Many Weber State University students who have grown up in Ogden may have memories associated with the old Country Club Theater, and, after several years of the building changing owners or remaining empty, it is now being renovated into a new community theater called the Ziegfeld Theater.
“I know that a lot of people have grown up with this theater,” said Cameron Kapetanov, troupe member of comedy improv group Off the Wall, which purchased the theater. “They know it. I saw movies here as a kid, and it’s nostalgic. And it has never has been successful, but there have been a lot of things in here that haven’t quite kicked.”
Caleb Parry and his wife Morgan, who are owners of Off The Wall, bought the theater. The improv troupe has been performing on Friday nights at the Terrace Plaza Playhouse for years, but the Ziegfeld will become the troupe’s new home, and members hope it will be a place for more than just improv shows.
“We have Weber State students in our troupe, and they’ve already informed others that this is a place for growth, for experimentation and originality,” Kapetanov said. “And so, if there are students out there or artists out there who need a place to premiere their work or just a chance to show an audience what they’ve got, the Ziegfeld is the place.”
After the renovations being done over the next two weeks, the Ziegfeld will be open to start showing improv performances. The theater’s regular improv schedule will feature different types on different nights, such as the troupe’s famous long-form-style improv and Fraudway musicals on Friday nights and then short-form “Whose Line is it Anyway?”–style improv on Saturday nights.
Other plans for entertainment at the theater will be a complete theater season that is open to the community, showcasing local bands and showing movies. The Off the Wall troupe is interested in getting the community to be as involved as possible with the new theater, which also includes its rebuilding.
“If people came and helped, they’d be a part of history,” said Emilie Starr, troupe member of Off the Wall and musical theater major at WSU. “They could say, ‘I helped build the Ziegfeld Theater.’ It’s a great way to get to know people in the theater business, especially if you’re an actor or designer of any kind.”
From the ceiling to the floor, the venue is being completely redesigned and is taking a lot of time and effort to make over. The troupe appreciates any assistance, and there has even been an instance where a local community member walked into the venue off the street and merely asked, “What can I do to help?”
“We have limited funds, and we have really good ideas,” said Morgan Parry, who also said the most difficult part of renovating is trying to manage a budget for a full transformation of the building. “Not really expensive ideas, and we’re finding good ways to do things, but we want to make sure we can do what we want.”
The Parrys are both WSU graduates and want the theater to become a new haven for the arts in the Ogden community and for WSU students looking for a place to show their talent. They are also working with WSU’s Associated Actors and Technicians to see if, as a group, they would like to produce a show at the Ziegfeld during summer to give them an outlet in between the main school semesters of spring and fall.
Once the theater has been open for a few weeks and all the renovations are officially completed, there will be an official grand opening set in the beginning of March. The Ziegfeld will open its doors to what the Parrys described as a “variety week,” and they said they hope to have as many different community performances lined up as possible to showcase exactly what their theater will be used for.
“We want to provide something for students at Weber State to have something really close and fun,” Caleb said, “to do a date night, see a show, have pizza, get ice cream — that whole kind of experience where there is something fun to do just down the street from Weber State.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer their time to help renovate the theater or would like to perform at the grand opening in March can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for renovation times or performance dates.
“The Ziegfeld is going to be unique for theater in Ogden, and hopefully in Utah, because we want it to be a true community theater in the sense that we want to have as much involvement as possible,” Morgan Parry said. “We want to have everyone who wants to be involved in the space using it. We don’t want to be exclusive at all.”