Nathan and Ruth Hale plays

Nathan and Ruth Hale plays

Dates: 1930-1970

This collection contains photocopies of printed musical and dramatic plays by Nathan Hale and his wife, Ruth Hale. They began writing plays during the Great Depression of the 1930s when their LDS Church ward did not have the funds to purchase royalties. The collection contains 46 plays, many of which have been published.

  • Extent: 3 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Hale, Nathan, 1910-1994. -- Hale, Ruth, 1908-2003
  • Call Number: MSS 1278
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; Arts & Communications Archives; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602;
  • Access Restrictions: Open for public research.
Languages and Scripts
Conditions of Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Plays must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Preferred Citation
Initial citation: MSS 1278; Nathan and Ruth Hale plays; Arts and Communications Archives; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following citations: MSS 1278, LTPSC.
Other Finding Aids
File-level inventory available online.
Subject Terms
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Drama--20th century; Dramatists, American--Utah; Mormons--Drama; Musicals; Performing Arts
Genre / Form
Drafts (Documents); Photocopies
Appraisal Information
Arts and Communications.
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Hale (Nathan and Ruth) plays
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Megan Furcini
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-09-09T18:01-0600
Finding Aid Language
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

Mormon dramatist from Utah.

A ruggedly handsome actor, Nathan was also a producer, and a theater owner. Teamed with his wife, Ruth Hale, he founded community theaters in California and Utah. His children and grandchildren continue in this family legacy of the stage to this day, and some grandsons have become successful film directors.

Soon after Nathan met and married Ruth, they were asked to serve as drama leaders in their ward. They began writing their own plays to avoid paying royalties, with Ruth doing most of the writing, and for 8 years they staged their productions around the Salt Lake Valley. Already having four children, Nathan was not eligible for the draft, but he also was not happy with his job at Utah Copper, with the dust and grime of the mining operation. After reading in the paper about a lack of leading men in Hollywood due to WWII military service, Ruth mentioned that he might make a go at professional acting. Nathan replied that she had a better chance with her acting and plays. Despite the negative reaction from family and friends, they decided to move to southern California in 1943. Nathan took a job as a milkman leaving days and evenings available for acting work. He had some roles with the Altadena Players at the Pasadena Playhouse, but film work remained elusive. However, the Hales did participate in the production of two films in 1946 about the LDS welfare program, made in spare time by a team of Mormons in the film industry assembled by Disney animator Judge Whitaker. This was the start of film production within the LDS Church.

With film careers not materializing, they opened the Glendale Centre Theatre in Glendale, Ca. in 1947 (125 seats) to provide a venue for their acting. Their success soon led to a move and expansion. They staged plays that were free of profanity and illicit love affairs, leading to bookings of entire performances by church groups of various denominations. Ruth drew from her personal experiences in writing, and Nathan's favorite role was playing his own feisty English father-in-law in "Thank You Papa" penned by Ruth. Several actors would get their start at the Hale's theater including Gordon Jump, Mike Farrell, Connie Stevens, Richard Hatch, and Melissa Gilbert.

The Hales did initiate some film work of their own, independently producing three Mormon-themed films from 1955 to 1957 assisted by their nephew William Hale, and many members of the Glendale West Ward. "Choice Land" was a 20 minute film about America, including Book of Mormon scenes such as Lehi leaving Jerusalem (shot in the desert) and one with Jaredites. The earthquake leveling Zarahemla at the time of Christ's crucifixion was shot using a model of the city on a ping pong table. The Pilgrims were shot wading knee deep in snow at Mr. Wilson. "Oliver Cowdery" was filmed for $2,500 with a ten minute court scene rehearsed and shot in one evening. A third film was entitled "Is Fast Day a Headache?"

Nathan and his children would all later appear in one or more films produced for use by the Mormon Church. Nathan was well-cast as a leader of a Mormon colony in Mexico facing a threat from Pancho Villa in the film "And Should We Die" (1966), and as the grandfather in the 1986 re-make of "Man's Search for Happiness" (1964).

In 1983 the Hales retired to Utah, leaving their daughter Sandra and her husband running the Glendale theater. Soon bored, they decided to open the Salt Lake Hale Center Theatre with other family members. Hale Center theaters have continued to be opened elsewhere after Nathan's death. Grandsons Kurt Hale and Will Swenson have entered the ranks of directors in LDS cinema with "The Singles Ward" (2002) and "Sons of Provo" (2004).

Biographical information from IMDb mini biography by Brian Greenhalgh.

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Ben Harry
Curator - Arts & Communications Archives