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Pleasant Grove celebrates construction milestone of new Hale Theater

Feb 19, 2024, 4:28 PM

Actors, construction workers and appreciators of the theater celebrated a milestone of construction...

Actors, construction workers and appreciators of the theater celebrated a milestone of construction during a beam-raising ceremony for the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater in Pleasant Grove on Thursday. (Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)

(Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)

PLEASANT GROVE — Dozens of actors and theatergoers celebrated a milestone of construction at a beam-raising ceremony for the new Hale Theater being built in Pleasant Grove.

The ceremony late last week marked the completion of the steel structure for the building at 401 S. Pleasant Grove Blvd. on the doTERRA campus. This theater will replace Hale Center Theater Orem, which has been operating since 1990.

The Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater — or The Ruth, as it is affectionately called — is named after the founders of the Hale Center Foundation for the Arts and Education.

The Ruth will double the capacity for the main stage, with 670 seats, and allow for an expanded “in-the-round” theater. The building also includes a second performing space for smaller shows and an education wing to house the Ruth Academy for the Performing Arts, which provides arts education for youth and adults.

Cody Swenson, executive director and co-founder of the Hale Center Foundation for the Arts and Education, said it is “mind-blowing” how fast the building is going up. He said looking at the steel forming the bones of the theater, he is excited for it to be made beautiful through the rest of the construction.

“We’ve got some really good bones, some really good structure, and we are ready to create more beauty,” Swenson said. “We will do that right here once we get into this new building; I think the shows we do will be so beautiful.”

A final steel beam, decorated with signatures of actors, construction workers and staff, was placed during a beam-raising ceremony for the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater in Pleasant Grove on Thursday. (Photo: Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)

More than a hundred people gathered to watch as a final steel beam was raised by a crane and secured into place by construction workers.

A small pine tree was secured in the middle of the beam, which Swenson explained is a tradition in the steel industry that dates back to the Vikings. Having a pine tree on the final beam signifies construction “reached the sky” without loss of life or injury and having the tree bodes well for future inhabitants of the building.

Before the beam was raised, attendees got to sign their names in Sharpie on the beam. Swenson said seeing the hundreds of signatures on the beam reminded him of the thousands of people who have contributed to the success of Hale Theater.

“So many have given their time, their talents, their monetary contributions. It’s amazing to me the love that people have for theater and the dedication that I see from everybody,” Swenson said.

Anne Swenson, Cody Swenson’s wife and co-founder of the foundation, said that at Hale shows, the actors all get to place a painted handprint on the wall of the green room or dressing room of the theater and sign their names.

She said the Hales’ son, Cody Hale, traced Ruth and Nathan Hale’s signatures from the wall at the Orem building and was able to replicate them on the beam so they could be part of the building that is named in honor of them.

“This is theirs — it’s been Grandma and Grandpa’s vision from the beginning,” Anne Swenson said. “We are just lucky we get to be along for the ride.”

Dozens of actors, construction workers, city officials and more got to sign their names on a steel beam that was placed during a beam-raising ceremony for the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater in Pleasant Grove on Thursday. Cody Hale, son of the founders, traced his parents’ signatures onto the beam that became part of the theater named in honor of them. (The Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater)

“In a few years, we will look back and say, ‘Wow, what an impact the Hale Center Theater had on our lives, on our families and especially on our community,” said Pleasant Grove Mayor Guy Fugal. “We’re just happy as can be it’s here.”

As a season ticket holder for the Hale Center Theater in Sandy, Fugal said is he excited for the Pleasant Grove location to open up.

Fugal said the theater is one of the biggest projects that has been undertaken in the city, and it will have great impacts on the economy, bring people into the community and provide cultural education to community members.

Along with the development of business venture Valley Grove, the Hale theater is helping transform the “sleepy community” of Pleasant Grove, he said.

“It’s a win-win,” the mayor said. “Not many communities get this opportunity. It’s a good time to be mayor of Pleasant Grove.”

An intimate theater experience

Anne Swenson said the Orem theater has been looking for a new space for years, but it never worked out. Now, the “stars aligned” and the organization is excited to expand from the small building it has been housed in for almost 34 years.

The new building will allow the theater to “share what we do with so many more people and grow — which we haven’t been able to do for so long,” she said. “We’ve been able to grow our productions. We’ve been able to grow our skill and hone all of that in our current building, but the only thing we have been limited by is the building.”

“We love that funny old building, but it’s time. It’s time to be able to just stretch and take a deep breath,” she added.

This year, the theater has been focusing on how to take its organization from its current size and grow it in the correct way to fill the new building, she said. She said patrons are mostly excited about the new theater, but they don’t want to lose the intimate feel of the Orem theater.

She said it’s hard to put a name to the feeling, but the theater has a goal to replicate that feeling where the audience still feels connected to the show even in a bigger room. The new building’s smaller theater will be duplicating the design of the Orem theater with some improvements.

The Orem building will become a costume shop and a support center for the organization to utilize once The Ruth is open.

Long-time actor Mark Pulham has been with Hale Center Theater Orem since the beginning.

Pulham spoke at the beam-raising ceremony and said he’s been amazed to see the growth of the theater in Orem and said that even though the building was small and cramped, as soon as the show started, “magic happened.”

He was in the theater’s first show, “Thank You Papa,” which was written by Ruth and Nathan Hale. In the early years of the organization, he got to work with both of the Hales and said they made it feel like family.

“We’re family here and everyone is welcomed home here to The Ruth,” he said. Pulham said he was honored to get to place his mark on the beam that became part of an “incredible” new theater.

Anne Swenson said she is filled with gratitude and excitement and is so humbled seeing the support of the community at the ceremony.

“I look out there and I see people who have been with us for 25, 30 years and just am filled with love for these people — for the new ones that are just joining the journey and the people that have been there at the beginning,” she said.

Construction is anticipated to end this year with The Ruth’s first season starting in January 2025.

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Pleasant Grove celebrates construction milestone of new Hale Theater