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SLAC's Upstairs Theatre to Become Fully Wheelchair Accessible Through Newly-Created Fund Named in Memory of Patron Amberlee Hatton-Ward

DIARY OF A WORM, A SPIDER, AND A FLY by Joan Cushing (2016) DIARY OF A WORM, A SPIDER, AND A FLY by Joan Cushing (2016)
May 04, 2020

Salt Lake Acting Company's historic building, nestled in the Marmalade Hill neighborhood of Salt Lake City, is charming and part of the SLAC experience. However, that experience is not the same for everyone. For patrons who use wheelchairs or accommodations to get upstairs, participating in our work can be a considerable challenge. For years we have watched patrons struggle to get into our Upstairs Theatre. Yet, despite these challenges, patrons keep coming back. One of our subscribers said on the way to the Upstairs Theatre in the chair lift, "Take me to heaven, that's what I call SLAC, heaven."  Since 2015, we have made strides towards becoming more accessible. We updated our old chair lift, which removed barriers for some of our audience. However, the lift still falls short for accommodating those who cannot transfer from their wheelchair. 

As part of Salt Lake Acting Company's accessibility initiative, we are pleased to announce the Amberlee Accessibility Fund.

Amberlee Hatton-Ward and FriendsAmberlee Hatton-Ward (right) and friends enjoying a SLAC productionCreated in honor of Amberlee Hatton-Ward, this campaign will raise funds to make SLAC's Upstairs Theatre fully-accessible by installing an elevator in the lobby. Amberlee and her "little buddies" began attending our children's production in 2014. Amberlee used a wheelchair and an alternate method of communication. Because of the limitations of our building, Amberlee was carried into the theatre by her friends and family. Our production of A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD left a smile on Amberlee's face and had such an impact on her that attending became an annual tradition, despite the added barrier of the production being in the Upstairs Theatre. 

In December of 2019, Amberlee's mother, Shauna, held a celebration of life in Amberlee's memory at Salt Lake Acting Company's production of PETE THE CAT. We are honored that our work touches our audience so profoundly that patrons attend despite the extra challenges our historic building presents. ASSIST Logo

Generous support is also being lent to the project by ASSIST, a non-profit community design center that leverages architecture, planning, and construction to provide equitable housing and transportation choices for all communities. 

All of us at Salt Lake Acting Company are deeply committed to sharing our art with all audiences. It is our goal to install an elevator in our lobby by September of 2020, removing barriers for those who use wheelchairs from being active participants in our work.  If you'd like to contribute, you may visit our donation page or call 801-363-7522.


A Tribute to Amberlee by Her Mother, Shauna Rasmussen Hatton-Ward

My sweet daughter, Amberlee, and her friends LOVED attending Salt Lake Acting Company’s annual professional children’s productions. For nearly 10 years, our family and friends celebrated the holidays with SLAC and it was the one and only public event that we attended each year. It was our "gift" to everyone to enjoy food and the theatre as we kicked off the holiday season

When Amberlee was born in 1982, she wasn’t expected to live through the night. She was severely and multiply impacted at birth due to oxygen deprivation; asphyxiated by the very umbilical cord that gave her life. She seized, and was ultimately Life-Flighted to a trauma center, where she continued to tenaciously fight for her life.

Amberlee was a hero of sorts. She lived for 38 years in a body that would not move for her. She was dependent on others for her total care. As her mom, her caretaker, and her voice in this life, I was privileged to have the opportunity to grow with her and to experience her. I was a new, first time, young mom and determined to make her life all that I could. And together...we did. 

One of the most beautiful experiences we encountered was attending a SLAC production. It was truly an expression of love. However, it wasn't until the last 10 years of Amberlee's life that we were so fortunate to have this theatre experience as our annual "Holiday Tradition." Attending SLAC’s children’s productions was an experience that made Amberlee laugh out loud and she was always so loved by theatre staff, stage crew, and actors. She was nearly "on stage" with her wheelchair and was accommodated by SLAC. Always assuring a wonderful time for all. 

Amberlee was an ambassador and forged the way for so many.  SLAC was the conduit that brought many children and their families to the theater; some for the very first time. It was the highlight of December and we were privileged to share this experience with many families that loved and cherished Amberlee.  What a treat it was to see the faces of both children and adults as they enjoyed the play. Always wanting to ask questions at the end and so mesmerized by the performances! The stage and performances captivated us and let us forget for just a moment, the difficulties of life.  SLAC will always be one of our favorite memories. Amberlee loved music and the theatre. It was by far the most precious way she could express herself, in her limited condition of confinement, and it will always be one of the fondest memories we have. Forever. 

Amberlee died in my arms at home on October 5, 2019, shortly before all of the Covid-19 restrictions were in place. She was 38 years old. Her death was a way for her to leave this life on her terms and in her way. She brought so much love to so many and will always remain a steadfast reminder of grace, fortitude and tenacity. Our love and gratitude will always shine upon SLAC for embracing all individuals with various hardships and difficulties and providing a temporary shelter of love and joy during every performance.