Marina Gomberg

Marina Gomberg

December 06, 2021

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In October, the College of Fine Arts Department of Theatre celebrated the opening of the John & Marcia Price Theatre Arts Building alongside many friends, students, faculty, and staff. 

The grand celebration included behind-the-scenes tours of the new facility, formerly known as Building 73. Attendees got a close-up look at studios, lighting lab, prop and costume studios, and more. They also had the chance to hear from University of Utah President Taylor Randall, Dean of the College of Fine Arts John Scheib, Chair of the Department of Theatre Sydney Cheek-O'Donnell, and Jennifer Price-Wallin, Chair of the Fine Arts Advisory Board. Students in the Musical Theatre Program (MTP) sang "Like Breathing" by Pasek and Paul, led by the Head of the MTP, David Schmidt. 

The John & Marcia Price Theatre Arts Building, along with the adjacent Price Family Amphitheater, has already completely transformed the student experience. We were so grateful to have this chance to recognize the incredible generosity of the Price family, and to celebrate the future of theatre at the University of Utah. 

Take a look at the gallery from the celebration! 
All photos by Jeff Bagley 

By Emeri Fetzer 

This week, the University of Utah Department of Theatre will dazzle audience members of all ages with “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience,” a musical adaptation of a children’s book by Mo Willems. Directed by General McArthur Hambrick, with music by composer Deborah Wicks La Puma, the show follows Wilbur, naked mole rat with a knack for style.

mae propsMae Hinton-Godfrey demonstrates one propThe props studio in the new Price Theatre Arts Building has been a wild flurry of labor and excitement, as props designers craft all manner of objects and furniture central in bringing Wilbur's world to life. Props Master Arika Schockmel worked alongside two student assistant designers, Mae Hinton-Godfrey and Sam Dalton, to build rolling root stumps, clothing carts, signs, and a storefront – just to name a few pieces.

Assistant prop designer Mae Hinton-Godfrey initially started her studies at the U in education, and was taking a costume class just for fun. It was when she experienced great success in her first paid job as a costumer that she started seriously considering it as a career. Now, she never wants to leave. 

“I have enjoyed seeing the progression from a story book into a fully three-dimensional world with a lot more realism than I had initially expected.”

“Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience” is her first foray into props. “I have found that it’s been really helpful to understand the role props plays, filling in the gaps between set and costume. I like seeing where we can support other areas rather than just working in an isolated environment. As a costumer, I tend to try to do everything on my own, and not necessarily communicate with other departments,” she said.

This show has been both more collaborative and more playful than some of those past experiences.

“I am actually really excited for this show because it’s a musical and a kids’ show," Hinton-Godfrey said. "We were going to make a lot of the designs two-dimensional, but it has evolved into some more organic designs. For example, the set is based on some of the beautiful red rock formations here in Utah. I have enjoyed seeing the progression from a story book into a fully three-dimensional world with a lot more realism than I had initially expected.”

Prop artist Sam Dalton is in his final year as a theatre major at the U, then plans to go to grad school for a Master’s in higher education. Besides lending a hand on roots, he was responsible for cue card signs, which he drew free-hand, based on Mo Willems whimsical style. “It was really fun to create the things that get to be sillier, and get interacted with in the show,” he said. “The type face for the signs is called Grilled Cheese!”

With most of his design experience in set, Dalton is also having fun discovering the world of props. “This process has helped me understand the nuances,” he explained. “Just because something is a clothing item doesn’t mean it’s costumes. It’s really about how it is being used in the show, and who is using it. It has made it easier to develop relationships with other areas that help when you need something to make the show better.”

Disruptions in the supply chain have made this particular process challenging for the team. But creativity has prevailed, and even revealed some exciting innovations. “Items are more expensive right now, and shipping is more expensive and slower, so we had to be very creative and manage our expectations,” Schockmel said. “We had a plan for how we were going to build things, and then it turned out we couldn’t afford it, so we had to go with plan B. Plan B was garbage, which was better. It was faster, easier, and more creative for all the students involved.”

