"The Cry Is Still They Come"
By Liz Armstrong
“The cry is still ‘they come,’” said William Shakespeare’s Macbeth; but it could just as easily have been Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn as he recently announced the slate of directors for the Festival’s 2022 season. These creative and talented directors come to the Festival from home bases across the country and are already at work on putting together the Festival’s sixty-first season, which will run June 20 to October 8.
“Each of these directors brings a unique mixture of talent to the Festival,” said Vaughn. “I’m thrilled to welcome them and extremely excited to bring these productions to life.”
Cassie Abate will be returning to the Festival for the second time after directing The Pirates of Penzancelast year. This season, she will be directing The Greenshow. She was assistant choreographer off-Broadway for The Brain from Planet X at the New York Music Festival and has directed and choreographed at theatres across the country, including Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Barrington Stage, ZACH Theatre, Redhouse Arts Center, the Stephen Sondheim Center, and Theatre Workshop of Nantucket. She was also the associate choreographer for the world premiere of the new musical The World According to Snoopy.
As always, Abate says the three versions of The Greenshow this season will both honor the tradition of The Greenshow while bringing a new and fresh take on the event. “My goals for The Greenshow this year are to provide a fun, interactive, joyful welcome through song and dance,” Abate said. “I feel so honored to be a part of the beloved Greenshow and to add a tiny piece to their vast history.”
Vincent J. Cardinal is returning to the Festival to direct the tragic King Lear after directing the hilarious comedy The Comedy of Errors last season. He has also directed Every Brilliant Thing and The Foreigner at the Festival. He has worked off-Broadway at Circle Repertory Company and at numerous other theatres, including Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Redhouse at City Center, Bucks County Playhouse, Theatre Aspen, Monomoy Theatre, and Cleveland Public Theatre.
Cardinal describes King Lear as “the story of a king who demands love and admiration and, through a series of epic reckonings, becomes a man who has earned love and respect” and adds that the play is one of the finest tragedies in the English language. “King Lear challenges all of us to make a production that tells the story clearly and honestly while being entertaining and moving,” he said.
Brad Carroll has been a part of the Festival for seventeen seasons and this year is returning to produce Sweeney Todd. Past Festival directing credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2019, as well as South Pacific, Anything Goes, Les Misérables, Spitfire Grill, H.M.S. Pinafore,andMan of La Mancha, among others. He was also the composer for the new musical Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical, which premiered at the Festival in 2007. He has worked at numerous other theatres, including PCPA, Utah Festival Opera, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and Anchorage Opera.
Carroll explained that he has wanted to direct Sweeney Toddfor over thirty years, and he is excited that it’s the first musical to ever be performed at an outdoor theatre at the Festival. “Given its epic, Shakespearean nature —encompassing themes of innocence, betrayal, love, lust, humor, deceit, revenge, insanity, and murder—it is the perfect ‘first musical’ to take the stage in the Englestad Theatre,” he said.
Hunter Foster is working at the Festival for the first time in 2022, sitting in the director’s chair for the hilarious comedy Clue. He is the artistic director for the Redhouse Arts Center in New York, and he was named the 2018 Director of the Year, by the Wall Street Journal for his productions of 42nd Street and *The Drowsy Chaperone.*He has directed Cluebefore at the Bucks County Playhouse.
Foster wants the audience to have a great time watching the play. “There is so much ridiculous humor, which is my favorite kind,” Foster said. “An escape like this is so necessary right now!”
Keenon Hooks will be making his Festival directorial debut with the immensely popular musical The Sound of Music, although he was the choreographer for last season’s Ragtime. He is originally from Los Angeles and got into the world of theatre when he began dancing in high school. He attended the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and worked with Cabrillo Music Theatre, San Diego Musical Theatre, Long Beach Opera, Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Musical Theatre West, Noho Arts Center, and many more. He is also the conservatory director and co-founder of Studio C Performing Arts.
Cameron Knight is returning to the Festival for his second year after directing the dark and tragic Richard IIIin 2021. This time, he will direct Shakespeare’s famous and beautiful romance, The Tempest. Originally from Flint, Michigan, Knight has worked in television, film, commercials, and voice-over. He has a growing number of directing credits (including work at Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, the Theatre School at DePaul University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Twelve Peers Theatre) and has taught at some of the most prestigious actor training programs in the country.
Knight hopes that, through the play, the audience is provoked to conversation, to see each other a little more clearly and to hold on and listen to the ones they love. “This play is a great exploration of forgiveness and what can happen when we try to control the ones we love,” Knight said. “It asks us to explore what happens when we can’t let go of the negative events in our lives and we seek revenge.”
Melissa Maxwell will be directing at the Festival for the first time, helming Trouble in Mind. Maxwell started in the business as an actor, but has been directing for over twenty years and has spent many years specializing in new play development and directing world premieres, such as Tunnel Visionand Safe House. She is also a director, writer, educator, and motivational speaker. Maxwell is the co-associate artistic director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival and the director of professional development at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.
“I love this play, and the history behind it is fascinating. It is a not-so-well-known classic that everyone should know,” Maxwell said. “It has many layers to it, and I am eager for us all to figure out exactly how this onion needs to be peeled.”
Melinda Pfundstein will be returning to the 2022 season to direct Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Last season she performed the roles of Mother in Ragtimeand Margaret in Richard III. At the Festival she has also directed The Merchant of Venice in 2018 and The Book of Will in 2019. She has performed at the Festival a number of times, beginning in 1996, and is the founding executive director at StateraArts. She has acted across the country in a variety of theatres including Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, The Skylight, Lake Dillon Theatre Company, First Stage Children’s Theatre, and Nevada Conservatory Theatre.
Pfundstein emphasized the fact that not only is it a rare opportunity for the audience to attend this play, but that All’s Well That Ends Wellfeels relevant to our current time. “I am particularly interested in considering that there is nothing inherently good or bad, right or wrong with [the characters’] behavior—that it is just human,” Pfundstein said. “And therefore they are clumsy and imperfect and full of complexity. What if each of these characters is actually trying to do the best with what they’ve got?”
Delicia Turner Sonnenberg will be working at the Festival for her first time in 2022, directing the one-man play Thurgood. She is the founding artistic director of MOXIE Theatre and received the New Visions Award as well as the Craig Noel award for Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Dramatic Production from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle. She graduated from the New York Drama League’s Directors Program and was the recipient of the Van Lier Directing Fellowship. She has also received NAACP theatre awards and a Women’s International Center Living Legacy Award.
Tickets are now on sale for the 2022 season and may be purchased by visiting bard.org or calling 800-PLAYTIX.