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The story began in 1938, when the Annie Pearl and John A. Howell family built a movie house in Draper-“The Pearl” was born. Vaudeville acts started off the evening and a movie or two would follow. Even a few big names, like Tex Ritter, graced the stage of “The Pearl”. During the depression, a bag of groceries was given away every Friday night.
Locals felt fortunate to have a first run theatre right in their small town. For many generations this building, now on the Draper Historic Register, served as a gathering place for the south end of the valley. Tales are told (by now upstanding citizens) of a cherry bomb or two set off during shows and of sneaking buddies in through the back door.
Fast forward fifty years, when the theater was purchased by educators Charles and Vanessa Nelson. This dedicated couple added theatrical lighting and sound and expanded the stage, enabling the presentation of live shows, making DHT the only privately owned live theater in the south Salt Lake Valley.
From small beginnings to full productions of favorite plays and musicals, the theater grew to what could be called “the best kept secret in the valley.”
In 1998, Draper Historic Theatre became a non-profit organization. Three years later, Vanessa retired as manager-leaving the non-profit board, headed by Artistic Director Kevin McClellan and Board Chair Rhonda Neiswender, to manage the theater and produce the events. DHT’s reputation continues to grow as a great place for quality family entertainme