Just before rehearsals for "Pinocchio"
Backstage at Kingsbury Hall
In 1996, after several decades of underutilization, an 18-month renovation project gave Kingsbury Hall a much-needed facelift, designed to attract theatrical activities and showcase the history of the building. Kingsbury Hall's renovation the U's official gift to the State of Utah for its Utah Statehood Centennial Celebration gave its patrons and performers a new backstage area, dressing rooms, and balcony lobby.
A trip backstage may be the best way to experience the full theatrical flavor of the new Kingsbury. The old backstage area "didn't have the technical abilities needed by performers," according to Greg Geilmann ex'77, general manager of Kingsbury Hall. Today, there are two new orchestra lifts, a seven-story fly loft, and, what many patrons don't see, two complete floors below the stage, which include dressing rooms and a spacious rehearsal studio. The "Keene Curtis Dressing Room" includes a Tony Award replica carpet inlay and photos of Curtis BA'47 MS'51 throughout the decades and of the four characters he played in "The Rothschilds," for which he won the Tony Award.
As a temporary home to performers ranging from national touring companies to student productions, the backstage area has witnessed a wide range of emotions ("Some productions are high tension," Geilmann says) and accommodations.
For example, in the fall of 2001, Bill Cosby gave two performances at Kingsbury Hall. An avid sports fan, Cosby asked Kingsbury to provide cable television in his dressing room so he could watch all of the sports channels. "Kingsbury Hall does not have cable, nor is it available on this part of the campus," says Geilmann. "We installed a satellite dish on the roof for the two days Mr. Cosby was here."
And while hosting Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, Geilmann and his staff took measures to ensure that Gorbachev and his delegation were comfortable. They decorated his dressing room and provided refreshments, including coffee and tea with sugar bowls and creamer packets. The staff also provided U sweatshirts, baseball caps, and Kingsbury Hall books as souvenirs.
"When we entered the dressing room after they left, we discovered they had taken everything as souvenirs, including the packets of sugar and bowls," says Geilmann. "We guessed there was a sugar shortage in the Soviet Union."
As a result of the renovation, Kingsbury Hall is now giving 180 performances each year a huge increase from the 50 to 60 performances that were given prior to 1996. "For 72 years Kingsbury Hall has had packed houses," says Geilmann. "Because of the renovation, it is again a key player in the performing arts in Salt Lake Valley."
Amanda Jones BS'99 is an account executive at Connect Public Relations in Provo.