Utah Opera, Mormon Miracle Pageant costumer honored with Days of ’47 Award
SALT LAKE CITY—Susan Memmott Allred, a costume designer who has contributed to multiple theatre organizations and performances across Utah and local to Sanpete County, has been honored with the Days of ’47 2017 Pioneers of Progress Award for Historic and Creative Arts.
The annual award coincides with a celebration of Utah’s pioneer heritage and honors “modern-day Utahns who perpetuate a legacy of industry and integrity.” According to Margo Ayre, chair of the Pioneers of Progress dinner, the award is about “keeping pioneer heritage alive.”
“There are so many people in our state who are basically modern-day pioneers,” Ayre said. “By and large the majority of our award winners are people who fly under the radar. It’s fun to get to know them and what they’re doing for our state.”
The award recognizes Memmott Allred’s lifetime achievement for her contribution in the arts. Memmott Allred credits some of her success to the organizations and performances she has helped launch with her costume design.
In Salt Lake City, Memmott Allred worked with the Utah Opera and founded the opera’s costume shop, “They still have literally over millions of dollars’ worth of stock because of that.” At the Shakespearean Festival’s inception and after attending Southern Utah University she worked with former college professor, festival founder and executive producer emeritus, Fred Adams. When aerial ski acrobatics began, Memmott Allred designed the ski clothing for skier Bob Theobald.
In Sanpete County, Memmott Allred designed costume for the Mormon Miracle Pageant and worked to “revamp” the production. Since 2004, Memmott Allred has worked costume design for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the PBS Christmas show.
Though, Memmott Allred is not always sewing costumes; sewing, she said, is something she has done since she was a teenager.
“My mother taught me to sew,” Memmott Allred said. “I was really tall as a young girl so pants and dresses were always too short. I would make my own dresses and bell bottoms.”
Memmott Allred said that sewing just came easily to her. When she would sew with her mother, she would get scolded for straying away from patterns and following her own ideas instead.
For her wedding, Memmott Allred designed and dressed the entire party, included herself.
“I would never think of buying a gown for myself,” Memmott Allred said. “I did mine in about four-and-a-half days. I had to get [the family’s] done first.”
Her wedding dress is one project that stood out most over the course of her costume design and sewing career. The other was designed for Utah Opera’s production of “La Traviata.”
“From the 18th century, it was just beautiful. Off the shoulder, black organza. Beautiful, fluted black organza ruffles with beading. Lots of beading,” Memmott Allred said about the gown, worn by soprano opera singer JoAnn Ottley.
Leslie Peterson, Utah Opera development director, also remembers Memmott Allred’s work on costume design for La Traviata. While Memmott Allred remembers one of the earliest productions, Peterson recalls when Roberta Peters, a famous soprano, performed.
“There is always a bit of extra pressure when you bring in someone with that kind of stature. Sue had the ability to make Mrs. Peters very comfortable here,” Peterson said about the experience.
Since 1978 Peterson and Memmott Allred have worked together at the Utah Opera. “We grew up together in the business,” she said. Peterson’s father, who was from Fairview, was looking for someone to design and build costumes when Memmott Allred was a recent college graduate.
At the beginning of her work with Utah Opera, Peterson said Memmott Allred brought her own equipment and supplies, along with family members and built costumes in the basement of the theatre.
“She [Memmott Allred] has the ability to put people at ease in whatever role. That is a huge advantage for a person who is helping a performer transform into a different character.”
Peterson said, following the production, Peters had expressed interest in purchasing the gown made for her in “La Traviata” by Memmott Allred to wear in future performances.
Memmott Allred said she will continue to work on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and PBS Christmas Concert for some time. On the side, she picks up freelance gigs. “Just small things,” she said.
Outside of costume design, Memmott Allred said she wants to focus on being a grandma and writing a “small book” filled with her thoughts and poetry. The book, she said, is something she has always wanted to do.