This is the final post of our 3-part series “A Space Odyssey” celebrating the creation of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (you can read the previous post in the series here.) Be sure to join us this Saturday, August 27th, for the Rose Exposed celebration of “Flight” – a night to benefit the Tracy Aviary. Click HERE for more information.
Linda Smith meets I.J. “Izzi” Wagner
In January 1994, RDT moved into the RESCO building at 138 West Broadway (300 S.). We put a portable dance floor in the middle of the large warehouse bay and rehearsed daily. The entrance to the building was glass. This allowed people on the street a view of our rehearsals. The transients would seek shelter or a place to drink in the entryway. We noticed that a certain gentleman kept coming into the building to watch a few minutes of rehearsal. One day, I approached him to investigate his motives and started a conversation. I asked him if he liked dance. He said that his wife used to be a dance in vaudeville. 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 am also from Salt Lake,” I said.
“Listen to me,” said the man. “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.”
“What is your name?” I asked. The man replied, “Izzi Wagner.”
I suggested the PAC take Mr. Wagner, the owner of the site, to lunch and they introduced him to the vision of the arts project.
To make a long story short, in September 1995, the old RESCO was demolished and construction began on a new building.
Home Sweet Home
In January 1997, RDT moved into its new home, phase one of The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. We held the first performance in the Leona Wagner Black Box Theatre, named after Izzi’s sister. RDT’s premier featured choreography honoring Rose Wagner, Issi’s mother. “Essence of Rose” was a tribute to the energy, generosity, and ingenuity of the Wagner family.
Cooperation, perseverance and determination have given the community a vital center dedicated to the arts. I can say with certainty that RDT has celebrated 50 years (as of 2016) in this beautiful theater because of some incredible individuals who can never be thanked or recognized enough for what they did for RDT and the entire arts community. While I couldn’t begin to mention everyone associated with this project. I must recognize some of the champions who caught the vision and helped Repertory Dance Theatre realize its dream.
Ivan Weber, RDT staff and Board of Trustees, Alice Steiner, Susan Boskoff, Performing Arts Coalition Directors and Board, Jim Bradley, Rich Romano, Brent Cameron, Salt Lake County Center for the Arts (which now manages the Center), Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency, local arts groups who formed a coalition of advisors, Prescott Muir Architects, EMA Architects LLC, patrons, foundations and financial contributors, and of course …
… I.J. “Izzi” Wagner. We should all be very proud. Hooray!
Linda C. Smith is the Executive/Artistic Director of RDT. A founding member of the Company, she now divides her time between preparing budgets for grants and wrangling dancers in the studio. She also likes to vacuum the RDT Offices.