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Tuacahn Center for the Arts
Tuacahn Fountain Sign.JPG
Address1100 Tuacahn Drive
Ivins, Utah
United States
Coordinates37°11′29″N 113°39′33″W / 37.1913°N 113.6592°W / 37.1913; -113.6592
OwnerTuacahn Center for the Arts
TypeOutdoor Amphitheatre
ProductionDisney's Beauty and the Beast,

School of Rock,

The Count of Monte Cristo
OpenedApril 1995
ArchitectMesa Consulting Group Inc.

The Tuacahn Center for the Arts is an organization for the arts located in the mouth of the Padre Canyon, adjacent to Snow Canyon State Park, in Ivins, Utah. The 42,000-square-foot (3,900 m2) facility was completed in 1995 and includes a 1,920-seat outdoor amphitheater, a 328-seat indoor theater, a black box theater, a dance studio, a costume shop, a scene shop, and the campus of Tuacahn High School for the Arts. Tuacahn's show season includes two or three productions for its amphitheater stage, a spring and fall concert series, and Christmas in the Canyon featuring a live-action recreation of the nativity called the "Festival of Lights."


Tuacahn was founded in 1995 by Utah playwright Douglas C. Stewart. Partnering with philanthropist, and creator of the Franklin Planner, Hyrum W. Smith, he planned the creation of a setting where the story of the founding of southern Utah could be told. The two, using a plot of 80 acres previously owned by Orval Hafen, set to building this dream. Utah production designer Seven Nielsen designed the amphitheater complex which included a 45,000-gallon water holding pond, a river spillway, and a drainage system for the flash-flood sequence in the premiere musical production of "Utah!"


During the construction of the center, two Mojave Desert Tortoises (an endangered species) were found dead along the road which led from the main highway to the construction site. This halted construction while an investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service commenced. On Aug 18, 1994, an agreement was reached between the Heritage Arts Foundation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service in which the foundation paid a fine of $20,000 and agreed to special measures to ensure tortoises would be protected during construction and after the center opened.[1] This included special "tortoise-proof fences" and passages underneath the road where wildlife could pass under.

Opening and "Utah!: the Musical Spectacular"[edit]

Tuacahn opened in April 1995 with a dedication by Gordon B. Hinckley and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.[2]

The venue initially presented the musical Utah! (book by Robert Paxton, lyrics by Doug Stewart, music by Kurt Bestor and Sam Cardon, and production design by Seven Nielsen) a dramatic retelling of the founding of southern Utah through the eyes of Jacob Hamblin, an early pioneer called by Brigham Young to settle the city of Santa Clara and to make peace with the Native Americans in the region. The production used the natural canyon setting to great effect, dramatically lighting the red rock cliffs and incorporating special elements like pyrotechnics, live animals, and special effects including a flash flood that came across the stage toward the audience. Amidst the spectacle, the production's book included subjects sensitive to the Mormon population, including depictions of polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and Jesus Christ's appearance to Native Americans, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. Audience discomfort with these issues and lukewarm reviews prompted the rewriting of the show every season. Minor changes were made between the premiere in 1995 and the 1996 production. A major rewrite was undertaken for the 1997 production by Reed McColm, but major characters remained and Jacob Hamblin was still central to the story. In 1998, the book and lyrics were completely rewritten by Tim Slover and Marvin Payne, creating a fictional storyline that emphasized the peacemaking efforts between pioneers and native peoples. The production was remounted one final time for an abbreviated fall season in 2002, with Stallion Cornell providing yet another new book based on the 1996 version of the show.[3] "Utah!" has not been produced since the 2002 season.

"Broadway in the Desert"[edit]

In 1999, with diminishing interest in "Utah!" and lackluster ticket sales from the 1998 season, the Tuacahn's board of directors changed the theatre's programming to a season of more popular, family-friendly broadway musicals presented in rotating repertory. The first season of this new format consisted of a double bill of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, both of which were wildly successful[clarification needed] with visitors from all United States and 25 other nations. In 2002, productions of Annie Get Your Gun and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat broke all previous box office records. This occurred again in 2003 when The Wizard of Oz broke all box office records at Tuacahn.

In 2005, under the direction of the new artistic director Scott Anderson, Tuacahn commemorated their tenth season by presenting Beauty and the Beast and a third production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. These two shows once again beat all previous ticket sales.[clarification needed] The successful production of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" began a relationship between Tuacahn and Disney Theatricals that has lasted over a decade. In 2006, MTI selected Tuacahn as one of eight regional theaters in the United States to present the first post-Broadway semi-professional productions of Les Misérables. In June 2009, Tuacahn was awarded rights to present the post-Broadway regional-theatre premiere of Disney's Tarzan. Due to this success, Disney awarded them the rights for the post-Broadway regional premiere of The Little Mermaid. The 2014 season, which included The Little Mermaid, The Wizard of Oz, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was its most successful season to date hosting over 260,000 patrons. Tuacahn announced its 2015 season would include "Disney's Beauty And The Beast," "Disney's When You Wish," and "Sister Act." "Disney's When You Wish" was a world premier.

Educational Programs[edit]

Tuacahn's school facility was originally conceived as a private school where students would receive private lessons and participate in group classes. The school was not initially successful, due in part to the remoteness of the location of the school.

In 1999, Tuacahn decided to re-open the school as a Utah Charter High School. Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts, a high school that combines a college preparatory curriculum and an arts focus in music, dance, theater, or visual art. Through the years it has been awarded with many accolades including first place at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Over 30% of graduates from Tuacahn High continue onto college degrees.


Tuacahn has two venues most frequently used for theatrical productions.

Tuacahn Amphitheater[edit]

The Tuacahn Amphitheater is a 1,920-seat open-air amphitheater. It consists of three sections of seating (Left, Right, Center) with 32 rows A (front) - FF (rear). All seats have backs and arms, but are not cushioned. Entrance to the amphitheater is from the rear, requiring all patrons to descend the stairs toward their seats. Patrons with limited mobility are encouraged to sit near the top (rear) of the amphitheater. There is extra leg room on row O which is sometimes used during the productions when actors walk through the audience. Wheelchair accessible seating is available on the back row (FF) only. The stage has a concrete subfloor with a concrete pass-under tunnel to get from stage left to stage right out of view of the audience. The rear of the stage is open to expose the desertscape and red rock cliffs behind the stage which contains lighting, sound, pyrotechnical, and water effects installations. The area behind the stage is a mixture of natural stone and naturally colored concrete. This concrete riverbed was installed during initial construction to facilitate a massive 55,000 gallon flood of water that comes from the back of the canyon and across the stage toward the audience. Though conceptualized and custom-built for the "Utah!" production, this special effect and other water effects have been featured in numerous productions at Tuacahn.

The Hafen Theater[edit]

The Hafen Theater is a 328-seat indoor proscenium arch theatrical facility. It is part of the Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts facility, though semi-professionally staged productions have been featured in this theater in the past.

Black Box and Dance Studio[edit]

The black box theater and dance studio are used primarily as working spaces for school classes, rehearsals, and special events. They are not commonly used for theatrical presentations.

Productions in the Amphitheatre[edit]

  • Utah!
  • Quilters
  • 1940's Radio Hour
  • Utah!
  • Utah!
  • How the West Was Won

Productions in the Hafen Theatre[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FOUNDATION, AGENCY OK PACT ON TORTOISES". Deseret News. 19 Aug 1994.
  2. ^ "President Hinckley dedicates Tuacahn". LDS Church News. 15 April 1995. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Utah!". Stallion Cornell's Moist Blog. Retrieved 17 October 2015.

External links[edit]