News From the Festival

RADA Is Coming to the Festival

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to Perform Much Ado about Nothing

Image of Much Ado about Nothing Provided by RADA

By Liz Armstrong 

As part of a strategic partnership with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London is bringing a group of recent graduates’ touring production of Much Ado about Nothing to Festival audiences. This annual touring production has been performed in London and at European arts festivals for years, but this is the first time it will be seen in the United States.

The ninety-minute version of the play will be presented at 9:30 a.m. each day from July 26 to 30 in the Anes Studio Theatre, where audience members will have the opportunity to watch ten graduates from this prestigious London training program perform. The RADA training program boasts a number of exceptional alumni that have seen success as actors, including Alan Rickman, Allison Janney, Anthony Hopkins, Glenda Jackson, Roger Moore, Joan Collins, and Richard Attenborough. And the next RADA “star” just may be on the Festival stage this summer.

Tickets and further information are available by calling the ticket office or visiting bard.org/plays/much-ado-about-nothing/.

“I have long thought that the American approach to Shakespeare—full of gusto and verve—and the British classical elegance are companion acting styles that show why Shakespeare is beloved on both sides of the pond and throughout the English-speaking world,” said Derek Charles Livingston, interim artistic director. “Our RADA guests will provide the Festival audience a chance to witness these beautiful performing contrasts with their morning presentations of Much Ado about Nothing and our afternoon and evening offerings of King LearAll’s Well that Ends Well, and The Tempest.  It is a rare opportunity, and I’m excited for our audiences to be part of it.”

Announced more than two years ago, the partnership between the Festival and RADA is being fully realized after a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership includes a commitment to present the annual RADA play at the Festival and to hire at least one RADA student or graduate in the Festival acting company each season. (This year the Festival hired two: Aidan O’Reilly and Michael Sharon.) The five-year agreement is funded by an anonymous donor.

Frank Mack, Festival executive producer, said the artistic exchange program idea began with a simple discussion of the play Hamlet, which the Festival was producing in 2019. “A friend of the Festival mentioned he had seen an exceptional production of Hamlet at RADA, and so we wanted to talk to them about that,” Mack said. That conversation soon expanded into a strategic partnership between the two theatre companies.

Mack noted that this is an exciting partnership because it gives RADA actors the opportunity to come to the U.S. and possibly build a career here while also giving our audiences the opportunity to see magnificent artists from a European training academy. 

“The opportunity for the Festival to expand its artistic horizons beyond our shows and collaborate with one of the most prestigious training academies in the world provides access for our audience to another dimension of theatre performance that we wouldn’t otherwise see,” Mack concluded.

Niamh Dowling, the principal at RADA, added: “I am delighted that we have this excellent partnership with the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Our Shakespeare for Young Audiences program performs specially adapted Shakespeare plays to children all over London, including on occasion in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street. We are thrilled to be visiting for the first time and to share Much Ado about Nothing with you. Huge and sincere thanks to the Utah Shakespeare Festival for your partnership, support, and friendship.”

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Festival Education Director Michael Bahr Announces Retirement

Michael Bahr

By Liz Armstrong 

After more than twenty-three years with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Education Director Michael Bahr has announced his retirement, effective July 31. Beginning July 1, Bahr started the next act in his life as the director/principal at Gateway Preparatory Academy in Enoch, Utah.

“I am so happy to see Michael step into this exciting new chapter of his life after his amazing and transformative years at the Festival,” said Executive Producer Frank Mack. “Michael has led the education department brilliantly. His innovative curricula and devoted teaching has changed the lives of countless students, while the insights he has shared with our audience members in the Seminar Grove has deepened their experience at the Festival.” 

For the next few weeks, Bahr will stay tied to the Festival, continuing his work until July 31 as he assists the education department during this transitional period. He will also be visible at the Festival in the future conducting seminars and orientations, while his wife, Kris Bahr, assistant guest services manager and volunteer coordinator, continues as a full-time member of the Festival staff.

Called “Peter Pan, the Pied Piper and the Energizer Bunny, all rolled into one,” Bahr has served as the education director for over two decades.

In making the announcement, Bahr made it clear that, although he wasn’t looking for a new position, he is “excited for the challenge that waits at Gateway.”

“I am filled with a sentimental, melancholic sadness upon leaving this position,” Bahr said. “But I am also filled with joy because of what lies ahead for the Festival.” 

Bahr was hired in December 1998 as the education director when he joked he was “dragged kicking and screaming out of the classroom.” He noted that “when Festival Founder Fred C. Adams first made the job offer to me back then, Adams said ‘I need someone who speaks the language of teachers, professional theatre and actors, and students.’”

Bahr spoke those three languages and was hired, but his journey with the Festival began years before this.

“In 1982, I acted in the Shakespeare Competition and was awarded a scholarship to Southern Utah University, which was then Southern Utah State College,” Bahr said. During his time as an undergraduate, Bahr worked at the box office in the Festival. After graduating, he took a job as a teacher in Bakersfield, California, and brought his students back to Cedar City to participate in the Shakespeare Competition. He then moved to northern Utah for another teaching job and continued to bring his students to the competition. 

As Education Director, Bahr was able to spend time teaching at Cedar City and Canyon View High Schools and as an adjunct professor for theater methods at SUU beginning in 2001. 

He has built an incredible legacy in his time at the Festival, implementing monumental changes that have made theatre more accessible to students and teachers. During this time, he solidified summer programs and dramatically amplified the Shakespeare Competition which grew from 45 to over 120 schools. 

Bahr collaboratively created Bard’s Birthday Bash, Playmakers, the Wooden O Symposium, and Shakespeare-in-the-Schools—which consists of an annual touring production for over 20,000 students across the Intermountain West.

“The play—that is central to everything we do. I hope to have left a legacy of access and engagement to plays,” Bahr said. “My legacy is the acknowledgment of the power of the dream and the power in the play to cultivate civil discourse and education.”

Announcing the 2023 Season

Tickets Go On Sale July 7

Cedar City, UT—The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently announced its 2023 season, featuring seven plays from June 21 to October 7. In an effort to make it easy for loyal Festival guests to order their tickets well in advance, tickets go on sale beginning July 7: online at www.bard.org, by phone at 800-PLAYTIX, or at the Ticket Office near the Anes Studio Theatre.

“Our 2023 season is full of beloved classics and bold stories—most of them new to Festival audiences,” said Derek Charles Livingston, interim artistic director. “It is a line-up perfect for theatre lovers, a must-see collection of great work.”

Here’s the 2023 lineup:

The Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre
In the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed at the Festival for the eleventh time next year, a testament to its enduring popularity. This luxurious tale of fairies, dreams, and moonlight features some of Shakespeare’s most famous and enchanting characters: Oberon and Titania, Puck, the four young lovers, and, of course, the hilarious and loveable Bottom. It will play June 22 to September 9.

West Side Story
Based on a Conception of Jerome Robbins
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
The story of Tony and Maria (and the Jets and the Sharks) is known around the world, and is now being brought to the Festival’s outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre. Featuring iconic song and dance, this musical masterpiece is just as relevant and provocative now as when it premiered in 1957 and changed American musical theatre forever. Dates for West Side Story are June 21 to September 8.

The Randall L. Jones Theatre
In the Randall L. Jones Theatre

Jane Austen’s Emma
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Paul Gordon
Orchestrations by Brad Haak, Paul Gordon, and Brian Allan Hobbs
Based on the Novel by Jane AustenJane Austen’s romance is given new life as a flirtatious musical. Emma, one of Austen’s most adored heroines, is a bungling matchmaker who ignores her own desires for love while setting out to find a suitor for her friend Harriet. Sweet, intelligent, and buoyant, this musical will make you fall in love all over again. Jane Austen’s Emma will run from June 22 to October 7.

A Raisin in the Sun
By Lorraine Hansberry 
In 1959 playwright Lorraine Hansberry created a theatrical masterpiece that broke down racial barriers both on and off the stage. A Raisin in the Sun follows the proud Younger family members as they grapple with different definitions of the American dream and how to achieve it, all the while battling racial discrimination and financial pitfalls that threaten to pull the family apart and dash their dreams. It will play June 23 to September 8.

The Play That Goes Wrong
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
In this play-within-a-play, the Cornley Drama Society’s newest production quickly goes from bad to utterly disastrous. Everything seems to go wrong—the leading lady is unconscious, a corpse won’t play dead, and actors trip over everything (including their lines). But, somehow, the intrepid thespians persevere to their final curtain call. The play premiered in 2012 in London and quickly earned numerous awards, including Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards. It will run from June 30 to October 7.

The Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre
In the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre

Timon of Athens
By William Shakespeare
Timon of Athens has only been produced one other time at the Festival, in 1993. But the rarely-performed play has seen a bit of a resurgence of late because of its exploration of modern themes. Certainly a play for our times, it is hilarious, satiric, and deeply moving as it explores friendship, wealth, and the foibles of a materialistic society. It will play from July 14 to October 7.

Coriolanus
By William Shakespeare
One of Shakespeare’s last tragedies, Coriolanus is a full-throttled war play based on the life a legendary Roman leader, Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Arrogant, proud, and hot-headed, Coriolanus disdains the commoners around him who soon drive him from Rome and into allegiance with a sworn enemy, forcing him and those around him to closely examine the forces of ambition, love, family, and power. It will run from July 15 to October 7.  

“The 2023 season is an exciting mix of Shakespeare, musical theatre, farce, and an American classic,” said Frank Mack, executive producer. “With these works by authors and composers such as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Lorraine Hansberry; 2023 will provide laughter, emotion, meaning, and big laughs for Festival audiences, all within the extraordinary beauty of southern Utah.”

People in Our Neighborhood: Mayor Garth O. Green

Cedar City Mayor Garth O. Green

By Liz Armstrong 

This article is the first in a new series the Festival is starting which will feature people in our neighborhoods who share their experiences with the Festival. Some will be new patrons of the Festival, and some like Cedar City Mayor Garth O. Green are life-long fans. We hope you enjoy getting to know your neighbors.

Festival Founder Fred C. Adams used to tell the story of a group of young neighborhood kids who would ride their bicycles to the Festival in its very early years and watch play rehearsals. Among those bicycle-riding, play-watching youngsters was a boy who would go on to become Cedar City’s mayor, Garth O. Green. 

“I was at the Festival the very first season,” Green recalled. “Fred Adams was even my neighbor for a time.”

Born and raised in Cedar City and a Southern Utah University alumnus, Green estimated that he has gone to over forty-five seasons of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, not being able to recall many years he hasn’t attended. “I don’t understand a lot of Shakespeare, but there’s something that draws me to it year after year,” Green said. “I just sit there and enjoy the acting.”

A regular attendee, Green enjoys going to the plays with his wife, his five children, and his grandchildren and noted that he’s definitely a “theatre buff.” 

Having lived in England for about three and a-half years, Green is especially drawn to plays that address English history, like last season’s Richard III.

“I love to sit in the very front row, and I remember one time they handed me a towel,” Green laughed. “Some of the actors threw water on me, and we were soaked. Now I know that if they hand me a towel, something is going to happen.” 

In addition to being a theatre lover and devoted fan of the plays, Green holds a special place in his heart for the unity and community the Festival helps build.

“There’s nothing else that ties people together like the Festival. The Festival is Cedar City. It’s us,” Green said.  “The idea that you come to a little town in the desert of southern Utah and can sit in a theatre and enjoy [Broadway-quality] performances is amazing.” 

Green recalled that there was a time he and his wife would go all the way to New York to see a play. “Now we go halfway across town,” Green said. “I remember I was in New York at a play and I turned to my wife and said, ‘They do it better in Cedar City.’” 

Green will once again be attending this season and would like to welcome those traveling to see the plays: “Welcome friends from [out of town], I hope you have a wonderful experience and enjoy the mountains, food, theatre, and Cedar City hospitality,” Green said. 

Tickets are now on sale for the Festival’s 2022 season which runs now through October 8. In addition, to The Sound of Music, the season will feature All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, Trouble in Mind, Clue, The Tempest, and Thurgood. Tickets can be purchased at bard.org or by calling the ticket office at 800-PLAYTIX.

Popular Actor Returns to Play Maria

Actor Daria Pilar Redus

By Liz Armstrong 

The vibrant and talented Daria Pilar Redus has returned this season to the Utah Shakespeare Festival to take on the role of Maria in The Sound of Music. This is her third season at the Festival, having played Sarah in Ragtime and Kate in The Pirates of Penzance last season as well as performing in Big River in 2018. 

For Redus, playing Maria is an opportunity to play “the most fun and classic role” she could imagine. 

“After last summer playing Sarah in Ragtime, I didn’t think anything could top that overall experience,” Redus said. “The character, how fulfilling it was as an actor, how much it meant to me, I didn’t think that that could be topped—and then they announced The Sound of Music.”

