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History of Theater in Utah
Taken from the Utah History Encyclopedia (Links Added)
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Theater in Utah has its beginnings in the Mormon Church and its support of innocent amusement for its people. From this support came the building of the Salt Lake Theater, one of the best theaters of its time in the West, and the growth of amateur dramatic companies in almost every town and settlement. In the twentieth century much of the theatrical activity in Utah has centered around the state's universities, with the development of Pioneer Memorial Theater at the University of Utah and the Utah Shakespearean Festival at Southern Utah University.

Even before the Latter-day Saints migrated to Utah, they staged plays and elaborate pageants in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the early 1840s. Brigham Young himself played a Peruvian high priest in the play Pizarro staged there. As soon as the Mormons felt comfortably settled in Salt Lake City, they again turned to drama for entertainment. In the fall of 1850 the Deseret Musical and Dramatic Association, which included the Nauvoo Brass Band, was formed. Performances were held at the Bowery on the temple block. The first bill included a drama, "Robert Macaire, or the Two Murderers," dancing, and a farce entitled "Dead Shot."

In 1852 the Musical and Dramatic Association reorganized as the Deseret Dramatic Association, with Brigham Young as an honorary member. The Social Hall was erected and served as a principal place of amusement from 1852 to 1857. Built of adobe with a shingle roof, the Social Hall has been called the first Little Theater in America and Brigham Young has been considered by some to be the father of the Little Theater movement. The Social Hall's stage measured twenty by forty feet, tallow candles served as footlights, and there were dressing rooms off and under the stage. A bust of Shakespeare was placed above the stage. The orchestra of the Social Hall was directed by Domenico Ballo, formerly bandmaster at West Point. Smaller towns soon began to emulate the activities of the Social Hall.


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