PROVO — A young theater company is finding a new home in a historic location.
Echo Theatre first opened on University Avenue in Provo a little over a year and a half ago. Now its owners have set up stage in the Carnegie Building, which served as Provo’s library from 1908 to 1989.
The theater's first production at its new location, the spooky “The Woman in Black,” opens Oct. 3.
Echo Theatre is a family affair — Jeffrey and Julianna Blake started it with Julianna's brother Matt Boulter just a week after they were married. But they were just doing it for fun and didn’t initially go into it with the idea of creating a company, Boulter said.
“We got it all ready and fixed up and decided to keep on going because more people kept coming to us, excited about a new experience,” he said.
Despite their success, the original location was far from perfect. Boulter said when they sat down in July to look at reviews they were consistently praised for the quality of their acting, but there were always negative comments about the venue — they were located in between two concert spaces so the beat of neighboring music could be heard through the walls during the production, and a lack of air conditioning made it hot.
“We decided we have a great product that deserves a better building,” Boulter said.
It was then that Jeffrey Blake decided return to a building he had initially looked into renting — the Carnegie Building — which is owned by local media company Kaleidoscope Pictures. The historic library building was originally built in 1908 with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who helped construct hundreds of libraries around the country, according to the Provo City Library website.
“When we met the landlord he said, ‘That’s amazing, because we’ve actually been looking to open a theater,’” Jeffrey Blake said. “It was really serendipitous and we ended up getting a lot better building.”
Jeffrey Blake said Kaleidoscope Pictures has been a great landlord, appreciates what they are doing, and even helped them get off the ground. The company held out on renting the space for a more artistic group that was more in line with their own work.
“It’s kind of like when you’re dating someone and everyone is like, ‘They’re so wrong for you.’ And then you break up and they’re like, ‘This is so much better!’ Jeffrey Blake said.
One thing Echo Theatre had always prided themselves on, regardless of the location, was the quality of its acting and directing.
“Now that we’re in this new place, it matches the quality of what we’re doing on the floor,” Jeffery Blake said.
Boulter said they were initially worried about changing locations because their old theater was on the high-trafficked University Ave., but his company has received a lot of support. He said it has been a win-win situation for everyone.
“A lot of people are excited the space is being used for something like this,” Boulter said.
Julianna Blake said the company is enjoying the move to Center Street.
"The whole downtown movement has made it a great place to be right now," she said.
Echo Theatre’s first show at the new location will be “The Woman in Black,” which is one of the longest running shows in England, Boulter said. It tells the story of a man who encounters a mysterious woman in black whom locals are reluctant to discuss.
"A lot of people are excited the space is being used for something like this,"
Jeffrey Blake said Echo Theatre would be taking a minimalist approach to the play and relying on acting and the well-written script. The whole story is told by two actors.
“It’s a scary play, a Halloween play, but it doesn’t rely on any cheap tricks,” he said.
Boulter reassured anyone who might be afraid of attending because the show is too scary.
“My wife who hates scary movies loves this show because it’s just about spook and has a really great story,” he said.
It is a fun theater experience for those who haven't seen it, Julianna Blake said.
“The Woman in Black" runs Monday through Saturday from Oct. 3 to Nov. 2. It will be directed by Ben Hopkins, who teaches at BYU and UVU.
Echo Theatre is holding a contest to celebrate their opening on Facebook. The company is giving away $200 in prizes to the person who brings the most friends with them.