I attended my first play at the Utah Shakespearean Festival with my grandma and cousin when I was fourteen years old. It was The Tempest. It took me a few scenes to get used to the language, but I was soon immersed in the drama and romance that were played out under a starry night sky. I was hooked, and I have seen at least one play at this Tony-award winning Festival nearly every year since.
The Utah Shakespearean Festival is held every summer and fall on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. Contemporary plays as well as Shakespearean favorites are produced each year. The Festival is one of the top Shakespearean festivals in the United States and it won the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2000.
Plays are staged in either the Adams Shakespearean Theatre or the Randall L. Jones Theatre, which are across the street from each other. The Adams is a replica of William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and was once used in a BBC series about the Globe. The Adams Theatre has no roof, so patrons see Shakespeare under the stars as theater-goers in Shakespeare’s time would have done. The Randall is an elegant indoor theatre where most of the contemporary productions are staged. Both theaters have about 800 seats and are intimate enough that nearly all the seats are good. The Auditorium, next to the Adams is the location for some of the matinee shows and is the rain stage for the Adams theater. In February 2012, the Festival announced plans to build a new 900-seat theatre, similar to the Adams, but with greater comfort and a retractable roof. This $26.5 million project, which should be completed in 2015, will increase the Festival’s capacity by 25% and will attract more talent and patrons than ever before.
Prices range from $26 to $70 per ticket. Tickets for popular shows will sell out, so it’s wise to buy tickets in advance. However, if you are in the area and do not already have tickets, it is worthwhile to check the box office for availability up until the play begins, since there are typically four plays performed each day – two matinees and two evening performances – so there is a good chance of getting tickets to one of them. Tickets are a little less expensive during the pre-season in June. These are technically dress rehearsals, but I have seen lots of these performances and would not be able to tell the difference between that performance and a regular season performance. In the 20+ years I have attended the Festival, I can only recall one or two productions that I didn’t love.
Shakespeare for Families
Children over the age of 6 may attend the Festival productions, though not all plays will be suitable for elementary-aged children like mine. I look forward to introducing my children to the Utah Shakespearean Festival when I think their appreciation of the experience will justify the expense of their tickets, but in the meantime, the Green Show is a fun, FREE way to introduce children to Shakespeare.
The Green Show is held before the plays every evening at a small stage just outside the Adams Theater. Each night, young performers entertain patrons with high-energy Shakespearean-era songs, dances and comedy. There are three different shows, so it’s worthwhile to attend more than once. Bring cash if you would like to purchase a tart, beverage, or other treat from a wandering vendor in period clothing. The berry tarts and buttery Humbug hard candies are my favorites. The Green Show begins at 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, from late June to late August or early September. The Green Show is popular and attracts both tourists and locals, so go early if you want a good seat on the lawn and bring a blanket or cushion if you want to sit on something other than grass.
The Festival also offers childcare services during performances for a fee for parents of young children.
Now in it’s 51st year, the Utah Shakespearean Festival is a world-class experience for theater-lovers. I look forward to being a part of it for years to come.
Planning a visit to the Utah Shakespeare Festival? Consider pairing it with these nearby attractions that I have visited and recommend: