Celebrate Six Resident Companies at ROSE EXPOSED… The Sky is Falling


By Linda Smith, Artistic Director for Repertory Dance Theatre
Also published in the August issue of Catalyst Magazine

In January 1994, Repertory Dance Theatre leased the old Restaurant Equipment Supply building at 138 West Broadway. We put a portable dance floor in the middle of the large warehouse and rehearsed daily. The entrance to the building allowed pedestrians a view of our activities. This was a derelict area and transients would seek shelter or a place to drink in the entryway of RESCO. I noticed that a certain gentleman would make a daily pilgrimage to peek at rehearsals. One day, I cornered him to investigate his motives. I asked him if he liked dance. He said that his wife used to be a vaudeville dancer. He added, “I was born here.” I answered that I was also a native of Utah. “No” said the man. “I mean that I was born right here.” I told him that I was also from Salt Lake. “Listen to me,” he said. “I was born right here on this spot. My family home was on this site. My family business was right here, right where this building stands.” When I asked his name, the answer to my question was startling. “I’m Izzy Wagner.” was the response.

The man whom I believed to be a homeless vagrant was one of the City’s most respected and successful businessmen.

I.J. “Izzy” Wagner’s old adobe family home was originally located at 144 W. Broadway, which later became the business address of Wagner Bag, a company that manufactured and distributed packaging materials at that address from 1912 to 1958.

To make a long story short, Izzy became the lead private donor, and in September 1995, the old warehouse was demolished and construction began on what is now affectionately called The Rose, named for Izzy’s mother.

Development of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center

In the early 1980’s, I learned that RDT’s barracks building home at the University of Utah was slated for demolition. Friends, board members and community leaders advised us to establish a g

reater presence downtown. The first step in the process of designing a new home for ourselves was to dream. What would the ideal space look like? What activities could we develop in a larger facility? RDT needed to grow. We wanted to increase the number of home season performances, develop a school, sponsor other performing groups, present lectures, demonstrations, activities for children and seniors, and become more integrated into the life of the community. We envisioned large rehearsal studios, efficient office space, and multiple performance spaces.

While setting our own priorities, we realized that other arts groups were also in need of rehearsal and performance space. It became clear that RDT’s ambitious goals could only be realized by forming partnerships and coalitions.

In 1989, RDT Board member Alice Steiner accepted an invitation to help our company find a new home. Alice formed a nonprofit organization, the Performing Arts Coalition (PAC), dedicated to developing a performing arts center. She invited the arts community to collaborate.  In 1990, local arts organizations met to share ideas.

We envisioned creating a place with no “cultural barriers” where people could feel comfortable and welcome. We dreamed of a community center where audiences and artists could create a dialogue; a place to explore all kinds of social and political issues; a place where experimentation and innovation could thrive; a place where arts groups could interact, support one another and cooperate to help contribute to the economic vitality and cultural life downtown.

A public/private partnership was formed between the local non-profit arts organizations, the Performing Arts Coalition (PAC) and Salt Lake County. Through cooperation and tenacity, a dynamic home for artists and audiences was born.

Home Sweet Home

In the fall of 1996, phase I of The Rose was completed and featured the 200-seat Leona Wagner Black Box named for Izzy’s sister. RDT christened the space in January of 1997. Then, in 2001, Phase II was completed and the 500-seat Jeanne Wagner Theatre (named for Izzy’s wife) opened its doors and in 2002, a rehearsal studio was converted to the 75-seat Studio Theatre.

The Black Box is now home to PYGmalion Theatre Company and SB Dance, the Jeanne to Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, RDT and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company; and the Studio Theatre to Plan-B Theatre Company.

The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Today

Keeping Utah arts groups healthy depends on cooperation and interaction. Thus PAC is now a coalition of the six resident companies who love to collaborate, commiserate, and collectively problem-solve to make all activities at The Rose more successful.

Together we make our Broadway neighborhood a destination for thousands of people. The Rose is not just the building across from Squatters. This is our home, a gathering place, a laboratory, an incubator for creativity. The Rose is a joyful place filled with experimentation and interaction and we want everyone in the community to feel part of the process.

While many members of the general public are patrons of The Rose, there are countless numbers of potential audience members who have yet to be introduced to the variety of artistic programs that are offered in this lively arts center.

In 2012, PAC launched Rose Exposed, a collaborative event that introduces the public to the facility and to the many arts organizations that are residents. The innovative activities help the “branding” of the Broadway mile and help nurture all the businesses and all the arts events that take place in one of the most vibrant and interesting areas in downtown Salt Lake City.

Now celebrating its 6th year of exploration, hoopla and provocative entertainment – not to mention the 20th anniversary of the Rose Wagner itself! – Rose Exposed is one of Salt Lake’s most innovative events featuring a new short work created around a unifying theme by each of the six resident companies. Rose ExposedThe Sky is Falling, focused on all the ta-do surrounding fake news, is inspired by the well-known folktale that makes light of paranoia and mass hysteria. SB Dance will go full gangster-noir; RWDC and RDT will create new work that day, PYGmalion will weave the pieces together with sightings of Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey throughout the night; Stephan Beus (Gina Bachauer’s 2006 Gold Medalist) will elevate the scene with live music; and Matthew Ivan Bennett (Plan-B’s resident playwright) will wrap up the evening with a new, apocalyptic comedy, whether or not the sky actually falls.


Rose Exposed …The Sky Is Falling

Saturday, August 26 at 8pm

Learn more at RoseExposed.org

Get tickets at https://artsaltlake.org/production/rose-exposed-2/