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The past 20 years

December 07, 2016

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jim martinWasatch 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, wtc production photopossess 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.

wtc production photo 2

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.

dinner poster

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.

Jim 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.  

Ticket Tuesday with Utah Childrens Theatre

December 06, 2016

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Ticket Tuesday- UCT
A winner has been chosen for this giveaway. Stay tuned for future opportunities!

Ticket Tuesday with Discovery Gateway

November 29, 2016

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Ticket Tuesday- DG
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

November 28, 2016

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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. 

children's media workshop travel well mapping

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.

grace notes program

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 goals.

byu's grantwell

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.

grantwell logo

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 forward.

holladay arts council healing through art

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." (

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.

Ticket Tuesday with Hogle Zoo

November 22, 2016

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Hogle Zoo 2016- final

Winners have been chosen for this Ticket Tuesday giveaway to Hogle Zoo's ZooLights.  Stay tuned for our next giveaway!

A Nerdy ZAP Ticket Tuesday Giveaway

November 15, 2016

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the nerd ticket tuesday giveaway

Winners have been chosen for this Ticket Tuesday Giveaway to see THE NERD at Hale Centre Theatre (December 31 - February 4). Stay tuned for future giveaways!

Kitchen Science Experiments with Discovery Gateway

November 09, 2016

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It’s not every day you get to star in your own play, build a castle, invent a machine, repair a car, ride in a real helicopter, shoot a cannon indoors, or do science experiments in the kitchen. Guests and members of Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum get to do all that, and more! With 60,000 square feet of interactive, hands-on fun, children get the opportunity to imagine what they can become and learn through play. Discovery Gateway has been at the Gateway mall downtown location for 10 years and has brought the love of learning to nearly 3 million patrons since opening.

sid the kid opening

Our newest and most exciting exhibit brings an award-winning television show to life! Sid the Science Kid: The Super-Duper Exhibit! opened at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum on September 24, 2016. For the first time ever, kids are able to step into Sid’s world and become “science kids” themselves! Through fun, hands-on activities, kids can use scientific tools and thinking to learn about simple machines, the laws of motion, magnetism, air power, and the five senses. It’s a super-duper-ooper-schmooper good time!

sid the kid exhibit

The day before the Sid exhibit opened to the public, members of Discovery Gateway got an exclusive all-day preview. Children were thrilled to meet Sid and enter his world of learning to think, talk and work the way scientists do by building on their natural curiosity about the world. Kristin Jahne, membership sales coordinator, shares her favorite memory of the opening: “It was the first time the character [Sid] came out to meet the children. Most were very excited and jumping around to meet him. However, one little boy was extra excited to meet Sid and parading around to show him every part of the exhibit, from the treehouse to the car to the playground. His enthusiasm was completely adorable!”

sid the kid workshop about breakfast

Discovery Gateway has partnered with ZAP to giveaway a Family Day Pass. Check this blog on November 29 to enter to win. And bring your family in to enjoy Sid the Science Kid, open until January 16. Come explore our engaging workshops, programs, and exhibits that invite the whole family to create, learn, and play together! 

-Kristin Jahne

Kristin Jahne is the Membership Sales Coordinator at Discovery Gateway. When she’s not assisting with member issues or analyzing data, you can find her interacting with members in the Sid exhibit or helping plan new events for DG members. She’s been a part of the DG family for a few months and is excited to help bring the love of learning through play to children of Salt Lake and beyond!

Ticket Tuesday with Empress Theatre

November 08, 2016

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Empress Theatre Peter Pan

Two winners have been chosen for this week's #ZAPTicketTuesday - Two free tickets to The Empress Theatre's production of PETER PAN. If you didn't win this time, you can check out PETER PAN from November 25 to December 17 at The Empress Theatre

Stay tuned for more giveaways from your favorite places around Salt Lake County.

One Big Union: an actor's take

November 02, 2016

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Plan-B Theatre Company’s world premiere of ONE BIG UNION, about folk hero and labor activist Joe Hill, opens November 10. The full run is already sold out so performances have been added on Sundays November 13 and 20 at 5:30pm. Tickets and details at

ONE BIG UNION is the fourth play by Utah playwright Debora Threedy to premiere at Plan-B, following THE END OF THE HORIZON, WALLACE and THE THIRD CROSSING.

Actor Roger Dunbar shares his thoughts about his year-long journey preparing to play Joe Hill.

one big union poster

It was over a year ago when Jerry Rapier approached me about playing Joe Hill in Debora Threedy’s new play ONE BIG UNION. My response was “Who is Joe Hill?” followed by “Wait, November 2016?!” The date seemed so far away at the time, and if you had asked me then to describe the process in a single word, it would have been “Long.”

Since my initial introduction to ONE BIG UNION I have been involved with the original workshop with Plan-B, followed by a reading of the play this summer at the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s New American Playwrights Project, and finally the full performance which will open this month at Plan-B Theatre Company. As time has marched on, I feel that my single-word description of the process has evolved from “Long” to “Growth.” I now realize that time has been an essential ingredient in absorbing such a rich historical figure as Joe Hill. I am now very grateful for the extensive process so that all of the stories, the letters, the books and articles on Joe’s history, character, trial, and execution have had a chance to seep into my consciousness and craft. I will of course never meet Joe Hill, but it feels as if he has grown from a mere legend to a close friend.

roger dunbar with guitar

One particular area of personal growth over the last year has been as a musician. Joe Hill played several instruments, including the piano, violin, and guitar. Thank heavens that the only requirement for this staged version of Joe is a basic knowledge of the guitar! But even that basic level of proficiency has made me very grateful for an entire year of practice. I started out at the initial workshop barely able to finger pluck the basic chords patterns. David Evanoff, our talented musical director, encouraged me to grow by using a pick (which I had never done before), and to fill the entire theater with bold sound and confidence. Thank goodness I’ve had a year of preparation.

Another area of growth has been in my connections with other artists. I had never worked with Plan-B before the first workshop, and I had previously only worked with one of the other actors in the cast. I am now pleased to count many more people as friends and fellow artists: stage managers, designers, producers, and actors. And not only at Plan-B, but also an entirely separate cast and crew at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I can’t think of another theatrical endeavor that has introduced me to so many talented new friends and acquaintances. It was fascinating to go from the Plan-B cast to the USF cast and back again, and see all of the characters portrayed so differently. The variety that the different casts brought to the table has given depth and perspective to my relationship with Joe. 

joe hill historical look

Lastly, it has been very interesting watching the growth of the script itself. I’ve been blessed to get to know Debora Threedy during this adventure, and it’s been a pleasure to witness the evolution of the play. I have watched the painstaking revision process as rough corners are hewn off, and conversely at times when rough textures are reintroduced to surfaces that have grown too smooth. I am grateful for the past year, watching this little tree of a story mature and evolve, and I am excited to share its fruits with the community.

-Roger Dunbar

Roger Dunbar will be playing Joe Hill in ONE BIG UNION at Plan-B Theatre Company. 

Ticket Tuesday Giveaway with RDT

November 01, 2016

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  Ticket Tuesday- RDT Brio 2
A winner has been chosen for this week's giveaway to see BRIO at Repertory Dance Theatre.
Stay tuned for our next Ticket Tuesday giveaway!