I had been a patron of the Off Broadway Theatre for more than 15 years before
I learned that the name of the theatre came from the fact that 300 South in
Salt Lake City, just around the corner from our 272 S. Main entrance, was also
named “Broadway.” Okay, now I get it!
Frankly, I had thought the name came from the fact that everything
about this theatre is a little bit “off.” The humor is cheesy, the sets are
simple, the “special effects” are anything but. I’ve often told people that the
only thing classy about the joint is the way we spell “Theatre.”
OBT's original parody, Transformers, runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, August 5 through September 10.
But what OBT lacks in show biz glamour and big production budgets is
more than made up for by the energy, the attitude, and the feeling of family shared by our cast, our crew, and
our audiences. For this I credit our founders, Eric and Sandy Jensen.
People who enjoy zany, improv-laden, bad-pun-dripping, physical and verbal
comedy absolutely love our shows, and come back time and again. And soon, they
feel right at home, enveloped in both the madcap humor and the warm welcome of
acceptance that permeates the OBT.
Take for example, Andy. (I’ve changed his name, to protect his
privacy.) To most of us, Andy was just another kid in our cast—a new friend to
joke around with and to spend time with. We didn’t know his back story: all we
knew was that he was a dedicated, responsible boy who learned and performed his
part well and always seemed happy at rehearsals and performances.
But, after the show closed, we got the following note from his parents:
first heard about your theater through friends, and thoroughly enjoyed the
experience so much we ended up purchasing season tickets! At the end of
one of your shows, it was announced that there were open casting calls for all
ages at an upcoming performance. My 12 year old son begged if
he could audition. With no previous experience, we weren't sure what the
chances were of him being cast, but decided it would be a good experience for
summer he went through some difficult times in his relationship with
his non-custodial father. His confidence was shattered, his self-esteem
diminished. It was heart wrenching for all of us to work through, and we were
concerned how he would further be affected if he did not make the
story short, he was cast in an Off Broadway Theatre original parody! His entire
demeanor changed and he instantly believed in himself again. Each week he
looked forward to every rehearsal, he quickly formed a bond with the cast that
was very encouraging and welcoming of him. He would tell others he loved it so
much because everyone there was like his family.
wanted to personally thank you for the opportunity that was
provided, and let you know how this experience positively made a difference in
the course of our son's life. He is back to himself and seems to have a new
perspective on life. He is getting better grades in school and we truly believe
this small part he played in the show was the stepping stone he needed to
re-build his self-esteem. He has since joined Center Stage Players to
continue his development in the art, and is flourishing immensely.
again, we express our deepest gratitude.
Wow! When we got that email,
our hearts were touched. The next time I filled out an application for ZAP
funds and saw the question “What value does the community receive from your
activities?” I thought of Andy, and I shared his story.
OBT plays and our in-house
improv comedy troupe, Laughing Stock, are all about fun and comedy and
laughter. Our mission is to share that laughter and that zest for life with
everyone—those in a great mood having a wonderful week, as well as those who
are going through hard times or suffering from being dealt a rotten hand in
The stories go on and on: the
“wish child” from Make-A-Wish Utah who got to come up onstage and perform in a
Laughing Stock skit . . . the artist on disability who thanked us for “allowing”
him to help build sets, who has become a valued member of our stage crew . . . the
actor in Chicago who recently wrote about the time he played a train in an OBT show, and said that
watching the other actors improvise on our stage taught him a sense of freedom
that has made him a better performer.
We partner with several
local nonprofit organizations that serve children and adults struggling with
various challenges, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, YouthCare, HopeKids,
Odyssey House, and Student Veterans of America. We provide them with free or
discounted tickets for their clients, and have enjoyed hearing the stories of the
wonderful time they have at our shows. What a great family to be a part of!
As one who has performed
and teched in countless shows in a variety of theaters, I know how fun being in
a play can be. But I also know how unique the Off Broadway Theatre is, and I’m
so grateful to be a part of the OBT family. We appreciate Salt Lake County’s Zoo,
Arts, and Parks program—and the citizens and taxpayers of Salt Lake County—for supporting
our operations. Through OBT and other ZAP-supported organizations, ZAP truly is
serving and benefiting families and individuals in our community.
Let me conclude by sharing
one more letter from an appreciative parent:
Dear Eric and
Last Saturday my family and I had the
opportunity to go and watch the Peter Pan and the Pirates play on the 2:00 pm
function thanks to your support. We have never had the chance to take our
children to an event like this one, and we weren't sure what to expect. Well,
my kids had such a great time, and I laughed out loud so much, that I forgot
for couple of hours about our daily routine with the kids (I have two children
with spinal muscular atrophy), and we just enjoyed our time there at the OBT!
What a great time we had! And all thanks to you!
May God keep blessing you and your family with
this enormous talent and hearts, we certainly appreciate it!
So, maybe the Off Broadway
Theatre is a little “off.” We go off book. We break the fourth wall. We
sometimes get more laughs out of forgetting our lines than from delivering them
But when it comes to what
really matters: family, community, service—all the things that ZAP is about—we
couldn’t be more “on.”
OBT Fever: Catch it!
Jeff Driggs is on the OBT board, and has had the pleasure of performing in a few of their shows.