Redus received a bachelor of fine arts degree in acting from Otterbein University in 2018. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, the actress now calls New York City home. Redus recently played Sandy Cheeks in the national tour of The Spongebob Musical.

And now she has returned to the Festival! Redus is thrilled to be back in Cedar City, surrounded by the red rock and mountains she adores so much. “To be in a production where I am celebrating the magic of the mountains, and the freedom and beauty is so incredible—it feels so full circle,” Redus said. “Because I have been talking about these gosh-darn mountains since I got here!”

Redus loves southern Utah, but being back at the Festival feels even more fitting for her because of the love she has for the character of Maria. Redus fondly recalls nights as a child, a bowl of popcorn in her lap on the floor, watching The Sound of Music with her family.

“It’s exciting to play a famous role . . . because [the audience already] knows and loves the show and character,” Redus said. “So now all I have to do is stay true to it and bring myself.” 

Some might find playing such a famous role, one that most associate with Julie Andrews, as intimidating. But for Redus, it’s simply inspiring. 

“I’ve always loved the way [Julie Andrews] plays Maria, so I’m not going to fully abandon it,” Redus said. “But there are so many things about me that I think will make me interesting to watch.”

Redus pointed out that every great role had to be originated by someone. Andrews may have made the role of Maria famous, but there is a reason The Sound of Music continues to be performed. “It takes one person to make a role famous, but it takes so many different, dynamic actors to keep a show around,” Redus said. “Yes, we know and we love Julie Andrews, but that’s not the only way to play Maria.”

As an individual, Redus describes herself as goofy, funny, and silly, and although these are parts of her she sometimes feels the need to “tame,” Redus plans to bring these aspects of her into the role of Maria with full force. 

“Something I love about Maria is that she is apologetic—because she’s human—but also unapologetically herself,” Redus said. “I feel like playing this role, I’ll be able to be unapologetically myself onstage, with humor, with personality, with sensitivity.”

Redus believes there is a reason people are drawn to Maria. She is “authentically human, and loving, and caring and flawed.”

“It’s beautiful how Maria is navigating through life. She is truly in the pursuit of happiness,” Redus said. 

Last season, Redus’ goal was to bring humanity into Sarah in Ragtime. Although the roles of Sarah and Maria are extremely different, especially in how “emotionally demanding” they are, Redus still draws similarities between the two. “It’s similar with Maria. I don’t want anyone to leave that theatre thinking that there was anything wrong with her or that she was a problem that needed solving—or question the captain’s choice in choosing her,” Redus said. “It’s important to bring humanity and truth to these characters.” 

The Sound of Music is a beloved and well-known musical, and Redus encourages audience members—even though they’ve probably already seen it—to come to this production and be refreshed. 

“The power of music is so strong. It’s unifying, and life altering,” Redus points out. “It’s music that brings happiness and joy and childhood back into the von Trapp children and into the captain. It’s music that gives Maria the freedom to explore what she wants to do with her life.”

To Redus, the musical reminds us of the importance of family, love, friends, and of going after what you want, while acknowledging the beauty in our differences and ideas. “There’s this layer to the show of, ‘Why does Captain von Trapp want Maria? She’s a [governess],’” Redus said. “And there’s also this layer in our production that I’m a black woman, and that’s something we don’t shy away from.”

Ultimately, the actress hopes audience members watch the show and take a step back to celebrate the fact that “we are all individuals in the pursuit of happiness.” 

“And if we find that happiness we should be given full permission to chase that, especially if it’s out of joy and love,” Redus said. “I hope people leave the show with compassion in their hearts.”

To purchase tickets to The Sound of Music and see Redus onstage as the spectacular and spirited Maria, visit https://www.bard.org/plays/the-sound-of-music/.

Keep Your Eyes Open for These Surprises

Properties Director Benjamin Hohman

By Liz Armstrong 

Clue, which is playing four times a week this summer at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, is a dynamic, colorful, and hilarious production with an enormous number of props. Afterall, the set must include a grand hallway, the various rooms in the mansion, secret passageways, and a dizzying number of doors and tricks. Properties Director Benjamin Hohman has given us a sneak peek into some of the fun props used in the show and what to keep our eyes open for.

The Chandelier

First keep your eye out for three-and-a-half foot square crystal chandelier. Originally purchased for The Royal Family which the Festival produced in 1993, the chandelier has been in storage for nearly thirty years. Hohman and his team have dusted it off, painted it black, and hung it with glittering black crystals. It is now the perfect chandelier for this gloomy and menacing Victorian house.

