Utah Rep Announces Resident Theater and Indiegogo Campaign
Utah Repertory Theater Company, hailed as "the most exciting up-and-coming theater company in the state" by Broadway World, approaches its first-year anniversary.
But will the company see a second season, or will this non-profit company be a flash in the pan, following the pattern of many theater companies closing after their first year?
"I founded Utah Repertory Theater Company as a way to bring high-quality, though seldom-produced, plays and musicals to the state. There is so much talent in Utah, but much of this talent is forced to leave the state to find work," said Johnny Hebda, the company's founder and member of the company's executive board. "Also, I was tired of seeing the same 15 to 20 shows recycled throughout the state year after year. There are many amazing shows with important messages that need to be shared in the state. Theater has always had the power to shape people's thinking and open people's eyes to others' lives and struggles."
During its first season, the company has produced shows at several different theater venues and employed some of Utah's most talented performers and artists, from Spanish Fork to Ogden.
Utah Repertory Theater Company, commonly referred to as Utah Rep, took on a very ambitious season, debuting with the musical SIDE SHOW. The company has since presented Utah audiences with five full-length productions, four of which have been Utah premieres. The season has included I LOVE YOU BECAUSE, WHAT THE BELLHOP SAW, Rodgers and Hammerstein's CAROUSEL, and currently in production, Jonathan Larson's RENT. The following show will be the state premiere of Frank Wildhorn's BONNIE & CLYDE.
Each production has received critical acclaim from local reviewers and bloggers. Patrons have given standing ovations and left in tears as they have been moved by the productions. One patron said after CAROUSEL, "I left the theater wanting to be a better person, it made me go home and tell my husband and kids that I love them!" And another patron sent a message after seeing SIDE SHOW that "I have never been moved so much by a production. As someone who has always felt different or didn't fit in, this show really spoke to me and gave me hope. Thank you for bringing [SIDE SHOW] to Provo."
Despite its successes, the company has struggled to gain sponsorship and strong attendance.
"It can be discouraging, when you feel that you have put your heart and soul, blood and tears to do everything in your power to make the shows successful, and we don't receive the full support we need," said Hebda. "Ticket sales have averaged 25 to 30 percent of the house, which is not covering our operations. I just don't want our dream to die as we have so much positive momentum. We simply need more patrons and businesses to support our mission."
Utah Rep has launched an Indiegogo campaign with a goal to raise $10,000. Benefits to contributors include season tickets, flex passes, and tickets to the complete Utah Rep 2014 season. The fundraising event, with all proceeds tax-deductible, can be viewed at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/utah-rep-s-2014-season-kick-off.
Hebda also announced a resident theater for Utah Rep, in partnership with the Utah Arts Alliance. This non-profit, downtown Salt Lake City arts group has begun to refurbish an adjacent theater known as The Cube specifically for Utah Rep productions.
"Establishing a resident theater location at the Utah Arts Alliance's The Cube will give Utah Rep an artistic home and increase our visibility as a member of the Utah theater community," Hebda said.
However, Utah Rep's quest for funding to remain financially solvent remains.
"If patrons knew some of the obstacles Utah Rep is up against, they would rally to our aid," said Kymberly Mellen, Utah Rep's Executive Producer: Artistic Adviser/Casting. "We have been hugely successful in producing shows with increasing production and artistic values. Something that makes our company very different is the focus to pay actors and artists now and increase wages in the future. Other local companies produce good shows but, by never paying actors, expect the actors to subsidize the shows."