Payson Community Theatre brings local community together both on and off the stage

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When it comes to stage productions, Payson Community Theatre holds itself to a high standard.

The local theater has had almost 55 years to perfect its craft, and, according to its mission statement, has “Sought to further enhance the theater experience and elevate the community in the process,” and  have a “Long-lasting tradition of creating meaningful memories and uplifting theatrical opportunities.”

PCT President Kristina Holley says she is fully committed to this mission statement, and hopes to expand upon it as time goes on.

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“We value all those in the community and beyond,” she said. “We do what we can to maintain quality theater and encourage all in the area to participate both on stage as well as behind the scenes.”

Holley has only been president for a year, but has been involved in the theater for over 13 years, formally joining the board in 2019. She also teaches film and drama at Spanish Fork Junior High School.

She has studied theater and worked in numerous capacities over the years including costuming. and says she knows “a great production when [she sees] it.” Her behind the scenes work for the community theater also promoted her to audition for a part in a production.

“After seeing how much fun the actors were having, I decided to audition for Beauty and the Beast,” she said. “Since then, I have been heavily involved with each show, either on-stage or behind the scenes.”

Payson Community Theatre runs numerous shows throughout the year with 5-10 performances of each show depending on the demand. These performances happen at Payson High School as well as other locations in the city.

The theater is a nonprofit organization that operates on a modest budget of $15,000 to $20,000 annually. Due to its nonprofit status, it receives most of its funds from ticket sales and grants from the city, the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts and local business sponsorships.

Holley said those involved in the theater are able to strike a great balance between professionalism and family. 

“I have worked with other community theaters in the past, but PCT seems to have that extra something that those theaters didn’t have,” she said. “I feel as though I now have more good friends. I love the friendships and relationships that are developed in theater. There are many tears (when the performances are over) because they don’t want to stop being a part of something great.”

How the PCT began

That passion has been a key part of PCT since the beginning. 

In the summer of 1968, four Payson High School students decided to use the new stage to put on a musical production during the homecoming festivities, a celebration that would become Golden Onion Days.

The teenagers — Jay Jolley, Janie Marvin, Lemuel Harsh and Robin Anderson — worked alongside the city to secure funding. With the assistance of advisors Doris Gasser and Marian Wilson, they were able to run three performances of “Little Mary Sunshine.”

The theater has run shows non-stop since those humble beginnings.

The theater has blossomed into a host of moving parts. While the actors are the most visible on stage, there are numerous people who volunteer behind the scenes. This includes set building, props, costumes, lighting, sound, choreography and a host of other areas.

“We all work hard and support each other,” Holley said. 

Holley described one instance this past summer during the production of “Matilda” when she stepped in to assist with the set building and painting team because it was needed. She also spoke about director Perry Ewell who would go into the theater after hours to work on sets to make sure they were ready for the show. 

It’s not just those involved who enjoy the production; It’s also the audience members. 

Payson Community Theatre has a 4.8 ranking on Google with many commenting about their positive experiences attending the shows.

“It’s no secret why this program has been going on for more than 50 years now,” Jacob Richey said in a comment. “Those who participate and run the program are stellar actors who present only the best they can offer. You will never be disappointed by going to anything that PCT produces.”

Fellow attendee Megan Neal commented on how much she enjoys all that PCT puts out throughout the years.

“They’re always engaging, fun and creative,” she said in a comment. “The talent and hard work put into these shows are what make them great and leave the audience wanting to come back for more. It’s a wonderful experience to be a part of, whether you’re an actor, techie or audience member.”

PCT has long been a staple in the Payson community and the doors are open to all interested in participating. Holley said she highly encourages anyone interested to inquire about volunteering in any capacity. 

“If you want to be part of a great group of people and theater, we welcome all to join us,” she said. “Even if you don’t feel you have anything to offer, we’ll gladly do on-site training. We want to fully embrace the community and welcome them to participate in the success of Payson Community Theatre.”

PCT is preparing for its upcoming production of “You Can’t Take it With You,” which will feature Jan Hunsaker as director. Hunsaker has over 30 years experience teaching theater and was an administrator for Tuacahn High School of the Arts.

Auditions for the production are Jan. 17 and 18 at Mt. Nebo Middle School, 851 W. 450 South in Payson. Those interested in acting or backstage work can contact the theater via email at PaysonCommunityTheatre@gmail.com.

“If you want to be a part of great theater, then you couldn’t be involved in anything better,” Holley said. “We also have great directors and creative teams that are friendly and welcoming. It’s a great place to make long-lasting relationships.”

Josh Martinez
Josh Martinez
Josh Martinez is a graduate of Southern Utah University and Arizona State University where he studied communication and journalism. He has written for numerous publications in both Arizona and Utah on a bevy of topics including sports, city government and education. Martinez is a 2009 graduate of Springville High School and lives in Springville with his high school sweetheart and two kids
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