CEDAR CITY – Artists across Southern Utah and beyond are invited to submit art of all kinds to display in the “Adams Theatre 2015 Farewell Art Exhibit,” scheduled to run June 25 through Oct. 31 in the lobby of the Randall L. Jones Theatre adjacent to Southern Utah University, W. College Avenue in Cedar City.
The exhibit is a nod to the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s first home, the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, which was built on the campus of Southern Utah University and is scheduled to permanently close at the end of the 2015 fall season of the festival.
Before the grassroots building efforts for the Adams Shakespearean Theatre began, festival founder Fred Adams said, a platform stage was erected each week and taken down after each Saturday night performance to clear the lawn for weekly sprinkling and maintenance.
Patrons sat on folding chairs, he said, and they helped to clear the lawn by folding their own chairs and putting them away after Saturday night performances.
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As the festival continued to grow in popularity, it became glaringly obvious they were in dire need of a permanent “tiring house,” Adams said; that is, a place for actors to hang out, and a stage that would befit the words of a man whose work had endured the test of time: the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare.
The first design for the world-renowned theater came to its designer while out to dinner one night, Adams said, explaining how Douglas N. Cook quickly illustrated the idea on a napkin one night in 1969.
Mimicking as much as he already knew of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, Adams said, architect Max Anderson set out to research the original Tudor style architecture to ensure unparalleled accuracy.
“He decided he needed to find out all he could about the Tudor truss and he wrote to the royal archives in London,” he said. “And they said, ‘not only that, but we can put you in touch with the most perfect example of the Tudor truss in the world – it’s in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.’”
It took just short of a decade for the vision to come to fruition, Adams said. First came the lobbying for support, and then step by step, he said, the fledgling festival built until the theater, once just a concept drawing on a napkin, became a reality. Beginning construction in 1971, the Adams Shakespearean Theatre was completed and dedicated in 1977.
The wheels of motion began to turn when the widow Sarah “Sadie” Orwin Barnard donated the Shakespeare Festival’s first monetary gift – $25,000. A dollar-for-dollar matching grant from Obert C. Tanner in honor of his wife’s parents, Thomas D. and Luella R. Adams, gave the festival the extra oomph needed to begin to build the 37-year home that festivalgoers have come to know and love.
“Obert called me and said ‘I would be interested in matching every dollar that the theater takes in,’” Adams said. “When I told him we just got a donation he immediately wrote a check for matching funds, and suddenly we had $50,000.
“Finally, Obert called me one day and he said, ‘Fred, I am so tired of writing these piddly little checks, why don’t you tell me how much the building is going to cost,’” he said, explaining how the almost decade-long construction was finally wrapped up in 1977.
The relinquishing of the Adams theatre to Southern Utah University is a bittersweet endeavor, the Utah Shakespeare Festival Executive Director R. Scott Phillips said. Phillips was the first employee of the festival to earn a paid wage and has been with the festival for 38 years.
Of the multitude of memories that flood into his mind when he thinks of the historic outdoor theater, Phillips said, it’s not one specific memory that catches his attention, but a particular experience relived over and over within the walls of the Adams:
Sitting out there and watching a play, whatever it might happen to be, and all of a sudden the intermission comes – by that time it’s dark and when the lights go out, and you look up on a star-filled sky and a beautiful moon has come up over the theater.
The natural magic that happens around them, unbeknownst to the audience who is immersed in the story unfolding onstage, is a monumental part of the overall Utah Shakespeare Festival experience, Phillips said, and part of the ambiance they hope to recapture when they make their big move a year from now.
When designing the new theater, Adams said, it was important to duplicate the ambiance and honor the Adams Theatre audience by carrying over the integrity of the original stage, a structure that gained global attention for historical accuracy when the British Broadcasting Company traveled to Cedar City from England to film part of its Shakespeare series on the Adams stage.
The Adams Theatre has been a source of inspiration for many artists who have been charmed by their experiences there, Cedar City artist Brad Holt said. Many years ago, he said, he performed as a musician for the Greenshow, a show that precedes each evening performance during the festival.
“(The theater’s) been an icon for 40 years,” Holt said. “I guess that’s why we’re having this exhibit, so we can say goodbye to an old friend.”
Stories and memories like these are why the “Adams Theatre 2015 Farewell Art Exhibit” felt like the perfect way to say goodbye to a building that so many have come to regard as an “old friend,” festival art director Philip W. Hermansen said.
From sculpture to paintings and photography to short film documentaries, Hermansen said, he wants to see all forms of media submitted for consideration to the exhibit. Created specifically for this show, or brought to life years ago, he said, each piece submitted by the April 1 deadline should capture the artist’s impression of what they believe the historic outdoor theater stands for.
“It could be impressionistic,” Hermansen said; “it could be just a part of the theater like a gate or a lamp. In some way it should have the theater as the inspiration and reveal that inspiration through it.”
Submitted work will be juried by a diverse cross-section of the artistic community, Hermansen said. Community members, artists, gallery directors and Utah Shakespeare Festival representatives will make up the six judges on the jury, including himself, he said.
“The Adams Theatre has some incredibly beautiful and unique architecture,” Hermansen said. “I hope artists from anywhere will visit and then submit their artistic interpretation of this beloved building.”
The Engelstad Theatre, at the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts complex, will launch the Tony Award-winning theater company into the future at the dawn of the spring 2016 season. The new outdoor theater will replace the Adams Shakespearean Theatre.
For St. George News, Leanna Bergeron contributed the videocast editing for this story.
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- What: Call for artist submissions | The Adams Theatre 2015 Farewell Art Exhibit
- When: Deadline is April 1 | Exhibit runs from June 25 through Oct. 31
- Where: Send submissions electronically by .jpg to [email protected] | Exhibit will be in the lobby of the Randall L. Jones Theatre
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