The Library

The library features a very-hard-to-miss large bookshelf that moves in and out. The books lining the shelves are real, with over 400 donated by the Ye Olde Catholic Thrift Shop in Cedar City. However, because this bookshelf has to move easily, the props team cut them down to less than three inches deep and glued them together. What’s that old saying? “Don’t judge a book by its cover, or lack thereof.” 

The Portraits

One section of the stage includes portraits as if it were a wall. If you look closely, these portraits are actually of —scary animals? That’s right! Hairless cats, piranhas, you name it. Scenic designer Jo Winiarski hand-sketched, inked, and Photoshopped these unique portraits for the gallery wall. 

In honor of our founder, the late Fred C. Adams, there is also a glimpse of him that can be seen onstage. In the hallway, there are four portraits of Fred, depicting him in various roles he played at the Festival. There’s Fred as the Major General in The Pirates of Penzance and Fred as Adam in As You Like It. Can you figure out what the other two roles are?

The Rooms

Because there are so many different rooms in Clue, Winiarski had to be creative with the set design. Traveling panels and spinning walls were the solution! For example, there’s a kitchen with pots and pans on one wall, and on the other side is the billiard room with pool cues and a dart board. 

Each room is color-coordinated too! The lounge is in cool tones, with blues, green, and golds, while the study is old-mansion style, with a gold and red theme. Watch carefully to see all the different designs and details! 

The Dining Room Table

The chairs for the dining room scene were originally purchased for A Winter’s Tale. They were also in Hamlet, and have now been reupholstered for their third time onstage. These chairs are much more complicated than they may appear. Because the table and chairs are on a platform, the back legs are actually longer than the front so that they can reach the stage floor. 

Even more interesting, there is a seventh place setting for Mr. Boddy. But because there’s not enough room for seven chairs onstage, the props team screwed the back of a chair onto the table to make it look like an entire chair is there. Shhhh, it’ll be our little secret. 

The Weapons

When each character is given their weapon, they’re given very large, easy-to-recognize game pieces at the beginning. However, at the end of the show, they pull their weapons out of their pockets. Because they don’t have room in their costumes for the original weapons, there are actually duplicates of each weapon. The original dagger is sixteen inches long, but the dagger at the end is only five inches. It’s practically magic! 

The Game Pieces

Real Clue game pieces are used during the play. The map the characters use in one scene is actually a vintage game board! Oh, and there are actual Clue check-off cards from various versions of the game. The characters carry notebooks, which contain the late ’70s version of the check-off sheets from the board game. 

Other Fun Facts

There’s a bar in pretty much each room. Murder calls for drinking? There’s even a globe bar, in which the globe spins and contains a full bar set up inside.

Keep your eye out for a full length suit of armor in the study, as well as synthetic red-alligator skin in the library. It’s all in the details!

The refrigerator in the play was built from scratch, with the fridge door the only “real part.” Over 200 pounds of additional weight had to be added to the back to keep it from tipping over. Yikes! 

Of course, we can’t give away all of our secrets, but we hope you’ve enjoyed some of the ones we’ve shared. To see Clue and appreciate the intricate set design and props, get your tickets by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visit https://www.bard.org/plays/clue/.

SUU Alumna Lives Out Childhood Dream

Actor Anatasha Blakely

By Liz Armstrong 

For actor Anatasha Blakely, dreams really can—and do—come true. 

Blakely is in this year’s acting company at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and for her it’s not just a dream come true, but a full-circle moment (and a homecoming) in her life. 

Blakely grew up in Orem, Utah, before attending Southern Utah University to study classical theatre. While here she fell in love with, not just acting, but with Shakespeare and the Festival. Twelve years later, she is back in her college town, and she said it feels like her teenage dreams have come true. 

“When I was sixteen, I fell in love with Shakespeare at the Festival,” Blakely said. “I was obsessed with Education Director Michael Bahr and thought he was the coolest person—I still do.”

Blakely went on to play Helen in the Festival’s educational touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by Bahr) after she graduated from SUU in 2010. 

As a college student, she performed with Off the Cuff, a comedy improvisation company in Cedar City and met some improv actors from Los Angeles. 

“I was drawn to go do improv,” Blakely said. “I went to iO West and Second City in Los Angeles and tried to get the equivalent of a master’s degree in comedy, which I think really changed how I look at Shakespeare and how I approach acting.”