"Props is something you don’t know you like until you do it. All students have to take a lab aspect, so they will work with costumes, set, props, and sound. I try to grab people that enjoy crafts and encourage them to take my class. It is wonderful for problem solving."

Recycling and sustainability are important to the design team. Many would be surprised to know just how many materials in U Theatre’s shows are repurposed or up-cycled.

“Our technical director salvaged baling wire from a house he was clearing. We had to line everything with wire so we could bend it into the shapes we needed. People were bringing us plastic bags, bubble wrap, and we brought things from home,” Schockmel explained.

They were also beneficiaries of a happy mistake. “Two years ago, there was a mistake in ordering paper towels for our building’s machines, and so janitorial staff came, and asked if we would like the paper towels that didn't fit. We said, ‘Oh yes, we would!’ We’ve used thousands of paper towels to paper mâché. And we got our paint from the Department of Film & Media Arts when they shut down a set last season.”

Additionally, Pioneer Theatre Company donated piles of clothes they were cleaning out from their costume department this summer, and a few costume racks that were on their way to the salvage yard. A win-win for everyone.

Department of Theatre curriculum requires that all students take a design element, even if they are focusing on performance. This prepares them for the professional world, where those in theatre wear various hats.

“Props is something you don’t know you like until you do it. All students have to take a lab aspect, so they will work with costumes, set, props, and sound. I try to grab people that enjoy crafts and encourage them to take my class. It is wonderful for problem solving,” Schockmel said.

Come see the amazing work of this team, as well as the entire cast and crew of “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience.” We can’t wait to rock with you!


Babcock Theatre



Nov 12 @ 7:00 pm
Nov 13 @ 11:00 am
Nov 13 @ 2:00 pm
Nov 14 @ 2:00 pm
Nov 14 @ 5:00 pm
Nov 18 @ 10:00 am
Nov 19 @ 7:00 pm
Nov 21 @ 2:00 pm*
Nov 21 @ 5:00 pm

*Sensory Friendly performance
ASL INTERPRETER: Nov 19 @ 7:00 pm
Remember, all U students get in free with their U Card, thanks to Arts Pass! 

What are Sensory Friendly shows?

Sensory Friendly shows are geared towards patrons with sensory sensitivity. The subject matter is geared towards patrons with the developmental age of 4-8.

Please join us for an afternoon of performance, tours, and celebration of the new John & Marcia Price Theatre Arts Building at the University of Utah, home of the College of Fine Arts Department of Theatre!

John & Marcia Price Theatre Arts Building Tour
Tuesday, October 19 4:30-6:00P* 
332 S 1400 E Salt Lake City, UT 84112 

*Main Program to begin at 4:30P – reception at the new Price Family Amphitheatre to follow

Please RSVP by Monday, Oct. 18 to  (479) 466-4340


PTAB Tour Parking Map

Safety Information

For the safety of our community, we ask that all patrons attending to follow recent CDC guidance, which calls for everyone to wear face masks indoors. We ask that patrons please not attend any show if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are feeling unwell.

By: Marina Gomberg

When you study at University of Utah College of Fine Arts, you’re not just introduced to some of the finest faculty members on the planet. You oftentimes also get to enjoy the benefits of those faculty members’ vast and esteemed networks, too. 

This was the case with the graduating seniors in the University of Utah Department of Theatre’s Actor Training Program (ATP), who got to have one final guest artist experience with assistant professor, Robert Scott Smith’s graduate school buddy — oh, and Emmy and Golden Globe winner — Jim Parsons.

Smith wanted to provide something really special to the ATP students who are graduating during this global pandemic, and a visit with Parsons was his Big Bang Theory (har har), especially because the two of them had their own experience graduating during a particularly challenging time.

“We finished our graduate work from the University of San Diego after 9/11,” Smith noted. “So, I thought the students might uniquely benefit from hearing how he faced life after school in what felt like a pretty uncertain world.”

In an intimate and invite-only Zoom meeting, Smith and Parsons bantered back and forth about their time together in school, and Smith posed questions to Parsons from the personal to the professional.

 “I think the thickest common thread of our experience to this experience is that it forces you to realize your commitment to what it is you want,” Parsons said, as he reflected on how the world’s uncertainty made him surer of his own drive and passion as an artist.

