It’s a laugh-out-loud evening of live comedy full of witty dialogue and sharply drawn characters. The whole family can attend for less than $30. What? When? Where? It’s The Nerd, a play by award-winning playwright, Larry Shu, produced by the Sugar Factory Playhouse and West Jordan City Arts Council. The plot can likely be happening in your own neighborhood. Two men and a woman share an apartment when a best friend of one roommate shows up, crashes on a couch and proceeds to stay forever.
In many respects, the everyday theme of “The Nerd” makes it a perfect play for community theater. However, here in Salt Lake this term conveys more than just amateur thespians performing in church basements and borrowed auditoriums. With seven post-secondary institutions along the Wasatch Front offering instruction in music and dramatic arts, the talent going into “local” theater productions is impressive.
Travis Green, marketing director for The Sugar Factory Playhouse of West Jordan, says it is very satisfying to see the production and the characters grow and become alive. “It takes a lot of people to make it happen. Everybody works together, pitching in. It’s what puts the ‘community’ in community theater. It’s not a one-person thing. All the jobs–lighting, costumes, audio, props–rotate depending on what’s needed.” It’s about many volunteers wearing many hats, and doing a lot with a little.
Travis took on his self-created job of promoting and marketing the theater because he didn’t want to see the efforts of talented and creative people go unseen for lack of advertising. “It was just too much for the producers to handle by themselves. They were busy raising money, casting, directing, scrambling for a venue.” So now Travis creates the posters and graphic art, takes the photographs, writes and issues press releases, and creates the performance programs. It’s a full-time job as well as a labor of love. It’s also his own chance to make a meaningful contribution to “the show,” not the least of which is introducing new audiences to live theater. “That’s why we keep the prices low,” he says. “So the whole family can go.”
The Sugar Factory Playhouse is part of a surprisingly large theatre community in the greater Salt Lake area. There are nearly 30 permanent venues along with the occasional ones. They include the Heritage Theatre in Brigham City, the Empress Theatre in Magna, the Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden, the Main Street Theatre in Midvale, the Draper Historic Theatre in Draper, the Sugar Factory Playhouse in West Jordan, the Desert Star Playhouse in Murray, the Hale Theatre in West Valley City, the Grand Theatre at downtown Salt Lake Community College, and the Babcock and Studio 51 sites on the University of Utah campus. Their offerings include comedy, drama, improv, musicals and children’s theater. It is part of a tradition that dates back to the founding pioneers. In this age of instant media, what has kept theater alive and vital? Perhaps it is because theater is alive and vital. It is right in front of you and personal.
“The Nerd” will be performed the second and third weekends in April, 7:30 pm at Pioneer Hall, 1140 West 7800 South. Other area performances can be found on the “Utah Events Calendar, Now Playing Utah.”