David Dietlein was born into the theater business, but that didn’t make his move to Gilbert in the early 2000s any less of a gamble, when downtown was merely a ghost town.
“At the time, it was really, really destitute,” Dietlein said. “It wasn’t at all what it is today.”
Still, something drew him here.
“I tried Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler and everything,” Dietlein said. “I was driving around, thinking, ‘What feels right?’ And Gilbert was the one that felt right. Just a feeling, there was no metrics to it at all.”
Theater named for grandparents
So it was decided, and Dietlein opened Hale Centre Theatre in 2003. He named it for his grandparents, Ruth and Nathan Hale, who opened the family’s original playhouse in Glendale, California, in 1947.
“There was really no year-round theater in the East Valley, so this was a great location,” Dietlein said.
Today, Hale Centre Theatre has become a staple in the center of a now-bustling downtown.
“I thought, ‘You know, that water tower could be a pretty cool thing if it ever turned into a fun little area,’” Dietlein said. “It’s been crazy. It could’ve gone the other way. I had no idea. Many cities’ redevelopments stall and sputter and don’t go anywhere.”
The theater is in the midst of a massive remodel that began in November and is expected to be completed this fall. The facelift includes upgrades to the sound system, lighting, indoor and outdoor facilities, and the addition of a new on-site rehearsal studio and set-building space.
“We have one more surprise that we haven’t announced yet,” Dietlein said. “I’m still working on that, but it will be a cool little concept that’s forthcoming.”
The small, circular stage will remain the same size, maintaining the intimacy between actors and audience.
It’s one of the things Dietlein loves most about owning his own theater.
“Just the joy that comes to the patrons’ faces. That’s wonderful,” he said. “The actors, when they’re enjoying being in the plays, that’s what makes it worth it.”
Hale Centre Theatre
50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.