Living and acting in L.A for ten years allowed Blakely to go out and find herself artistically away from home. “I’m trained in classical theatre, and that’s really structured; and if I wanted to be the artist I thought I could, I needed to do the opposite of that, which was jumping on stage and doing improv,” Blakely said.

In addition to changing her perspective as an actor, leaving her home state has made coming back that much more special. Blakely is extremely excited to have landed the role of E. Dumaine in All’s Well That Ends Well because she has worked with director Melinda Pfundstein before. 

“I think she’s a genius, so being able to be in the room with her again is a privilege that I don’t take lightly,” Blakely said.

She also finds parallels between the two roles she’s playing, although E. Dumaine, friend of Bertram, in All’s Well That Ends Well, and Stephano’s drunken character in The Tempest are very different. “Both of the plays are about grace which is beautiful at a time like this, and there’s a mischievousness in both of my characters that’ll be fun,” she said. 

From falling in love with Shakespeare for the first time as a teenager, to becoming a member of the Utah Shakespeare Festival acting company in the very same place, Blakely’s story is the epitome of a happy ending—and a full-circle journey.

Tickets are now on sale for the Festival’s 2022 season which runs now through October 8. In addition, to The Sound of Music, the season will feature All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, Trouble in Mind, Clue, The Tempest, and Thurgood. Tickets can be purchased at bard.org or by calling the ticket office at 800-PLAYTIX.

What Do You Know about Clue, the Game?

An early version of the board game.

By Liz Armstrong

Before it was a movie or a play, Clue was, of course, a wildly popular board game which has been played around the world. So, before you see the play this summer at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, let’s see what you know about this game of murder and intrigue.

1—The board game, invented by Anthony Pratt and his wife Elva (who designed the original artwork for the board), was originally named “Murder.” Later it was changed to “Cluedo,” and is most popularly known in North America as just “Clue.”  

2—“Cluedo” is a combination of the words “clue” and “ludo.” “Ludo” is Latin for the word “play.” 

3—The Clue we know and love today contains six characters, six weapons, and nine rooms. But the original was much more complicated than this, boasting ten characters, nine weapons, and eleven rooms. Yeah, we’re glad it was simplified too. 

4—The weapons used in the game we play today (and in the play) are the candlestick, dagger, revolver, lead pipe, wrench, and the rope. Pratt’s original weapons, however contained an axe, bomb, syringe, poison, and others. 

5—The characters weren’t always the same either. The ten characters in the original patent application were Doctor Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, the Reverend Mister Green, Miss Grey, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, Nurse White, Mrs. Silver, and Colonel Yellow. 

6—The idea for the game may possibly be attributed to the wildly popular Agatha Christie novels, which sparked the mystery parties Pratt often attended during his career of playing piano for hotels and cruise ships. 

7—Pratt and his wife developed the board game during World War II. While waiting out the air raids their home in Birmingham, England, they played Clue. They were granted a patent in 1947, which they sold to United Kingdom games manufacturer Waddington’s. 

8— Pratt didn’t profit much from the game. In the 1960s, his patent on the game lapsed and he stopped receiving royalty payments. He received no royalties on U.S. or international versions of the game, choosing instead to sign over those rights in 1953 for 5000 pounds (then about $14,000).

9—The standard Clue has 324 possible outcomes, which may contribute to its ongoing popularity. With so many different end results, how could you ever get bored?

10—The board game has been adapted into plays, films, musicals, game shows, competitions, video games, books, and more. Check out the article “The Evolution of Clue: From Board Game to Play” for more information. 

The 2022 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 20 to October 8 and includes All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, The Sound of Music, Trouble in Mind, Clue, The Tempest, and Thurgood, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and Repertory Magic. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or going online to bard.org/plays.

The Journey from Board Game to Play

Aaron Galligan-Stierle (left) as Wadsworth, Bailey Blaise as Yvette, and Melinda Parrett as Mrs. White in the Festival’s production of Clue.

By Liz Armstrong 

Originally a board game invented by Anthony E. Pratt, Clue has had quite the journey. As a board game it gained popularity around 1954, and in 2019 it was adapted into the play that graces the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s stage this summer. In between, it has been a film, a book, a video game, a game show, and a musical. Clue has had quite the journey, so let’s dive in and follow along: 

1944: The Board Game 

Developed during World War II by Pratt and his wife Elva as a way to wait out the air raids that were occurring in England, the couple received a patent for the game in 1947. 

