In 1992 Jacci Florence and her family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner in the stage arena of Terrace Plaza Playhouse just one day before the new community theater would open in Washington Terrace with the loved play/musical “Scrooge.” Now, 27 years later, things look a bit different, but the feelings of love and family are still the same.
Florence’s parents, Beverly and Blaine Olsen opened the theater after a Washington Terrace city councilman approached Beverly with the idea. “Mom would drive around in her little truck looking for good places to open a theater,” Florence said. Her parents helped open Page’s Lane Theater in Centerville that is now Centerpoint Theater. Beverly loved the theater and especially loved children in the performing arts – it was her passion, Florence said. But the family was still surprised when Beverly and Blaine announced they would be starting a new theater in the Ogden area. “Our eyes about slammed in the back of our heads,” Florence said of she and her siblings.
After Beverly passed away in 2005, it seemed natural for Florence to step up to the plate and keep the theater going. Her siblings have always been supportive and one of her brothers was very involved until he passed away just a few months after their mother. Florence and her husband Kim have stayed the most involved over the years and Florence acts, directs and produces a variety of the shows through the year.
She has directed “Scrooge” for the past 20 years and Kim has been “Scrooge” since the third year the show has been running. Just last year they brought in a second Scrooge, Mark Daniels, the musical theater director at Weber High School, to share the role with Kim. The show is double cast each year because of the popularity of the show and all the families that love to come forward and participate each year.
This year they are trying something new too – a show every night of the week. One cast does Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and another does Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They always have sold-out crowds when the show has only been performed three times a week, so Florence decided to give it a shot. They will also have a Saturday matinee performance December 22.
Two years ago, the Playhouse made a few new changes by becoming a nonprofit theater. Florence said the time just seemed to be right. Her father wanted to change the name to add “Beverly’s” and they wanted to have a board in place to help make decisions when the original owners – Blaine and Beverly weren’t able to do so anymore. “We wanted to make sure we had longevity,” Florence said. Plus, there would be opportunities for grants and donors with the nonprofit status, something that they have already found to be a huge benefit. They were able to get a RAMP grant that has helped cover costs of costumes, producing and royalties – which have skyrocketed in recent years. They are also able to offer small stipends for some lead actors. “It’s nothing big, basically gas money, but it helps,” Florence said.
And one of their biggest changes this year has been because of the help of donors they have been able to install all new seating – something they are very proud of. All the new seats were installed just in time for “Scrooge” to begin. Florence said they also were able to get new carpet because they couldn’t think of leaving that “dreadfully old” carpet underneath new seats. One thing Florence has loved about the process is the “family” that has come in to help demolish and install the new seating. While it was actual family it was also the theater family. “When you are here with us you are family. We take you in and we keep you,” Florence said. The old seats have not only been in the theater for 27 years, but were old seats from a movie theater in West Valley City. It was time and patrons are loving the new comfort they feel as they watch the shows.
Florence’s passion for the theater is strong for a few reasons. “I love all the wonderful people involved and that I am surrounded by,” Florence noted. “They are the best people on the face of the earth,” she added. She loves working with her husband at the theater too. He recently retired. “He’s right up to his nostrils in all of it, but it’s fun to be together,” she said with a big, hearty laugh. “We want to do good and keep mom and dad’s memories and carry on the tradition of the theater,” Florence said.