West Side Theatre Co. performers rehearse for Friday's debut.
Hannah Farr understands the unique challenges of trying to launch a theater company in Eagle Mountain. She also clearly thinks it's worth the effort.
The newly-launched West Side Theatre Co. debuts on April 28 with First Impressions: A Broadway Benefit Concert
. The musical revue is scheduled to include songs from popular Broadway shows including South Pacific
, The Sound of Music
, and the funds raised will help get the company on its feet as its first season begins this summer. But in some ways, this program doesn't entirely represent what creative director Farr has in mind.
"We will be doing a lot of musicals, and shows that our demographic wants to see," she says, "but they may not have seen them the way that West Side Theatre Company will do them."
An Oregon native, Farr landed in Utah to stay with her grandmother, planning to save up money before moving to New York to begin an acting career. Then she met her husband, got married and had a baby, and the focus turned to finding fulfilling opportunities to get involved in theater locally.
"We’re kind of in our own world on the west side of the range," Farr says; "there aren’t so many opportunities for people. It’s quite a drive to West Valley Hale, or Orem Hale. So for people who don’t want to commit five hours a night, it's hard. ... We need an outlet for people, because there’s a lot of talent. And I need something to do as well, if I’m going to stay here, or I’m going to have to move."
The answer turned to be starting her own company, which began simply from conversations with friends and interactions on a neighborhood Facebook page. "I just kind of put it out there, and they slowly came to me," Farr
The challenge now, given the demographics of her area of Utah County, isn't just the usual challenge of any start-up endeavor; it's building a home for the kind of theater Farr wants to present in a place where audiences might resist certain kinds of stories.
"We want to be able to provide opportunities for new types of shows, without picking things that are edgy and offensive," Farr says. "So the challenge is to find ways to work on productions that have a lot of truth about the human experience, ... that they have valuable, emotional stories and lessons, while those kind of shows often come with exploring darker areas of the human experience. We’re going to make sure that we tell the truth on the stage, not sugar-coat things, or ignore the darker side of what it means to be human, but we aren’t going to ever do anything that would be considered inappropriate. There’s a difference between showing someone you know struggling with addiction, and showing somebody swearing a ton.
"We need to gain trust with our audience, so we’ll be doing things pretty traditional for the first couple of years, then maybe trying something from a new playwright, or doing something a little avant-garde-ish."
Farr says the company will unveil its premiere season slate at Friday's performance, even as they look toward a goal of building their own long-term theater space, potentially including education programs. It's an ambitious plan in a place where Farr hopes to give honest theater a home. "We want to make this part of the community, be ingrained in the community," she says. "So we will take the shows that we can do in this area without turning off our audience, and we will make them more about reaching the hearts of our audience, and less about how beautiful our costumes are."
The one-night-only performance will be held April 28 at 8 p.m. at Garden Near the Green, located at the intersection between Cedar Fort Road (UT-73) and Ranches Parkway (15 minutes from the I-15 American Fork Main St. exit, and only a few minutes from the Crossroads in Saratoga Springs). As the company's first fundraiser, there is a suggested minimum donation of $10 in lieu of a set ticket price. Facebook.com/westsidetheatreco