CEDAR CITY – When Hamlet said, “the play’s the thing,” it’s doubtful that he was talking about the Utah Shakespeare Festival. There are certainly plays to see – incredible productions featuring world-class performers – however, seeing a play isn’t all there is to do at the festival.
The festival founder Fred Adams has worked hard over the years, crafting an immersive experience for theatergoers. Entering the grounds is a bit like walking back in time.
Young maidens traipse through the crowd, offering tarts for sale. Vendors cry out from their booths, sometimes in cockney British accents. The concession workers serve whole turkey legs and put on juggling shows in between helping customers. Everybody is dressed in Elizabethan garb, and each evening at 7 p.m. performers put on a Celtic music and dance show on a small stage in the lawn outside the theater.
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Videocast by Michael Flynn, St. George News
Footage of the plays, courtesy of the Utah Shakespeare Festival
At the center of everything is the Adams Theater. An open-air Tudor-style replica of The Globe, the Adams theater was built to look and feel like the 17th century structure in which most of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Utah Shakespeare Festival media manager Nikki Allen said that she thinks the intimacy of the Adams Theater helps to make the Shakespeare festival so special.
“The theater really helps to create the whole-play experience,” she said, “you’re right up there with the actors and you feel like you’re really a part of the play.”
Besides the Adams theater, the Randall L. Jones theater stages plays that aren’t necessarily 400 years old. This year, in addition to the Bard’s Richard II, The Tempest, King John, and Love’s Labour’s Lost, the Shakespeare Festival players will be performing Twelve Angry Men, The Marvelous Wonderettes, and the classic Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is also running a production of Peter and the Starcatcher, this year. Peter and the Starcatcher tells the back-story of Peter Pan, how he ended up in never-never land. “It’s right off of Broadway,” Rhett Gruter said. Gruter not only choreographed the play, but he is also starring in the title role.
“It’s only one-and-a-half years old,” Gruter said, “and it’s a really great show for families.”
If you’d like to bring your family to see Peter and the Starcatcher, or any of the other plays that the festival will be performing this year, you can look at show times and buy tickets directly from the Utah Shakespeare Festival website.
If you haven’t had a chance to catch The Tempest, King John, or Love’s Labour’s Lost, you’d better hurry. The Adams Theater will only be open until the end of August this year. The fall season will run from September until October, and will feature Peter and the Starcatcher, The Marvelous Wonderettes, and Richard II, all of which will appear indoors in the Randall L. Jones theater. You can find a full listing of shows, as well as a show calendar on the Utah Shakespeare Festival website.
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