Utah Shakespeare Festival

The Tony Award-winning festival has brought The Bard’s plays to Cedar City stages for more than 50 years.

Suffice to say, many a world-changing event has transpired over the course of the last five centuries. Among other things, humans figured out physics, invented the steam engine and the railroad system, fought in two world wars, and created a global society with the Internet.

Throughout it all, we’ve written thousands upon thousands of novels, plays, and movies to document the human experience. Yet, a bard from Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom, who penned plays nearly 500 years ago, is still thought to be the best writer in the English language and the foremost dramatist to have ever lived.

Merchant of Venice Utah Shakespeare FestivalMerchant of Venice Courtesy Utah Shakespeare Festival

William Shakespeare’s canon of 37 plays are performed the world over. From 2000 to 2010 alone, there were more than 1,100 stagings of his work. And there is scant a better perch to see them than in Cedar City at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, held annually with a summer and a fall season.

So while you’re taking advantage of Southern Utah’s national parks and red rock recreational opportunities, spice up your nighttime activities with world-class theater. Themes, characters, and plots that still resonate today come alive at this wonderful festival during a summer and a fall season. There is so much to experience during the Utah Shakespeare Festival — from Shakespearean dramas to contemporary productions to educational opportunities.

In 1962, the Utah Shakespearean Festival produced its first season on a makeshift platform. Leveraging townsfolk and volunteers, the ragtag company built their own props and costumes and performed three of Shakespeare’s plays to an audience of little more than 3,000. Fast forward 50 years, and the Tony-Award-winning festival now operates with a $7 million budget and attracts nearly 130,000 people to Cedar City.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival strives to be a total experience for its patrons.The summer festival offers six plays and free, nightly Greenshow performances, a pre-show party for groundlings filled with costume, music, dance, and Olde World food like turkey legs and horehound candy. The fall season offers fewer plays, but more extracurriculars, such as backstage tours, actor, literary, and prop seminars, and pre-show play orientations — all are free. There’s also an annual series of staged readings of current work by today’s best playwrights called the New American Playwrights Project (often abbreviated as NAPP).

he Greenshow, 2011. (Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl HughThe Greenshow. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh.

Actors deliver the charming and classically Shakespearean dialogue decked in full Elizabethan costumes at the open-air, outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre, a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The theatre so closely resembles Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London that in 1981 the BBC came to Cedar City to film some of its Shakespeare series. The Adams Shakespearean Theatre only stages Shakespearean productions, and the 2015 season was its last, making way for a new facility a few blocks away. An updated space for carrying on the festival’s traditions, the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre will be part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts and is slated to open in 2016. The indoor Randall L Jones Theatre features contemporary works — both matinee and evening shows.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival has been recognized widely for its efforts. This includes a Tony Award for America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2000. The following year, it was honored by National Governors Association with the award for Distinguished Service in the Arts for Artistic Production. And the 50th anniversary production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream broadcast by BYUtv won a regional Emmy Award for “best special event coverage, live or edited.”

Indeed, the wonderful plays of Shakespeare, ranging from MacBeth to Julius Caesar to your personal favorite, are not only made accessible and kept alive, but are held on high in Southern Utah.

Various venues, Cedar City, Summer and Fall, Bard.org; Tickets can be purchased at (435)-586-7878 or 1-800-PLAYTIX


Story by Austen Diamond 

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