Ruth Hale

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Ruth Hale late Mormon actress

Ruth Emma Hudson Hale was an American playwright and actress. She was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hale was born on October 14, 1908, in Granger, Utah, to William and Edith Binnall Hudson, who adopted her. She never knew her birth parents. With no television yet to entertain her, she loved plays as a child. She was allowed to perform in some plays when she was a teenager. She remembers catching diphtheria the night one of the plays opened. She kissed the leading man, and luckily he didn’t catch it, but she missed the rest of the run of the play.

She began teaching third grade in Hunter, Utah, then served a full-time mission to the Eastern States and after she returned home she taught at Cyprus High School. She met and married James Nathan Hale in 1933 and they were asked to serve as ward drama leaders. They could not find a non-royalty play to perform, so they asked their bishop if the Church could afford to pay a royalty fee. When he was told it would be $25—during the Depression — he told the Hales to write one instead. So they did. They traveled throughout the Salt Lake Valley performing.

With four children in their home, Nathan worked in the Utah copper mine during World War II. He came home one day and told Ruth that he did not want to be working there still when he was in his 60s. She told him that she had read in the Deseret News that there was a shortage of leading men in Hollywood due to the war. Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart had both joined the service. So she suggested they pick up and move to California and get him into films.

In California, Nathan became a milkman during the day so he could be available for rehearsals and performances in the evening. He performed with the Altadena Players. They became disillusioned with their Hollywood film dreams, and a member of the Players cast suggested that they open a theater where they could perform in whatever they wanted. So the Hales found an old home in Glendale that had been made into a dance theater. The Glendale Centre Theatre was born in 1947 with 125 seats. Their first performance had only six people in attendance. Their plays featured family entertainment, so audiences grew by word of mouth and soon they had outgrown their humble beginnings. Ruth sold some property in Utah her father had left her to fund a new 230-seat theater. Allan and Sandy Hale Dietlein (the Hales’ daughter) joined the business and they opened another theater, but later consolidated into a larger theater that seated 450 patrons.

When Ruth wasn't at the theater checking receipts, making costumes, finding props, or directing shows, Ruth was writing. She had some 70 plays to her credit. Some were sold to Samuel French for distribution, and one was produced for the Kraft Theater on television.

Ruth was recipient of numerous awards including PBS Peabody, Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Days of '47 Pioneer of Progress Award for the State of Utah, a Presidential Citation from Brigham Young University, the first Larry H. Miller Free Enterprise Award, and a Utah Governor's Mansion Artist Award. While presenting one of the medals to Ruth in 1999, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt said, "Ruth may have added more to theater than any other living Utahn."[1]

They produced a few films for The Church of Jesus Christ: Oliver Cowdery: Witness to the Book of Mormon, A Choice Land, and Is Fast Day a Headache.

In 1979, Ruth and Nathan served a mission to Nauvoo, Illinois, bringing the Old Cultural Hall there back to life. They were guides during the day and then did mini skits about life in the old city of Nauvoo in the evening.

After their mission, Ruth and Nathan decided to retire to Utah and turned the Glendale Centre Theater over to Sandy and Allan. After six months, they were bored. When a woman saw them in a grocery store parking lot and asked them why they were in Utah, she was relieved that the Glendale theater was still running. Nathan told Ruth they should start a theater in Salt Lake City. They found an old lingerie factory and opened a new theater. They opened another one in Orem, and then started a summer theater in Grover, Utah. In 1990, they opened a new theater in Salt Lake City to replace the old one. Eventually the family opened a theater in Gilbert, Arizona.

Ruth continued to act into her nineties. She appeared in "The Singles Ward," "The R.M.," and "The Home Teachers," all directed by her grandson Kurt Hale. Actor Will Swenson, Hale Centre Theatre CEO Mark Dietlein, and illustrator Nathan Hale are also her grandsons.

Ruth and Nathan were the parents to three sons and four daughters. Nathan passed away on January 30, 1994 and Ruth died on April 20, 2003.

References