Nearly 75 years after first opening, the Historic Huish theater is once again showing films for all to experience the magic of cinematography and local live talent.
The Huish first opened in April, 1949 with the first movie shown being Mother Was a Freshman with Loretta Young. The theater had a seating capacity of 830 and was equipped with state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment.
In 1966, the theater was leased by Sam and Dorothy McFadden who ran it every day of the week except Sundays and they had Tuesdays set aside as Ladies Nights where each lady was admitted without charge with an accompanying purchased adult ticket.
In 1985, Paul and Bunny Mower bought the theater and updated many items inside the aging building. After a number of years of refusing R-rated movies or opening on Sundays, the Mowers decided to close the doors in 2002.
For several years, the theater sat as a memory of what once was, and in 2008, Karen Taylor, the wife of retired dentist and former mayor of Payson, Dr. Gordon Taylor, asked her husband to make her a promise. After years of living across the street from the theater and seeing its decay, she made her husband promise to purchase and restore the vacant building. She saw it as the primary center of entertainment for the performing arts in the southern portion of Utah County.
In early 2010, as the Taylors were discussing the Huish’s situation, Gordon told Karen that he was 80 years old and ought to live like a “retired gentleman.” Karen replied, “I don’t care, I want you to do it for me.”
Karen passed away soon afterward and Gordon was determined to help make his wife’s wishes a reality.
The goals of Karen’s vision were to provide a venue for Payson and the surrounding area that include performing arts, artistic expressions, social, informational, cultural and educational events.
The Huish was seen as serving a wide spectrum of uses including festivals, competitions, do it yourself classes as well as classes involving music and dance. It would also include recitals, concerts, exhibitions, theater, pageants, meetings, and expos.
The overall goal is to provide a venue where the talents of people from the area could be displayed while enriching the community as well.
Gordon passed away in 2016, and while he hasn’t been able to see the fruits of his labors, he started a very ambitious project that has continued on. The work remains far from complete, but a lot of progress has been made.
Many exterior features of progress are obvious and a brand-new stage has been built with the use of volunteer craftsmen and over 200 man hours of donated help.
The board of directors has received various grants and donations that has allowed for the opening of the Side Show, a space that is separate from the main theater area that will eventually seat 650 event-goers.
The board is also making a concerted effort to raise the funds needed to construct an addition to the existing theater building.
Beginning on July 18, events for the Side Show have been scheduled every Tuesday at 7 pm for a variety of shows including poetry and every Wednesday as well at 7 pm for various family friendly comedy acts.
The Huish Performing Arts and Cultural Events Center (HuishPACE) is seeking volunteers in many areas of need to assist in making Karen Taylor’s vision for the Huish become a sense of accomplishment for all.
Take a look at their website huishpace.com and see if you may be able to assist in Karen’s dream as well.
After all, the benefits of restoring the Huish Theater were meant for everyone in the area, not the selfless Taylor’s alone.