Zoo, Arts & Parks Blog
The past 20 years
Wasatch Theatre Company is approaching its twentieth season,
and it gives me pause to reflect on the journey we have been on since our
inception in 1997.
Lots has changed since our first production of The Dining Room at the Jewett Center for
the Performing Arts Lobby on the Westminster Campus. For one, our expectations have changed drastically. There’s a difference between being a 22-year
old just out of college and loving to act and direct and being a 42-year old parent
and elementary school principal. I still
love to act and direct but my time doesn’t allow for these things as freely as
it did twenty years ago.
Most importantly, my outlook has changed. I recently picked up The Dining Room and read it again.
We are in the midst of planning for our twentieth season and have
considered going back to the original production—A.R. Gurney’s classic that
started it all for us.
The script seems so different to me now, and I am left
wondering, “Why did we choose this piece in the first place?” It could well have been that it happened to
be available. Something we were familiar with.
It had a small cast and required little to no set. And we liked it. These were often the only prerequisites.
Now we consider different things when choosing a show. We think about its marketability. We also think about its produce-ability given
our limited resources. At the same time,
we try to choose scripts that allow us to do something different than we have
done previously—pieces that push us to try something artistically and
technically fresh, at least for Wasatch.
I think we have achieved this with almost every show we’ve produced—we’ve
attempted to dabble in new territory.
When we first produced The Dining
Room, we were just attempting to put something out there and to establish
our mark. Now, after 20 years, we have a
mark and attempt, with every next show, to push the limits of what we have done
and are capable of doing.
This is challenging, I won’t lie. Most of the board of directors, which has
grown to five members after being just three for several years, possess
full-time jobs outside of theatre. This
means that the ways we push ourselves as artists are confined by the most
tricky resource of all—time. I still
love to act and direct but also love my family and my job. Yet, I think this is probably a testament to
our love and dedication—that we have found a way to make this theatre thing
happen for twenty years in spite of limited time.
In the last few years, our vision has also grown. We now
produce shows that meddle in relationships and the power that these
relationships have over our life choices.
This is appropriate for a company that has depended on the
relationships forged by “doing” theatre together. Friendships have ignited and developed
against the backdrop of Wasatch Theatre Company. Probably any group can say this. However, I
think it is the single most influential factor in keeping Wasatch together for
so many years. Without the
relationships, we would not have had the ability, or the will, to keep things
running, year after year, season after season.
And now, we are working hard to find just the right shows
for our twentieth season. Do we dip our
toes back into past projects? I mentioned
earlier that we try to stretch ourselves with every new project. I don’t think repeating productions is in
violation of this. Again, when I read The Dining Room as a 42-year old man,
now with a family and a whole lot of life experience, I see it very differently
than I did two decades ago. The
production, if we were to do it again, would be a definite evolution.
But this may not be our next step. We are very much in conversation about how we
want to highlight twenty years of Wasatch that is entertaining to patrons and still
challenging and satisfying artistically for all of us.
In the meantime, we close out our 19th season
with the regional premiere of Moira Buffini’s Dinner. A piece out of
England, Dinner is probably the most
difficult piece I have ever seen Wasatch do.
The story is compelling and is completely about the power, and the loss
of power, that sometimes (sadly) defines our relationships. And how individuals react when faced with
these power differentials. And it is a
thriller! As the projected director of
this project, I am in the midst of research, trying to understand for example,
why Buffini chose to write her piece in a sort of verse with little end
punctuation. I think audiences will love
Dinner, and we will be better as
artists because of it.
I am thankful for Wasatch Theatre Company. I am thankful for the past 20 years of
maturing right along with the company.
Like a Scrooge character in The
Christmas Carol, it would be interesting to be able to see my life without
the presence of Wasatch. I often wonder
who I would associate with and what my life would be like if Wasatch never
were. I can’t help but believe that it
would be much less rich and blessed.
Martin is the Executive Producer of Wasatch Theatre Company and co-found it
with friends 20 years ago. He is an
elementary school principal in the Salt Lake City School District and recently
adopted a son named Jayden, who is now 12 years old.
Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!
A winner has been chosen for this giveaway. Stay tuned for future opportunities!
A Ticket Tuesday to spark imagination
A winner has been chosen for this Ticket Tuesday giveaway to the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum. Stay tuned for our next Ticket Tuesday announcement!
ZAP's Investment in Equity
For almost 20 years, Salt Lake County’s Zoo Arts and Parks,
or “ZAP” Tax has helped fund community arts programs and neighborhood
development projects within Salt Lake County, gathering and distributing millions
of dollars each year to invest in its future and the futures of its citizens.
Because everyone in the county collectively pays into the
tax, it’s important that everyone in the county have equal access to the
programs, projects, and other benefits made available through it. To make sure
this is happening, Salt Lake County has recruited a team of eight graduate
students studying Public Administration at Brigham Young University to perform
a comprehensive equity audit of the tax: an evaluation of those who apply for
and receive the grants the tax funds, and those in the community who access the
benefits that result from those grants.
Working as part of BYU’s Grantwell Program, the team is
headed by Peter Gregory and Hilary Munger, two second-year students
specifically chosen for this project by the Grantwell Program’s executive team.
Peter has previously consulted for the Walmart Foundation and on Provo City’s
“RAP” Tax; his current emphasis of study includes Finance and Management
Analysis. Hilary, who is also emphasizing in Management Analysis, has
previously worked on a number of program evaluation projects, including a new
system that will allow nonprofits and development agencies to assess the
success of their work based on the United Nations’ sustainable development
The remaining six members of their team are all specializing
in either Local Government, Management Analysis, or Nonprofit Administration,
and each brings a unique array of skills and experiences to the table,
including time on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., program evaluation, research,
government contracting, data analysis, and nonprofit management.
Together, this team of eight individuals hopes to combine
survey data, census data, primary research, and data unique to each of the
programs that receive ZAP funding to compose a substantive report, focusing on
which programs and groups of people in Salt Lake County currently benefit most
from ZAP Tax funds and whether or not any inequality exists related to the
dispersing of funds over various demographics. Should any such inequalities
exist, either among tax fund recipients or the general public, the report will
also include research-based recommendations to address these problems moving
Equity audits are on track to become a professional standard
amongst all public services ranging from school boards, to hospitals, to entire
cities. The County of Salt Lake, and more specifically Salt Lake County Zoo,
Arts and Parks is on the front edge, and one of the first to place a large
emphasis on internal evaluation of equity performance. Salt Lake Zoo, Arts, and
Parks understands the importance of evaluation to ensure they are meeting their
goals to promote diversity and the interest of minority and underrepresented
populations. It agrees with Grantmakers in the Arts who stated:
"All people, their culture, and their
art contribute to the meaning and understanding of our humanity and should be
honored and celebrated…Social inequities continue to be reflected in the
funding practices of private philanthropy and governmental funders in the arts.
Therefore, in order to more equitably support African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab,
and Native American (ALAANA) communities, arts organizations, and artists,
funders should take explicit actions to structurally change funding behaviors
and norms." (http://www.giarts.org/racial-equity-arts-philanthropy-statement-purpose)
Ultimately, Salt Lake County hopes to apply the substantive
findings of this project in a way that assures the fair and equitable
accessibility of ZAP Tax funds and ZAP Tax funded events.
Do you have questions about the project? Contact ZAP staff.
A Festive Ticket Tuesday from Hogle Zoo
Winners have been chosen for this Ticket Tuesday giveaway to Hogle Zoo's ZooLights. Stay tuned for our next giveaway!