The Grand Theatre At SLCC Hosts Playwright Inge’s ‘Picnic’

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Professional actors at SLCC's Grand Theatre will recreate a classic that originally starred the late Paul Newman.

The Grand Theatre at Salt Lake Community College, 1575 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, will host the William Inge play “Picnic,” March 17 to April 2. Andra Harbold is directing the play, which will be shown Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturdays at 2 p.m.

The story is about a handsome young drifter named Hal, who arrives one Labor Day weekend in a typical conservative all-American town. His combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling, especially the beautiful Madge. When Hal leaves town, Madge must decide whether their fleeting encounter is worth changing the course of her life.

The play premiered at the Music Box Theatre, Broadway, on February 19, 1953, in a Theatre Guild production, directed by Joshua Logan, which ran for 477 performances. The original cast featured Ralph Meeker, Eileen Heckart, Arthur O'Connell, Janice Rule, Reta Shaw, Kim Stanley and Paul Newman. Inge won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work, and Logan received a Tony Award for Best Director. The play also won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the season. Picnic was Paul Newman's Broadway debut. An unknown at the time, Newman campaigned heavily for the leading role of Hal, but director Joshua Logan did not think Newman was physically large enough to convey the lead character's athletic attributes. As a result, Ralph Meeker was given the role of Hal opposite Janice Rule as Madge. Newman played Hal's former college roommate Alan Seymour while understudying the role of Hal. Newman eventually took over the lead role.

The landmark Grand Theatre is a 1,100-seat venue located at Salt Lake Community College's historic South City Campus, home of the innovative and state-of-the-industry Center for Arts and Media at 1575 South State Street in Salt Lake City. The theatre dates back to the 1930s when it was part of South High School, which SLCC purchased in 1989, a year after the school closed. The Grand Theatre began offering productions in 1996 and has since, with great care and expense, retained its Depression-era charm and attraction while also incorporating the latest technology in lighting and sound. For the past two years, it has been an official screening venue for the annual Sundance Film Festival. Every season, the Grand is host to award-winning theatre and dance productions and concerts that attract arts enthusiasts from all along the Wasatch Front.

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Stephen Speckman
Salt Lake Community College
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