CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival is adding its own spectacular lighting display to Cedar City’s historic downtown “All Is Bright” celebration this holiday season, which promises an amazing new tradition of holiday spirit downtown, along Center Street and all across the Beverley Center for the Arts.
Cedar City festivities will begin Saturday at 5:15 p.m. in front of the city offices, 10 N. Main Street, including holiday music, fire barrels, a visit from Santa, a tuba band and fireworks. The evening will culminate at 5:45 as the lights are turned on downtown and at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
According to a press release from the festival, the lighting display is part tribute to founder Fred C. Adams’s love of Christmas lights and part the beginning of a holiday tradition the festival hopes to build on every year. As such, the Tony Award-winning theatre company has called in the help of professional theatre and architectural lighting designers Tom and Donna Ruzika, who have joined forces with festival technicians and artists to create a display that will dazzle with over 100,000 lights, wreaths, icicles and other decorations.
The husband and wife design team have enormous experience, including time at the festival; Tom Ruzika designed lighting for plays in 1973, the same year he married Donna, who has designed nearly 70 shows since 1998.
“Coming back to the Festival is a homecoming,” Tom Ruzika said in the press release.
The Ruzikas’ vision for the festival lights combines traditional Christmas lights and music with theatrical and architectural lighting. They hope that holiday revelers will be immersed in a festive, glittering environment as they stroll through the festival grounds.
Due to their background, they are envisioning this exciting project as if it were a Shakespeare play.
“We are approaching this project as if the Festival grounds are a performance, as if the lights are the actors,” Donna Ruzika said.
In order to create a memorable experience, she strived for a holiday theatricality as she imagined the Shakespeare theatres decorated in thousands of lights, wreaths, and decorations, with familiar and nostalgic holiday songs playing on the festival’s outdoor sound system. The crown of that theatricality is a 7-foot star on the top of the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre that will be visible from much of Cedar City.
Her husband said the end result is to “hopefully have the community remember the Festival during the winter and enjoy an enchanted magical area to help everyone get out of what we are going through this year.”
“It will be something very special,” he added.
Utah Shakespeare Festival production manager Richard Girtain said the lights also serve as an important reminder.
“We are still here and working toward a brighter future when we can be together again in the theatre,” he said. “I believe creating this aesthetically pleasing holiday display will provide a visitor some peace and holiday cheer in a very turbulent year.”
In addition to the festival display, Cedar City has also extended its glittering display on Center Street both east and west of Main Street, bringing it nearly to the festival’s front door and making it easy for the festival to tie into the celebration.
“I’m so excited that the Festival can be part of the Cedar City celebration and grateful to the wonderful lighting designers and our production staff for making it all happen,” said Frank Mack, USF executive producer. “We are also grateful to Cedar City, Iron County, and Visit Cedar City • Brian Head for their support for this display. Many, many people have contributed to make this a success.”
Maria Twitchell, executive director of Visit Cedar City • Brian Head — the tourism bureau for Iron County. called the area “a truly unique, hometown holiday attraction with the lights downtown, at the Frontier Homestead State Park, and at the Utah Shakespeare Festival grounds.”
“In this time of Covid, it’s important we support efforts that not only celebrate the season,” she said, “but also bring families together with an activity that can easily accommodate social distancing.”
Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards echoed the sentiments.
“There’s nothing like a small-town Christmas in Festival City!” she said. “This year, more than others, we needed some holiday cheer, and it’s been amazing to see the community join in on the fun. The true draw, however, will be the new Utah Shakespeare Festival lights, which will certainly add to the downtown experience and make Cedar City an even more phenomenal Christmas destination.”
Written by PARKER BOWRING, Utah Shakespeare Festival.
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