Pioneer Memorial Theatre Timeline

  • July 1960 —Construction of Pioneer Memorial Theatre began with direct appropriation from the Utah State Legislature, Kennecott Copper, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and private donors. The theatre was supposed to replace The Salt Lake Theatre that was built in 1862.
  • October 7, 1962 —Construction was completed. The original structure was three levels and equipped with two stages. The Main Stage seated 1,000 guests and the “intimate” theatre in the basement seated 350 patrons. The structure included five formal classrooms, several rehearsal halls and dressing rooms. These were also used as classrooms and offices for the members of the University Theatre faculty.
  • October 10, 1962 —Pioneer Memorial Theatre was dedicated as the professional “State Theatre of Utah,” with speeches from University of Utah President A. Ray Olpin, Governor Clyde, Dr. C. Lowell Lees and President David O. McKay. Dr. Lees was named the very first Artistic Director for PMT.

FUN FACT: What was Pioneer Theatre’s connection to The Salt Lake Theatre?

  • June 13, 1964Dr. C. Lowell Lees left the University and Keith M. Engar was appointed to succeed Dr. Lees. During his time at Pioneer Theatre, Keith M. Engar created the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA) contract with Actors' Equity Association. It was the first formalized contract between Actors' Equity and a University Theatre.
  • November 12, 1972 —In its 10th season, PMT had remarkable success, but higher demand, requiring a bigger building. Discussion of expansion began.
  • Early 1980s —Engar and senior University administrators separate PTC leadership from the academic program to clarify mission and operations of PMT.

FUN FACT: Dr. Lees said there was some controversy over whether the word “theater,” as applied to the U of U theatrical activities, would be spelled “theater” or “theatre.” The U of U Board of Regents voted to accept the “theatre” spelling as the official one.

  • 1984 —Charles Morey was hired as Artistic Director of PTC, with specific direction to fully professionalize the theatre, expand the repertoire, and clarify the relationship between PTC and the Department of Theatre.
  • 1986 —PTC moved to a League of Resident Theatres (LORT) contract with Actors' Equity which allowed the theatre to become fully professional.
  • 1987 —The finances of the University of Utah’s Department of Theatre and Pioneer Theatre Company were separated. PTC was to become self-sustaining with University support.
  • 1993 —PTC generated its first surplus and began repaying debts that had been accumulated over the years. For the next 12 years PTC operated with balanced or surplus budget.
  • 1996 —PTC began a fundraising campaign with a goal of $5.5 million to renovate and expand the Pioneer Memorial Theatre. With a significant gift of $4.1 million from the family of Roy and Elizabeth Simmons, and the rest of the funds from donors, PTC was able to expand.
  • 2007 —PTC was the first regional theatre company to earn the rights to Les Misérables. This particular production sold out 82 performances, a record for the company, and was noted around the country.
  • 2010 —PTC announced that it had, with local developer Cowboy Partners, purchased and renovated the old University House at 1300 East and 200 South to provide artist housing for visiting actors, directors and designers. Named Meldrum House, after lead donors Pete and Catherine Meldrum, the project housed its first cast in the Fall of 2011. The budget of $3.2 million was provided entirely from private philanthropic sources.
  • July 1, 2012Karen Azenberg was appointed Artistic Director of PTC, replacing Charles Morey. After a 28-year tenure, Morey stepped down, the longest sitting artistic director of a major American regional theatre.



"You need three things in the theater - the play, the actors, and the audience, - and each must give something."
Kenneth Haigh