$5M donation plus land prompts Orem Hale theater move to Pleasant Grove

An artist's rendition of the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater set to be completed in 2024. The Hale Center Theater Orem announced that it is moving to Pleasant Grove.

An artist's rendition of the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater set to be completed in 2024. The Hale Center Theater Orem announced that it is moving to Pleasant Grove. (Method Studios)

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PLEASANT GROVE — The Hale Center Theater in Orem has announced that it is relocating to Pleasant Grove, thanks to a donation of $5 million and land from Pleasant Grove-based company doTerra.

The theater will be built on the west end of the doTerra campus, and is said to nearly double the capacity for the current main proscenium.

This week's announcement said the project will be done in collaboration with the Cook Center for Human Connection and the city of Pleasant Grove, and construction will begin as soon as this summer. The new theater will be called the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater, and nicknamed "the Ruth," in honor of the original theater founders.

Gregory Cook, doTerra founding executive and chairman of the board, said donating the money and land to the theater was an easy decision to make.

"We've all been enjoying their plays and productions for many, many years, so when we heard what they were trying to accomplish with their theater, we knew that we needed to help," Cook said. "At doTerra, we value the culture and the principles that the Hale family espouses. They are master storytellers, and we value that. We think It's good for your health. We are a health and wellness company, and we believe that the arts are directly related to good health, whether it's physical, emotional or mental health."

The Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater is expected to be completed in early 2024 and will have an "in-the-round" theater, doubling its current capacity with 670 seats. It will also have a second performing space with flexible seating for youth productions and smaller shows, according to the theater.

Jeff Fisher, director of development for the theater in Orem, described the meeting with doTerra as a wonderful experience with "some of the best people he has ever known."

"We've been trying for years to complete this project of growing the theater and have been looking for someone to help us," Fisher said. "It was a really cool experience to hear somebody say, 'We can help you do this.' We shed tears of joy. I don't know if we'll ever repay doTerra for doing this."

In 2018, the theater announced that it had received a $1 million pledge from the Woodbury Corporation and planned to build a new facility at University Place in Orem. Fisher told KSL.com that since that announcement, the Hale Center Foundation has been raising funds toward that effort.

"When doTerra graciously offered to donate $5 million towards the new theater, they also offered land at doTerra to allow construction to begin sooner than anticipated. The new location provides better visibility and easier access for the theater. In addition, doTerra has offered access to shared parking lots for patrons and will provide groundskeeping services for the theater," he said, adding that the foundation "appreciates the continued support of the Woodburys and their organization."

Anne Swenson, executive producer at Hale Center Theater Orem, spoke about the desire to both grow the theater at 225 W. 400 North, while at the same time keeping in line with the original goals of the theater that began in a small home in California in the 1940s.

"Grandma (Ruth) Hale, who was the founder of all of the Hale theaters, would always say that people want to come to have an emotional bath," Swenson recalled. "What better way to do that than with theater?"

Swenson said changing the name of the theater, when it relocates to Pleasant Grove, is important because it shows patrons where the theater has come from, and what the goals for the theater are.

"We spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best name that will represent where we've come from, and what we're doing," Swenson said. "We decided on the Ruth and Nathan Hale Theater because we still wanted to keep the Hale branding, but wanted to define our own space, and kind of through our name, harken back to our origins. The theater has always been so family-oriented, and it's important for us to think back and honor the legacy of Ruth and Nathan Hale, and have our name reflect that."

Cook reiterated the importance of the arts, and why it was necessary for doTerra to play a part in making this new theater possible.

"There is a tremendous need for human connection," Cook said. "When we all come together for a storytelling experience, we all feel better. We feel connected and unified and inspired. They say that the arts build hope, and I don't know of an organization that does that better than the Hale Theater in Orem."

The theater has tried to expand for many years. In the early 2000s, the Hale Center Theater Orem announced plans for a $5 million facility on 800 North in Orem and started campaigning for financial support, but that project stalled and fizzled out with 9/11 and its economic shock, according to the Deseret News.

In 2007, it moved forward with building plans, this time in Orem's Midtown Village. But by 2008, the Great Recession put the brakes on the Midtown Village development as a whole.

To stay updated on the progress of the theater, go to haletheater.org.

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Arianne Brown has been a contributing writer at KSL.com for many years with a focus of sharing heartwarming stories.


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