Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog – How to Help the Props Department...

Do you wonder how we get all the furniture and props on stage? If you’ve ever attended a Props Seminar during your visit, you know that Ben Hohman, Props Director, and his team create magic. They have a 6,000 square foot warehouse with everything from furniture to lamps to a suit of armor.
For any given season, they will create the look and feel for each play with 50% from the warehouse, 25% purchased and 25% made from scratch.

And they are always looking for new items. Your donations can help!

We recently chatted with Ben to learn more.

Ben: This summer, after a Props Seminar, Jim and Heather Molans approached me and asked if we took donations. I said “yes.”  We emailed photos back and forth. They were remodeling their house and they realized they had too much “stuff.” The Molans loved their items and wanted to be sure there was a life beyond their house.

Chairs from the Molans
We warned them that their things on stage would probably look different. We might stain it or reupholster it. If an item is broken, we fix it, make it usable again.  Bottom line, these are not museum pieces. And, we’ll use it til it falls apart. Then we’ll use all the parts; table legs become lamps, tables become pedestals. So the items definitely live on.

So the Molans rented a 16 foot U-Haul and brought us a fabulous collection of Victorian pieces, many of which will be used next season in Charley’s Aunt.

Another example: An auction business in Las Vegas recently contacted our Development Department, saying “We auction off estates and some items are broken or some don’t sell. But we love the Festival and would be happy to donate those to you.” Our response: “Yes, we take broken pieces because we can fix them and repurpose them.” So this fall, we’ll be driving to Las Vegas with a trailer. And what we can’t use, we’ll donate to a local charity.

So how can our supporters help? What do you need?

Ben: Big picture, if you’re remodeling, downsizing, cleaning out an old house, or planning a trip to the dump, please consider the Festival first!  We can use furniture, old books, records, lamps, decorative items, rugs, wooden ladders, telephones of any era, old computers, silk plants, paintings – just to name a few.

You can email me at, include photos and we’ll see what we can do. Our range for pick up is usually Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, but if it’s something we can use, we’ll find a way.

For next season specifically, we need World War II Army items i.e. tents, duffle bags, equipment for South Pacific and 1890s/1900s sports memorabilia i.e. pennants, paddles, for Charley’s Aunt. And if you just happen to have a 1700s pianoforte, we could use that for Amadeus!

Your donations are tax-deductible and every little bit helps.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog – Join us for a Christmas celebration at the Frontier Homestead State Park

Are you looking for a fun, family friendly, affordable way to celebrate the Christmas season? The Utah Shakespeare Festival has partnered with the Frontier Homestead State Park to provide a weeklong Christmas of Yesteryear. There is something for everyone in our community – young, old, and in between.

During week of December 8, each evening from 5:30 pm to 8pm and all day Saturday will feature music from local musicians, Christmas story readings with Festival favorites, visits with Santa (every evening from 5:30 to 8), decorated trees, local artists, hands on activities and food and beverages.

We talked with Ryan Paul, Curator at the Frontier Homestead, to get some details.

This year, instead of only one night for Christmas at the Frontier Homestead, we’ve partnered with the Festival to create an entire week of  community centered celebration.

Each night will be different, and we’re encompassing all the arts: there will be music from local groups such as the Festival City Chamber Singers, Suzuki Strings, Miss Iron County and the USF Playmakers. Christmas readings will feature Festival powerhouses such as David Ivers, Brian Vaughn and Melinda Pfundstein. There will be music at 6pm and 7pm and readings at 6:30 and 7:30.

And then there are the visual arts with invited local artists demonstrating their craft. For example, Ron Flud will make leather holsters and bags and Susie Prince will demonstrate jewelry making.

Walking through the various museum structures, you’ll get a feeling of yesteryear. Each will be decorated with a themed tree. Ben Hohman, Props and Display Director for the Festival, is creating two trees: a paper tree and a tree made entirely of tumbleweeds that's fourteen feet tall. The Livestock Festival is making one out of barbed wire.

Santa will be in the Hunter House each evening from 5:30 to 8.

Each night, there will be different treats: popcorn and hot cider, scones and hot chocolate. Roving musicians will entertain you as you walk among the various buildings.

There are also different hands-on activities each evening: print-making for Christmas cards, dipping candles.

And Saturday, from 11am – 8pm, the Festival’s Playmakers will provide Christmas carols all day. There will be ten featured artists, demonstrating their craft and helping your gift buying by selling their items.