1985: The Feature Film

This may be the most popular adaptation of the game. The film featured Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, and Eileen Brennan. The film actually lost money in its production, costing $15 million to make and earning $14.6 million at the box office. However, it is still considered a comedy classic, with a cult-like following spawning annual family traditions and watch parties where friends gather to cheer on their favorite character. In fact, some fans say it is the “best film of all time.” 

1985: The Book

Paramount Pictures commissioned a hardcover storybook, a kid’s collectible written by John Landis, Ann Matthews, and Jonathan Lynn. An actual novel was written by Michael McDowell as well.

1985-2009: The Video Game

In 1895, the original video game of Clue was released as a VCR mystery game. Other video game versions followed in 1992, 1998, 1999, 2008, and 2009. 

1990: The British Game Show

The board game was adapted into a game show that ran for four seasons. Two teams of celebrities would watch as guest performers related clues in character. Some of these guest performers included David McCallum, Tom Baker, and Joanna Lumley. Alongside the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden all had their versions of a television series, although the United States never did hop onboard.

1993: The World Championship Event 

Peter DePietro and Tom Chiodo promoted a Clue world championship event in New York City. This event was part competition and part performance art. Participants dressed up as Clue characters and played the game. The winner received a trip to Hollywood.

1995: The Musical 

This musical stage version opened in 1995 in Baltimore, directed by Peter DePietro. It focused on some of the relationships that “lead to the nightly murder of Mr. Boddy.” In this musical, audience members were invited to pick three cards that identified the murderer, weapon, and location, just like the board game.  

1997 and 2022: The Play Off-Broadway 

Opening at the Players Theater in 1997, the off-Broadway performance closed after 29 performances and 17 previews. It was directed once again by DePietro. This past January, Clue opened off-Broadway again at The Paper Mill Playhouse. 

2022: Clue at the Utah Shakespeare Festiva

This is director Hunter Foster’s first time at the Festival who also has a writing credit on the play. In regards to the production, Foster says that the play is “a funny, entertaining evening and a real ensemble piece with great characters and a cast that is onstage together almost the whole time.” 


The 2022 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 20 to October 8 and includes, in addition to Clue, All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, The Sound of Music, Trouble in Mind, The Tempest, and Thurgood, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and Repertory Magic. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or going online to bard.org/plays.

Clue: About the Playwrights

Playwright Sandy Rustin

By Don Leavitt

Believe it or not, the 1985 movie version of Clue is not the first theatrical adaptation of the classic Hasbro board game. Dare I claim that this distinction belongs to Riverview Junior High School in Murray, Utah? It was the winter of 1983. Our school had no drama program, so one of our English teachers got permission to hold an after-school club, “all eighth and ninth grade students welcome,” and once a week we met to engage in a series of acting and improv games. We weren’t a huge group, but we had fun, and the club was a safe place to just be.

We quickly discovered, however, that there are only so many times you can play theatre games like Park Bench and One-Word Story. By February, we were bored stiff of the same old games, and we begged our faculty advisor for something new. The following week, she obliged us.

“We’re going to act out the board game Clue,” she announced. She had written up a skeleton plot and added several characters to give everyone in the club a chance to play someone. In addition to the six main characters of the game, we also had a butler, a chauffeur, a police detective, and “significant others” for several of the main characters. Girls outnumbered boys in the club by nearly three to one, so all the character names were put in a bowl for us to draw out, and the only caveat was that we had to play whomever we drew, no trading and no complaining. This meant that boys might be playing a woman and girls might be playing a man. I played a hell of a good Miss Scarlett. Other than that, I really don’t remember much about our version, except that it was incredibly clumsy, and I’m pretty sure we never figured out which one of us was supposed to be the killer; but we laughed a lot and at the very least, preceded the film adaptation by about two years. Never underestimate the power of bragging rights.

I don’t honestly believe ours was the first attempt to act out Clue. It’s quite possible that some other theatre group somewhere had the same idea. It’s even conceivable that somewhere, sometime, someone hosted a Clue-themed party to much the same effect. It’s the mere fact that anyone, anywhere has ever dreamed of dramatizing a board game that is most fascinating. Of course, unlike most board games, Clue lends itself to playacting—can you imagine sitting through a three-hour musical production of Monopoly? —with its story-like, character-driven mystery and interactive gameplay.

