Festival Announces First Round of Casting
CEDAR CITY, UT — The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently announced the casting of the first eight actors for the 2017 season. All are familiar faces, having appeared at the Festival in the past. They are Cassandra Bissell, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Melissa Graves, James Newcomb, Melinda Parrett, John G. Preston, Kelly Rogers, and Paul Michael Sandberg,. Please check for the latest casting news at www.bard.org.
Festival audiences will fondly remember Cassandra Bissell who appeared at the Festival in 2014 as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and Adriana in The Comedy of Errors. For the 2017 season she is returning to play three varied women: Rosalind in As You Like It, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and another Rosalind in The Tavern. “My first season [at the Festival] exceeded my wildest expectations,” said Bissell. “I am thrilled to be a part of the indescribable energy, enthusiasm, talent, and hard work that the Festival represents (and I also can’t wait to get back to some of the best hiking in the country)!”
Jonathan Gillard Daly, last appeared at the Festival in 2011 as Antigonus in The Winter’s Tale and Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder. Other roles at the Festival have included Gratiano in Othello, David Bliss in Hay Fever, Cymbeline in Cymbeline, Captain Hook in Peter Pan, and several others. This season he will be appearing at the Festival as Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Fennyman in Shakespeare in Love, and Arvide Abernathy and Rabbi in Guys and Dolls. He also directed Always . . . Patsy Cline in 2000.
Melissa Graves said that the Utah Shakespeare Festival “is the ultimate actor retreat—great people, great work, and the great outdoors!” In 2017 she will be playing Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Snout/Moth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Mrs. Shotwell in The Tavern. Last season she played the roles of Portia, Popilius Lena, and Young Cato in Julius Caesar, as well as Cecily Pigeon in The Odd Couple. In previous years she has played Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Queen in Richard II, Ceres in The Tempest, and Lady Faulconbridge in King John.
James Newcomb has played numerous roles at the Festival since 2007, including Earl of Gloucester in King Lear, Lord Chief Justice in Henry IV Part Two, and Count Johann Kilian von Strack in Amadeus (all in 2015), as well as Juror #7 in Twelve Angry Men, Stephano in The Tempest, Iago in Othello, Caius Martius/Coriolanus in Coriolanus, and several others. This summer he will appear at the Festival as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Big Jule in Guys and Dolls, and Zachariah Freeman in The Tavern.
Festival playgoers have loved performances by Melinda Parrett since 2007 when she first appeared at the Festival as Miss Proserpine Garnett in Candida and Maria Merelli in Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical. Last season she played the roles of Milady in The Three Musketeers, Penelope Martin in The Cocoanuts, and Gwendolyn Pigeon in The Odd Couple. Other notable roles have incuded Ariel in The Tempest, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Emilia in The Winter’s Tale, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, and Belinda Blair in Noises Off! This season she will be returning to the Festival as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Hippolyta/Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Woman in The Tavern.
John G. Preston is returning to the Festival to play Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It, Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, and Henslowe in Shakespeare in Love. In 2015 he played Captain George Brackett in South Pacific, Van Helsing in Dracula, and Col. Sir Francis Chesney in Charley’s Aunt. Previously, he has played such roles as Doctor Pinch in The Comedy of Errors, Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure, and Francis Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Kelly Rogers, who last year appeared as Montjoy in Henry V, Constance in The Three Musketeers, and Margaret in Much Ado about Nothing, is returning this year as Puck/Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Phebe in As You Like It, and Sally-Mae in The Tavern. Other roles at the Festival have included Cordelia in King Lear, Amy Spettigue in Charley’s Aunt, and Mina in Dracula in 2015. “I am simply delighted to return to Cedar City for a third spin at the Festival,” said Rogers. “I’m particularly excited about playing Puck—though I’m going to need a strict cardio regimen if I’m going to be able to ‘put a girdle about the earth in forty minutes’ come July!”
Paul Michael Sandberg has a history with the Festival dating back to 1991 when he played Biff in Death of a Salesman and Marcellus in Hamlet. He returned last year to play Julius Caesar and Strato in Julius Caesar and Roy in The Odd Couple—and will be back this year as Captain Smollet in Treasure Island, Sheriff in The Tavern, and Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When asked about this summer, Sandberg said, “I couldn’t be happier to be returning for my third season with the Festival.”
Tickets are now on sale for the Festival’s 56th season, which will run from June 29 to October 21. For more information and tickets visit www.bard.org or call 1-800-PLAYTIX.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts at Southern Utah University, which also includes the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA).