Cedar City, UT – The Utah Shakespeare Festival soared this year in more ways than one. Not only did the Festival produce a regional premiere of a Tony Award-winning play, it continued the Complete the Canon initiative, started the History Cycle, and the company is preparing to break ground on a new arts center. The Festival continues to push the envelope and through countless hours and a resilient company of artists, the Festival once again received tremendous praise this year for an artistically successful season.
Judith Reynolds, a journalist for the Durango Herald, said it best, “With its multimillion-dollar production budget and cast heavily sprinkled with Equity Actors, the Utah Shakespeare Festival continues to mount spectacular and thought-provoking productions.”
The biggest coup for the Festival this year was receiving the rights to produce the regional premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher. It played to sold-out houses and broke the million-dollar mark at the box office. “It was an amazing experience, and to top it all off, the Festival received positive comments and kudos from Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Group,” said Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn.
Peter and the Starcatcher, by Rick Elice and based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, was a thrilling, imaginative, theatrical experience about Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, and all the memorable characters he encounters on his journey to Neverland. Festival guests raved about the production, and many returned to see it for a second, third and even fourth time.
In 2012, the Festival announced an exciting new initiative to produce the entire canon of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight plays called Complete the Canon. This year, the Festival introduced the second phase of the Complete the Canon program, the History Cycle. Audience members can expect to see all of Shakespeare’s 10 history plays in chronological order starting this year with the rarely-produced King John and Richard II. One of the goals of the History Cycle is to give a cohesiveness to this series that will be engaging and dramatic.
According to Barbara M. Bannon, reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune, “King John is not staged often, but this strong production makes it well worth seeing. Its vivid portrait of England's unstable political climate sets the stage for the histories that will follow.”
“The superb acting and pleasant designs helped me realize that Richard II is one of the most underrated of Shakespeare’s plays,” said Russell Warne, managing editor for the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association. “The Utah Shakespeare Festival has created an excellent installment of their Complete the Canon initiative to produce every Shakespeare play over the course of 12 years.”
Last fall, the Festival joined forces with Southern Utah University in order to build the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. The Center will include a long-awaited new outdoor Shakespeare theatre, studio theatre, the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA), and the Festival’s much needed artistic and production facility. This partnership has propelled the campaign forward, and in the spring, a $6 million gift was given from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation in order to create the multi-million dollar arts center.
The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will incorporate visual arts, live theatre and dynamic arts education and will dramatically enrich the cultural life of Cedar City. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the spring of 2014, and the Center will be completed for the opening of the Festival’s 2016 season. Construction will not impact the Festival experience, and guests can continue to expect exceptional customer service and quality entertainment.
The Festival continues to offer more than just plays; guests were able to experience the free nightly Greenshow, the New American Playwrights Project, Bardway Baby!, production and literary seminars, orientations before every show, backstage tours, educational classes, and Repertory Magic.
Other season highlights include the many community outreach programs that the Festival participated in. These include Military Appreciate Night, Free Night of Theatre, July Jamboree, Groovefest, the Iron County Care and Share Fall Food Drive and Relay for Life.
Although the plays have closed, the Festival staff is hard at work preparing for the 2014 season.
"The Utah Shakespeare Festival is proud to continue to offer performances of the highest caliber for our thousands of guests from across the US,” said Executive Director R. Scott Phillips. “We continue to explore the power of live theatre and appreciate the on-going support of our loyal theatre patrons."
“The Utah Shakespeare Festival once again proves that all the world’s a stage — and every stage is a world,” said Carol Cling, journalist for the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is located on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Tickets for the Festival’s 53rd season in 2014 are available by calling 1-800-PLAYTIX or by visiting the Festival website at www.bard.org.