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SALT LAKE CITY — After wowing live audiences with their off-beat humor for 25 years, Salt Lake City’s Off Broadway Theatre is in desperate need of a new location.
It’s what happens behind the scenes that makes this theater so special.
When crew member Robert Reins first came to Off Broadway Theatre, or OBT, he was at rock bottom. He suffered from what he described as a cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
“I had gone in and out of homelessness and hospitals, and in group homes,” he said.
Robert had a hard time finding work.
“I was about to give up and I looked up and I was right in front of this place,” he said.
He found a home with OBT.
“I started out painting and building sets,” he said.
Sandy and Eric Jensen lead the nonprofit organization. Sandy co-founded the group, and Eric serves as artistic director.
They said OBT doesn’t cast traditionally, and imperfections are welcome.
“Maybe our Gaston-type character was a little shorter and a little rounder,” Eric said.
“I think our theater allows them to not only be on the stage but behind the scenes as a technical person doing sound and light, as a volunteer,” said Sandy.
We’ve given 25 years to the community and we hope that eventually, we can find another space that we can give even more.
–Eric Jensen, artistic director for Off Broadway Theatre
After nearly three decades in downtown Salt Lake City, their building has been sold.
The Jensens said their efforts have never been about the money. It’s about making the audience laugh, giving the crew the chance to be on stage and act — and sometimes, it’s even a second chance at life.
The next act for the little theater company is finding a new place to call home.
“We’ve given 25 years to the community and we hope that eventually, we can find another space that we can give even more,” Eric Jensen said. “We’re hoping that somebody out there… saying, ‘Oh, wow. I’ve got a warehouse. If they had curtains and seats, we could probably make this work.’ We do. We have curtains and seats.”
Robert Reins, crew member at Off Broadway Theatre, and Eric Jensen, clean up the last remnants of the theater. After 25 years of community entertainment, the building has been sold. The job is a lifeline for Reins who suffers from mental illness. At 6:30 p.m. @KSL5TVpic.twitter.com/vCsDONykB7— Heather Simonsen (@HeatherKSL) January 2, 2020
For Reins, the theater is family.
“It’s meant everything to me. It keeps me focused,” he said. “There’s so much love and caring for each other.”
He’s exiting stage left with more confidence and experience.
“I’m walking out the door, knowing that I’ve gained a worth,” he said. “I’m worth something more.”
The theater company moved into temporary storage while they look for an affordable location. If you can help, contact Eric Jensen at OBT1994@gmail.com.