Any discussion of bringing Clue to the stage must begin with the origins of the game and the ironic fact that the board game itself was inspired by actor-driven murder mystery parties of the 1920s and 1930s. The game was invented by Anthony E. Pratt, a British musician who, prior to the Second World War, made a career of playing piano for hotels and cruise ships. His idea, inspired by the popularity of Agatha Christie’s novels (particularly And Then There Were None), was sparked by the mystery parties he attended as a musician at country hotels, where part of the entertainment included mystery games involving actors and hotel guests playing characters trying to solve a murder.

The game he came up with proved to be wildly popular, so perhaps a film adaptation was inevitable. In 1985, filmmaker John Landis worked with producer Debra Hill and director Jonathan Lynn to develop the story; Landis created the film’s multiple ending concept and Lynn completed the script, giving him the sole writing credit. 

Jonathan Lynn is an English stage and film actor, writer, director and producer. Born in Bath, Somerset, he studied law at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he participated in the Cambridge University Footlights Club revue, Cambridge Circus. His first West End stage appearance came in 1965, and from then on, he wrote and appeared in a number of British television sitcoms. His first screenplay credit was for 1974’s The Internecine Project, followed by the British classics Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. As a director, Lynn is best known for Clue, My Cousin Vinny (1992), and The Fighting Temptations (2003).

Although not critically or financially successful, Clue garnered an almost cult-like fan following that spawned everything from books to game shows in Australia and the UK; a five-part television miniseries that ran on American cable channel The Hub in November 2011; and stage productions that include a musical comedy that ran off-Broadway from 1997 to 1999, and a play version by Robert Duncan in cooperation with Waddingtons that debuted in 1985 and toured the UK until 1990.

The current version being produced this year at the Utah Shakespeare Festival “based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn. Written by Sandy Rustin. Additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price” (taken from the script cover). It is unclear how much or exactly what additional content Foster, Price and Rustin contributed, but according to www.playscripts.com, the ultimate credit belongs to Rustin.

Sandy Rustin is an actress who has appeared on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Shumer and in numerous stage and improv shows. As a playwright, she created the musical adaptation of the 1988 MGM film Mystic Pizza, and has won awards for her plays Houston and Rated P for Parenthood. According to her website, Sandyrustin.com, the play broke box office records during its regional premiere and was named the “most produced play” of 2020. An accomplished voiceover actress, Rustin is the founding co-artistic director of Midtown Rep and is an advocate for the Cowden Foundation, a non-profit that raises funds for leukemia research.

Eric Price is a prolific writer, lyricist, director, and producer, best known for the Apple TV+ animated series Central Park. In addition to his contributions to Clue, Price has also written the lyrics and bookfor The Violet Hour, Radioactive, and his musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, among others. Price was the long-time assistant to director/producer Hal Prince and currently serves as an adjunct professor of musical theatre at Pace University. He is the co-founder of This MT Space (www.thismtspace.com), an online musical theatre education platform.

Hunter Foster is an American musical theatre actor, singer, librettist, playwright, and director. In addition to his contributions to Clue, Foster is best known for his award-winning performance as Bobby Strong in Urinetown and his Tony-nominated performance in 2003’s Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors. Younger audiences may recognize him for his portrayal of Scotty on the ABC Family (now Freeform) show Bunheads (2012–2013), where he acted alongside his real-life sister, actress Sutton Foster. Not only does he have a writing credit on Clue, Foster also had the honor to direct its world premiere at New Hope, Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Playhouse in 2017 and is directing it this summer for the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

No matter what form it takes, Clue is an icon of not just American but global pop culture. As one reviewer of Clue noted, “Yes, it’s a play based on the classic board game. . . but more directly, it’s based on the 1985 movie version . . . that’s become a TV staple over the years and has developed a cult following. . . . The stage version is even sillier and cornier than the movie. . . . [It] isn’t a perfect murder comedy, but it’s got a dizzy, stimulating joy that makes it a whole lot of fun. It’s a game that’s definitely worth playing” (Tim Dunleavy, “Review: ‘Clue: On Stage’ at Bucks County Playhouse,” May 10, 2017; https://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2017/05/10/review-clue-stage-bucks-county-playhouse/).

The 2022 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 20 to October 8 and includes All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, The Sound of Music, Trouble in Mind, Clue, The Tempest, and Thurgood, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and Repertory Magic. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or going online to bard.org/plays.