Celebrate the Bard's Birthday
When William Shakespeare’s birthday rolls around each year, you can bet there will be celebrations at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. This year, on April 23 and 24, the Festival will honor the Bard by celebrating his 454th birthday with local school children and the community through a variety of activities.
First, for elementary school students, the Festival will host the Bard’s Birthday Bash onsite at the Beverley Center for the Arts, 195 W. Center St, Cedar City. This year marks the 16th annual party where local elementary schools are invited to participate in an interactive experience centered around Shakespeare and theatre.
“The event was initially created as a chance for students to perform the Bard’s works on the Festival stages,” says Michael Bahr, Festival education director. “Over time, it has grown into a local tradition for Iron County schools; and because of its popularity, we had to expand it to two days to accommodate the number of schools wanting to be involved. It’s an incredible site to see so many come and play!”
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade perform scenes from Shakespeare’s works, observe other schools’ performances, learn and perform traditional dances, attend improvisation and text workshops, participate in jousting contests, and have birthday cake with Queen Elizabeth. They also have the opportunity to work with teaching artists prior to the event to prepare their scenes for the event.
“This annual tradition allows students to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday and be elevated through their own performances. This event brings hundreds of students to the Festival stages and grounds and reinforces the idea that Shakespeare’s plays are their plays, and these stages are their stages. All the World is their stage!” exclaimed Bahr.
As a tool to help future groups prepare for performances, the Festival is excited to announce the Shakespeare Scenes Database, an online resource of Shakespearean scenes for teachers and students. It contains hundreds of scenes which may be sorted by play, characters, and number of lines. Teachers and students are encouraged to use it to create their own Shakespeare performances. It can be found online at bard.org/shakespeare-scenes.
Next, another event associated with Shakespeare’s birthday is Renaissance Day, held at Cedar Middle School. This annual event provides a similar performance opportunity for intermediate students. They, too, get to enjoy cake with the Queen.
Finally, this year community members can also participate in the Bard’s birthday. On April 23, all are welcome to attend a special unveiling of the newest bronze statue in the Pedersen Shakespeare Character Garden at the Beverley Center, located just west of the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre. Cleopatra, by renowned sculptor Dennis Smith of Alpine Studio, will be added to the collection of bronze Shakespearean characters in the garden including Henry V, Falstaff, Hamlet, Juliet, and King Lear.
“We are thrilled Cleopatra will be joining the family,” says Fred C. Adams, Festival founder. “Dennis has captured a beautiful moment in Cleopatra’s story, and she will make a perfect addition to the Character Garden.”
A short program will begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by the unveiling at 2. Playmakers, the Festival’s youth theatre program, will provide entertainment. The donor for this new statue is Mountain West Small Business Finance, which has also underwritten the Festival’s Shakespeare-in-the-Schools Tour for over fifteen years.
The Festival is rapidly preparing for the 2018 season which runs June 28 through October 13. Plays are The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry VI Part One, The Merchant of Venice, The Foreigner, Big River, An Iliad, Othello, Pearl’s in the House, and The Liar. Tickets and information are available online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX.