ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT

New, unique theater thriving in historic University of Utah building

Apr 12, 2024, 11:00 AM

Unique theater design...

The Meldrum Theatre opened its doors on March 29, 2024. (Karen Azenberg/Pioneer Theatre Company)

(Karen Azenberg/Pioneer Theatre Company)

SALT LAKE CITY – Many performing arts venues follow a standard pattern. The audience sits in rows of chairs facing the stage, and performers work with roughly 180 degrees of vision.

But a new theater design is making the experience more immersive and one just opened in a familiar spot at the University of Utah.

The Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse is now the site of the new Meldrum Theatre, owned by the Pioneer Theatre Company.

What makes the Meldrum unique is its shape. The stage juts out into the audience area, which trades production size for audience immersion.

A more engaging experience

PTC’s Artistic Director, Karen Azenberg, always dreamed of a more intimate venue. Six years ago, major donor Pete Meldrum offered to help get the project going and began looking for a location.

“The old Einar Fieldhouse is across the parking from the Pioneer Theatre Company,”  Azenberg said, “When the project became reality, the University suggested that could be a good space.”

Architects worked their magic, and managed to create the new theater while preserving the fieldhouse’s flavor. On March 29, the Meldrum Theatre opened its doors.

a person on stage at the new meldrum theatre

The Meldrum Theatre opened its doors on March 29, 2024. (Karen Azenberg/Pioneer Theatre Company)

Becoming a part of the play

Azenberg said one of the first performances the Meldrum is showing is, “The Lehman Trilogy.” The story follows the Lehman brothers from immigration in the 1860s to the collapse of Lehman Financial in 2008.

Other upcoming performances focus on historical and relationship drama.

With performances like those, Azenberg said the intimate nature of the Meldrum is perfect.

“It’s an intimate and personal story where being right there with those characters is going to be an exciting and emotional experience.”

She said it’s been incredibly satisfying to see patrons feel cozy in the preserved fieldhouse while becoming a part of the story.

“Between pandemics, supply chains, and economics, it’s certainly a way bigger undertaking than I imagined,” she said, but the reaction of audience members and guest artists inside this one-of-a-kind theater says it all.

“All that time, energy, and stress was worth it because we really were able to accomplish our goal.”

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New, unique theater thriving in historic University of Utah building