography is what brought Edmunds to the Beehive State. While working for photography company called Glenn of Hollywood, shooting weddings and photos for dance studios, the owner asked him to take over the Utah accounts.
Edmunds responded, “Utah, where’s that?” and after finding it on the map, he made the move.
After dabbling in a book of remembrance business, Edmunds earned his real estate license in 1971 and has worked in the field ever since, now running the real estate agency Sherlock of Homes, managing more than 50 properties.
Despite the fact that he lost vision in his left eye as the result of an atrial fibrillation blood clot, this white-haired father of four, grandfather of five and great-grandfather of six still keeps his photo skills strong, often taking pictures of actors and their families after a show. He prints 8x10s with cartridges he buys on eBay and keeps the photos in large white binders, making extra copies to give to actors.
“I’ve taken 16,000 pictures in the last seven years,” he said, flipping through a binder and pausing on a photo of him sandwiched between Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Will Swenson after their 2010 appearance at Hale Center Theater Orem. “Now, not all of my pictures are of actors, but most of them are,” he confessed.
On a crusade
Like any legitimate superhero, Edmunds dresses for his part. A few years ago he had 12 blue sweatshirts made, six of which are reserved for when the others wear out. The front reads: “ACTORS — THANK YOU FOR THE MEMORIES YOU CREATE FOR US. SUPERFAN, ADDICTED TO LIVE THEATRE.”
“I call it my uniform. I even wear it to Jazz games and concerts,” he said.
The back: “ALL ACTORS APPRECIATE AND DESERVE STANDING OVATIONS. BESIDES APPLAUSE, IT IS THEIR MAIN OR ONLY REWARD PAYMENT.”
The inspiration for the sweatshirt’s text came after some people tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to sit down during the curtain call.
“A lot of people don’t stand. You’ll see me stand right off the bat,” he said. “I designed this sweatshirt three years ago. When I wear it no one asks me to sit down.”
Edmunds, who pairs his sweatshirt with a white turtleneck or a mock turtleneck in the summer, was nicknamed Superfan a decade ago. After a show at Hale Centre Theatre, Edmunds was chatting with the actors and introducing them to the five tenants he treated to the show.
David Weekes, a local actor, said, “You’re a Superfan, Doug. You keep bringing all these people to see us.”
The moniker stuck and has continued to drive Edmunds.
“When I stand and hoot it sometimes becomes contagious,” said Edmunds, who also passes out business cards with the sweatshirt’s text on it. “The actors deserve it.”
Edmunds’ tradition of wearing sweatshirts to shows began in 2007 when Sally and Mark Dietlein, HCT executive producers, gave him a “Once on This Island” cast hoodie. He began wearing it to all performances he attended for more than four years. When it was on its last leg, the HCT “Aida” cast gave him a sweatshirt that he wore until he designed his Superfan attire.
“There’s more talent in Utah than in any other state,” opined Edmunds. “I think the world of the local actors.”
By the numbers
Like any true fan, Edmunds knows his stuff — and not just the information the actors put in their program bios.
“When I see so many people in the shows, I get to know them and their families,” he said.
Though he began as a fan, Edmunds has become friends with many of the local actors, even snagging invites to their wedding receptions.
He knows that one actress has a young son who shares Edmunds’ birthday. He knows that another actor left Utah to earn a law degree and then came back and started acting again. And the one who gave Edmunds the Superfan nickname? Like Edmunds, he’s also blind in one eye.
But that’s what happens when you attend an average of 22.7 shows per month, one of Superfan’s 2016 stats.
Edmunds has been carefully tracking his attendance since 2009 and estimates he buys 600 to 800 tickets each year for himself and for friends. He usually has a guest or two in tow, but occasionally he’s invited upward of 18. During his record-setting October, he used and shared 118 tickets.
“My stepson, David Casarotto, donates thousands of dollars each year, so I can give many tickets away to friends, actors and people who haven’t been to the theater before,” he said.
Edmunds, who has his shows planned out through January 2019, also keeps the productions’ programs, “but if I have more than five,” he noted, “I throw the rest away.”
A season ticket holder at nine Utah theaters, Edmunds often attends productions more than once during their runs. He’s on track to attend 280 performances by the end of this year.
Edmunds is planning on seeing “A Christmas Carol” 13 times in the coming weeks: nine times at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, twice at HCTO and twice at HCT. He's seen "Les Miserables" 100 times and recently, he saw HCTO’s October production of “Hello, Dolly!” 10 times in seven weeks.
“The songs from that show have been stuck in my head,” he said. “That’s the only drawback to going so much."
According to Edmunds, going to the theater is like parents taking their family to Disneyland.
“There’s nothing more pleasant than when you do something for your kids that makes them happy. That makes you happy,” he said. “When I take my tenants or friends I’m happy when they enjoy a show.”
Besides, the theater is not the same every night, Edmunds continued.
“When you see a show so many times you look for different things; you notice what you missed. You think you’ve seen it all but you haven’t. You notice mistakes that can happen at any time during the shows run and that is OK,” he said. “That's live theater!”3 comments on this story
For Edmunds, there are truly no people like show people. He loves their talents, their sacrifices and the memories they give him, but he has no desire to be on stage himself.
“If I were an actor in a show, that would take up 3-4 months of rehearsals and productions,” he explained. “And how would I have time to see any other shows?”
Actors are replaceable — they have understudies, some shows have two casts. There are hundreds of locals who could play any one part.
But there is only one Superfan. And his passion alone could fill any theater in the state.