The year was 1968. School was out for the summer and four students of Payson High School were wondering what to do to pass the time. The new high school had just been erected with a brand new, well equipped stage. They came up with the idea of mounting a musical production to enhance the cultural aspect of the City’s homecoming celebration during Labor Day (now known as Golden Onion Days). These four students were Jay Jolley, Janie Marvin, Lemuel Harsh, and Robin Anderson. A couple of roadblocks stood in their way, however. They went to the City officials to ask for permission and for help with funding. They were told they needed an adult adviser. Enter Doris Gasser and Marian Wilson. Together they received $300 from the City (which they repaid following the production) and produced “Little Mary Sunshine” directed by Doris. The show ran for 3 performances. The rest, as they say, is history.
Payson Community Theatre (PCT) was born and has operated continuously, without a break, ever since. The number of performances has varied from 5 to 10 and even reached 12 a few times when shows totally sold out. Budgets have also increased over the years and now average in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. PCT is now a non-profit corporation and is funded mainly from ticket sales with additional grants from Payson City, the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a few local business sponsors (see the list under the Sponsors tab). PCT has now received its federal 501c3 status.
In the winter of 1983, PCT began a two-show season. A smaller (but no less quality) play in the winter to help relieve “cabin fever” was mounted in the Payson City Center auditorium (the old Payson Hospital building) in addition to its regularly scheduled Onion Days production. The two-show season continued for the next 8 years until logistics and ever increasing political pressure from others wanting to use the building (PCT tied it up for as long as two months with rehearsals and set construction, including the production itself) finally brought an end to winter productions.
By 1982, there were as many as 15 community theater groups in Utah County. A Utah County Arts Guild was formed by interested theater enthusiasts from many of these groups. An annual awards banquet was held to recognize the achievements of those who joined the organization, sort of a mini Tony Awards. The first year, PCT swept the awards for their production of “The Music Man.” Since then, PCT continued to sweep the awards and ultimately was forced to compete in the “professional” category. They continued to sweep the awards until about 1989 when interest waned on the part of the “slighted” theater organizations and the arts guild quietly dissolved. Over the years, PCT was also twice named one of “Utah’s Best Kept Secrets” by Utah Holiday Magazine.
Up to 1990 PCT had always had a reserved seating policy. Noticing that many people were arriving late because they knew they had a reserved seat, the decision was made to switch to non-reserved seating. It worked, people now line up 30 minutes to 1 hour ahead of time and the auditorium fills very quickly as soon as the house opens. The only exception to this is when the house sells (or nearly sells) out, occasionally holding up the start of the show to wait for those still in the long ticket line because they hadn’t purchased them ahead of time.