2022 Season in Review: Successes and Challenges
By Liz Armstrong
With the 2022 season officially over, we’d like to thank our patrons and donors for attending and supporting us once again this year. It was a challenging season, battling COVID-19 cases, shipping problems, record-breaking understudy performances, and more. But in the words of Frank Mack, outgoing Festival Executive Producer, it was also a joyful season, filled with the magic only good theatre can bring.
Here is what our leadership and other staff members at the Utah Shakespeare Festival have to say in retrospect of the 61st season:
Executive Producer Frank Mack
“There was a whole lot of joy at the Festival,” Mack said. “Of course we faced challenges with COVID-19 early in the season, but we got through that. Our audiences and artists were quite amazing and we completed a full season.”
With an unheard of amount of understudies and swings utilized this season, it took a huge commitment on the part of the entire company and staff to manage all those replacements and changes on a daily basis, according to Mack.
“I thought the Paiute Tribal Youth Performers before the Greenshow were just incredible. The Greenshows are fabulous already, but with the continued addition of [Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah] and their expanded role, I loved it,” Mack said.
Mack added that he felt the Greenshows were particularly exciting and fun and wonderful this season and that the patrons seemed to enjoy them greatly.
Interim Artistic Director/Director of New Play Development Derek Livingston
Livingston echoed how understudies stepped up extremely well this year. In a typical season, less than 10 understudy performances is average. This season, there were over 100.
“We had 136 understudy performances this season,” Livingston said. “ We had an equal number or more backstage coverings and doublings by our amazing crew members.”
Additionally, Livingston is proud that the Festival provided at least $15/hour wages to all of our non-student fellow workers, and that student fellows received above-minimum wage compensation as well as course credit.
Properties Director Ben Hohman
Hohman and his team were busy this year, having produced 956 props this season. Thurgood had the least amount of props at 21, while Sweeney Todd had the most, boasting 153.
Sweeney Todd was particularly challenging to prepare for.
“Almost everything from Sweeney Todd was built from scratch because the design was so specific,” Hohman said. “We even built razors.”
With over 50 percent of his staff new to the team this season, they had to work extra hard, battling learning curves. Additionally, the shipping delays made their job even harder.
“The shipping issues were pretty bad, we ordered weapons for All’s Well That Ends Well that didn’t arrive until August,” Hohman said. “It seemed that things in the past that hadn’t been easy, but that weren’t super challenging proved this year to be even more challenging than we would’ve liked.”
One thing Hohman was particularly proud of was the success of the dummies in Clue.
“A lot of people after seeing the show didn’t realize that there were duplicates of the actors," Hohman said.
Although this season wasn’t the biggest or most complicated that he’s had to prepare for, the challenges proved to make it the hardest season the props director has had in the 28 years he’s worked at the Festival.
“But the fact that we were able to make that happen and get through the season is pretty astounding and a testament to the entire organization,” Hohman said.
Director of Development and Communications Donn Jersey
“The fuel in our tanks to produce a season against all odds was our community and Festival friends/patrons that needed live theatre in their lives,” Jersey said.
Jersey is proud of that the plays were made at the level they were this season, despite the challenges.
“The obstacles were many, and the outomes were extraordinary; hats off to the entire Festival team and our wonderful supporters,” Jersey said. “The Festival has the best patrons, staff, and seasonal company worldwide!”