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Holiday Light Display DEBUTS at the Festival

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By Parker Bowring

The Utah Shakespeare Festival added its own spectacular lighting display to Cedar City’s historic downtown “All Is Bright” celebration this holiday season, promising an amazing new tradition of holiday spirit downtown, along Center Street, and all across the Beverley Center for the Arts.

Cedar City festivities were November 28 in front of the city offices, 10 N. Main Street, including holiday music, fire barrels, a visit from Santa, a Tuba band, and fireworks. The evening culminated as the lights are turned on downtown and at the Festival.

The Festival’s lighting display is part tribute to Founder Fred C. Adams’s love of Christmas lights and part the beginning of a holiday tradition the Festival hopes to build on every year. As such, the Tony Award-winning theatre company has called in the help of professional theatre and architectural lighting designers Tom and Donna Ruzika, who have joined forces with Festival technicians and artists to create a display that will dazzle with over 100,000 lights, wreaths, icicles, and other decorations.

The husband and wife design team have enormous experience, including time at the Festival. Tom designed lighting for plays at the Festival in 1973, the year they were married; and Donna has designed nearly seventy shows since 1998. “Coming back to the Festival is a homecoming,” said Tom.

 The Ruzikas’ vision for the Festival lights combines traditional Christmas lights and music with theatrical and architectural lighting. They hope that holiday revelers will be immersed in a festive, glittering environment as they stroll through the Festival grounds.

Due to their background they are envisioning this exciting project as if it were a Shakespeare play.  “We are approaching this project as if the Festival grounds are a performance, as if the lights are the actors,” said Donna.

“The end result is to hopefully have the community remember the Festival during the winter and enjoy an enchanted magical area to help everyone get out of what we are going through this year. It will be something very special,” said Tom.

In order to create a memorable experience Donna strived for a holiday theatricality as she imagined the Shakespeare theatres decorated in thousands of lights, wreaths, and decorations, with familiar and nostalgic holiday songs playing on the Festival’s outdoor sound system. The crown of that theatricality is a seven-foot star on the top of the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre that will be visible from much of Cedar City.

“These lights are also a reminder that we are still here and working toward a brighter future when we can be together again in the theatre,” said Festival Production Manager Richard Girtain. “I believe creating this aesthetically pleasing holiday display will provide a visitor some peace and holiday cheer in a very turbulent year.”

Cedar City has extended its glittering display down Center Street this year between Main Street and 100 West, bringing it nearly to the Festival’s front door, making it easy for the Festival to tie into the celebration. “I’m so excited that the Festival can be part of the Cedar City celebration and grateful to the wonderful lighting designers and our production staff for making it all happen,” said Executive Producer Frank Mack. “We are also grateful to Cedar City, Iron County, and Visit Cedar City • Brian Head for their support for this display. Many, many people have contributed to make this a success.”

“Cedar City and Iron County have a truly unique, hometown holiday attraction with the lights downtown, at the Frontier Homestead State Park, and at the Utah Shakespeare Festival grounds,” added Maria Twitchell, executive director of Visit Cedar City • Brian Head — the tourism bureau for Iron County. “In this time of Covid, it’s important we support efforts that not only celebrate the season but also bring families together with an activity that can easily accommodate social distancing.”

“There’s nothing like a small-town Christmas in Festival City!” concluded Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards. “This year, more than others, we needed some holiday cheer, and it’s been amazing to see the community join in on the fun. The true draw, however, will be the new Utah Shakespeare Festival lights, which will certainly add to the downtown experience and make Cedar City an even more phenomenal Christmas destination.”

© Utah Shakespeare Festival 2023 www.bard.org