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The City Journals

What to expect from Taylorsville Arts Council this summer

Jun 05, 2017 10:27AM ● By Carl Fauver

More than 50 children will perform in “Seussical the Musical Jr.” (Wendy Smedshammer)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
The Taylorsville Arts Council will make history this month with its first-ever youth theater production.
“Every member of the cast is 5 to 18 years old,” Director Wendy Smedshammer said. “We had about 75 try out for the production, and we didn’t ‘cut’ anyone. A few have dropped out, but the cast still has more than 50 members.”
Tryouts for “Seussical the Musical Jr.” were held in early March. Since then the cast has been practicing three nights a week in various locations.
For Smedshammer, who’s been the arts council theatrical performance director for six years, the city’s summer productions are a family affair.
“All three of my daughters are involved in the show this year, which is fun,” she said. “My oldest, KarLee (17), plays a violin in the orchestra. RyLee (14) is a member of the cast. And my youngest, SaLee (11), will be keeping an eye on our family dog, who is also in the show.”
By the way, yes you did read KarLee, RyLee and SaLee, but that’s a whole different story.
“Many shows don’t have a lot of opportunities for kids,” Smedshammer added. “So I’ve been pushing for a long time to add a youth theater production. It lets younger actors spread their wings and take on meatier roles.”
During a recent presentation to the Taylorsville City Council, Arts Council Chairman Howard Wilson said his group is excited about its recent partnership with Salt Lake Community College to make use of the school’s outdoor Alder Amphitheater.
“Our partnership (with SLCC) has led to lighting and sound system improvements at the amphitheater,” Wilson said. “In the past, we’ve had productions in junior highs and high schools. But this is a much better location.”
Smedshammer added, “That’s where everyone wants to be for a summer show—outdoors.”
Wilson said the arts council relies heavily on zoo, arts and parks (ZAP) funding from Salt Lake County to help keep it afloat.
“We receive about $10,000 to $13,000 each year (in ZAP funds),” Wilson said. “Between that, ticket sales and a few fundraisers, we’re able to keep operating.”
One of the few people making any money is Smedshammer. But she said “the small stipend I receive probably doesn’t even cover my gas.”
The Taylorsville Youth Theatre production of “Seussical the Musical Jr.” will be performed June 9, 10 and 12. Just a month later, the regular Taylorsville Arts Council will perform “Anything Goes,” July 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17.
“Anything goes is a classic Cole Porter musical comedy,” Smedshammer said. “It has a love triangle similar to ‘Titanic’ but is funny.”
While the cast for “Seussical” is made up of children, there are just a few juvenile roles in “Anything Goes.” Four teens are working in both shows, including Smedshammer’s daughter Rylee (14), Sam Bates (15), Kori Tuttle (15) and Tynan Portillo (17).
“They’re putting in a lot of time,” Smedshammer added. “The youth show practices 90 minutes, three nights a week. ‘Anything Goes’ rehearsals are two-and-half-hours each night after those, with a fourth practice on Saturdays. So these four kids in particular are spending a lot of time getting ready.”
Of course, everyone associated with the Taylorsville Arts Council is already eagerly counting down the days until the new Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center opens, directly southeast of the city offices (2600 West 5400 South).
But ground won’t be broken on that $39-million theater for at least a year, and it won’t open until two years after that.
The new theater is expected to be 60,000 to 70,000 square feet and will feature two performing areas: a 500-seat main theater and a more intimate 250-seat “black box” theater.
In addition to its musicals, the Taylorsville Arts Council also coordinates an annual community art show. And they arrange nearly all of the stage acts during the annual Taylorsville Dayzz celebration, this year June 22–24.
Tickets for “Seussical the Musical, Jr.” are $6 each, and $8 each for “Anything Goes.” Family passes (for up to six people) are $30 for each production.