The two spoke about life in quarantine, protecting art in the dollar-driven business of artmaking, Parson’s work producing the series “Special,” and his works on Broadway, navigating between playing to a camera versus a live audience, the value of being prepared, and handing life when it all feels like trial by fire.

He opened up genuinely about his own personal writing practices, the discovery of his aversion to the business side of the work, and how he overcomes his own doubts and fears.

 “I do think that’s a big part of it, is to understand that fear and uncertainty are the companions — they’re always in the side car. And when you quit fighting them — for me at least — they become smaller, for lack of engaging with them as much. But they also offer their own excitement and mystery, and you learn, sometimes, to let that be the joy.”

After about 45 minutes of what felt like watching two longtime friends catch up in their living room (which even included the recipe for Parsons’ apparently famous Velveeta chip dip), Smith opened the session to student questions, which ranged from the more pragmatic and tactical to philosophical and lofty. Each of the questions, though, was paired with profuse gratitude for the opportunity to hear from Parsons and pick his brain.

It was a big bang, indeed.

Parsons sent one final thought after the call for Smith to share with the students:

"YOU ARE ENOUGH. I think it’s THE most CRUCIAL information I ever received and it means something new and deeper to me with each passing year but, as an actor, I HIGHLY advise saying it to yourself as often as you can remember to do so and until you believe it!"

The University of Utah’s Department of Theatre will present Qui Nguyen’s She Kills Monsters at Kingsbury Hall, by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Directed by Jamie Rocha Allan, this tale of friendship, loss, and acceptance follows young woman Agnes Evans as she grieves the death of her sister, Tilly. While exploring her sister’s life, Agnes discovers that Tilly was a well-known Dungeons and Dragons player and dives into a fantastical world chock-full of supermodel elves, dominatrix warrior women, and nasty ogres.

She Kills Monsters runs Jan. 16-19 at 7:30 p.m. with 2:00 p.m. performances on Jan 18 and 19.  The 2:00 pm performance on Jan. 18 will be ASL interpreted. A talkback with the cast and creative team will follow the 7:30 p.m. performance on Jan. 18. As director Jamie Rocha Allan describes, the production is the result of many creative collaborations.

“What most excites me about bringing She Kills Monsters to the stage is the chance to show off all the incredible collaborators I have worked with, from faculty, to students to freelance artists. This really is an ensemble show on and off the stage.” The talented cast includes members of both the Actor Training Program and Musical Theatre Program of the U’s Department of Theatre including Allison Billmeyer as Tilly Evans, and Piper Salazar as Agnes Evans. Puppet designer Matt Sorensen collaborated with students to create several original puppets that enhance the imaginary world of monsters and dragons. The production features scenic design by Thomas George, costume design by Peter Terry, lighting design by Rachael Harned, sound design and composition by Gerard Black, dramaturgy by Mason Duncan, choreography by Aria Klein, and fight choreography by Harris Smith.

Read more about the creation of the production’s stunning puppetry here.

She Kills Monsters at a Glance

Dates and Times: January 16 – 19 at 7:30 pm Matinees January 18* and 19 at 2:00 pm *ASL interpretation available

Location: Kingsbury Hall is located at 1395 East Presidents Circle at the University of Utah. Free parking is available for all Kingsbury Hall events at either Rice-Eccles Stadium or Merrill Engineering. Meters are available along Presidents Circle. Most are free after 6:00 PM on nights with public performances at Kingsbury Hall, but fill up fast.

Tickets: General Admission tickets are $18, University of Utah faculty and staff are $15, University of Utah students are free with UCard, and all other students with valid student ID are $8.50. Tickets can be obtained by calling 801-581-7100, online at or at the Performing Arts Box Office, located at Kingsbury Hall.  The performance on Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. will be FREE for any student (middle school, high school, college) with a valid student ID. Please redeem your ticket by 7:10 p.m. from the performing arts box office located outside the Kingsbury Hall Theater. Content warning: Children under four years of age, including babes in arms, will not be admitted. Contains simulated violence, sexual content, adult language, references to suicide.