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 Theatre at the University of Utah and the Utah Shakespearean
Festival at Southern Utah University.
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."
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 Theatre in America and Brigham Young
has been considered by some to be the father of the Little Theatre 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.