Sally Dietlein is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Hale Centre Theatre. In addition to being a featured actress, her broad-based expertise includes the direction of many comedies and musicals. Sally has also written six full-scale musicals, all of which have been produced at Hale Centre Theatre as well as other theaters throughout the country. Under her artistic direction, HCT has become one of the highest attended regional theaters in the nation with almost 600,000 patrons annually.

During March, the Salt Lake Chamber is highlighting influential women in Utah. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we asked Sally to share her stories, thoughts and advice.

Who are some women in your life who have impacted you?

I have a very obvious answer because of the line of work I’m in: Ruth Hale. We are the Hale Centre Theatre. In 1934, Grandpa and Grandma Hale — Nathan and Ruth Hale — began doing theater here in the Salt Lake area. Ruth loved theater from the time she was a tiny little girl, and she married a man who had the same love. I absorbed so much from Grandma Ruth Hale, and it was interesting to watch her utter joy and drive all the way until she was 93 and actually rolling herself on in a wheelchair doing lines.

She was the least boring grandmother on the planet. If my kids could spend any time with her, they would choose that over their own friends. She challenged us, always. You never told her no, because you would find that whatever she wanted you to do was for your best good and your growth. So we just learned to say yes, and we just moved forward and grew under so much of her tutelage.

The second woman would be my mother. When she found out we were going to go into the theater business, she moved in with us. She was the one who helped my 4-year-old learn to read, and she worked with us in a way that was very flexible with our weird schedules, even in her 70s, 80s and 90s. She taught me literature and poetry and supported me in my music lessons, which became the foundation of what I do today. 

I think the most important thing she taught me is forgiveness. We’re in a world of people. We’re all gonna make mistakes, and we’re all gonna fall flat. Her tutelage to look past that, forgive first and then work out the problems has gotten me through so many things in a much more peaceful, joyful way. I credit her so much for that.

How can others follow in your footsteps?

Start somewhere and see how it feels! Let me give you an example. There was a girl named Jen. At age 15, she began working in the old South Salt Lake theater in concessions. Then, she got the chance to be on stage and realized she really liked the feeling and the ambiance, so she decided to take some classes. She went to Utah State and she started taking classes in theater. Long story short, she went on to get her master’s degree in set design, and then her set design won an award, and she is now our principal set designer at Hale Centre Theatre. She is a marvel, and she started out working at the concession stand.

That idea applies to any industry — don’t be afraid to be the one who’s out there scrubbing floors or cleaning toilets. I did it. Don’t say no to something that is going to teach you from the ground floor up, just find out if you like the atmosphere and if you like the people. Keep as many doors open as possible. Look through as many avenues as you possibly can, find out what delights you and start learning about it. 

How do you maintain work-life balance? Do you have any advice for other women?

I don’t know if “balance” is the right word. There are times when one thing takes priority over the other, when one thing has more weight than the other. There are times when what I do with theater has taken over and had priority. Then there are other times when I need to somehow shift things and be elsewhere. But one thing we always did with our kids was include them in our work — not just walk through the door and be finished with it. They were always included in our conversations, and it allowed them to be team players and understand when work things came up. Now that our kids are grown up and married, they have tremendous business sense because we always talked with them about what we did. That would be my advice: involve your kids as much as you can, and remember that life isn’t always balanced. 

Why is it important to have women represented in all industries, including yours?

We need to have the opinions and the viewpoints of both men and women; we need to have insights of people from all walks of life. We gain so much more richness that way. It’s also especially important to have different viewpoints when we’re problem solving, and we have a lot of problems to solve. For example, when a director says, “I have a problem with the script, and I don’t know how to solve it,” we’ll get as many different people together as we can to come up with solutions. It is a mind-boggling thing, how much having different types of insight helps us solve problems. I wish the world were more like that!

*Stay updated on more stories, events and information on Women’s History Month by visiting the Salt Lake Chamber’s website.