Bottom line, this is a fun, affordable, community-centered Christmas celebration. We hope you’ll come more than once to sample all that we have to offer.

Have we whetted your appetite? Admission is $1.50 per person, only $5 per family. And you can get a pass for the entire week for only $20. We hope to see you there!

You can find a complete schedule of events at
For questions, you can call Ryan Paul, museum curator, at 435 586 9290.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from the Utah Shakespeare Festival!

We want to thank our donors, audience members, volunteers, and fans for their support this year. We have so many things to be thankful for; a successful 2014 season, starting construction on the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, a world premier, a visit from England and continuing to bring Shakespeare's words to life. Thank you to all. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - 53 Years and Still Going Strong!

With a $38 million project under construction, a world premiere adaptation, a visit from England and the continuation of the Complete the Canon and History Cycle initiatives, the Utah Shakespeare Festival showed no signs of slowing down in 2014, its 53rd season. Producing 235 performances in rotating repertory in three theatres for 17 weeks is no easy feat, but through countless hours, a dedicated group of artists has pulled off another artistically successful year.

 “Cedar City, Utah, is a midsummer's dream of a spot, where top-caliber theater rubs shoulders with high-desert canyons,” said Los Angeles Times reporter Sherry Stern. “If you're an avid theatergoer, Cedar City's Utah Shakespeare Festival is a must.” A must indeed, especially with the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, the new performing and visual arts complex, under construction.

When the first shovel broke ground on the long awaited Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts on the campus of Southern Utah University, the cultural landscape of southern Utah was forever changed. Demolition of nine buildings took place in August and September, and now construction crews are working on rerouting utility lines. With red dirt flying, the Center is on track to finish in January 2016.

The Center is predicted to further establish Cedar City as a regional arts mecca. It will serve as the home to the new Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, the new Anes studio theatre, an artistic/production building and rehearsal studio for the Festival, and SUU’s Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA). The Center also features a tree lined walkway and sculpture gardens and will offer many large public gathering spaces ideal for receptions and special events.

2014 Sense & Sensibility
Another large undertaking this year was the world premiere adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility co-written by J. R. Sullivan and Joseph Hanreddy. Sullivan and Hanreddy also wrote Pride and Prejudice, which appeared at the Festival to great acclaim in 2010. The adaptation faithfully followed the plot and themes of Austen’s beloved novel.

“From the masterfully adapted script, courtesy of Director Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan, to a beautifully simplistic set that allows for seamless transitions, this theatrical jewel opens the door to Austen's classic work in a way not previously explored,” said Lisa Larson, reporter for The Spectrum.

Also, this summer scholars and lovers of Shakespeare traveled from England to America to study why Shakespeare is so popular here, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival was on their list of places to visit. Shakespeare on the Road, a team from the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is based in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, stopped at the Festival as part of a 60-day road trip visiting 14 Shakespeare-related theatre festivals across America.

"We were thrilled to be a part of this amazing study being undertaken by the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust,” said Festival Executive Director R. Scott Phillips. “Chronicling the love affair that America has with master William Shakespeare is astounding, and to have it done with our friends from the UK is even more astonishing."

The History Cycle initiative, now in its second year, introduced audiences to young prince Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part One.  According to Barbara Bannon from the Salt Lake Tribune,Henry IV, Part One is a compelling start to the story of Henry V's kingship. Its to-be-continued ending promises good things to come.”

One of the goals of the History Cycle is to have elements of consistency within each production as this further establishes a common thread from one show to the next. It gives cohesiveness to this series that is engaging and dramatic. The most exciting development with the History Cycle is the announcement that three actors have been hired with the commitment that they will continue their roles throughout the Henry tetralogy.

Ashdown & Woronicz
2014 Henry IV, Part I
Larry Bull, who played Bolingbroke in 2013 in Richard II, returned in 2014 to assume his role as the newly appointed King Henry IV. Sam Ashdown, who was new to the Festival this season, was been hired to play Hal. Audiences will see him grow over three seasons from a young, rebellious teen (Prince Hal in 2014) to one of England’s most heroic and noble kings, Henry V in 2016. Last but certainly not least is Henry Woronicz who is playing the loveable rogue knight, Sir John Falstaff.

The Festival continues to offer more than just plays: guests were able to experience the free nightly Greenshow, the New American Playwrights Project, Bardway Baby!, production and literary seminars, orientations before every show, backstage tours, educational classes, and Repertory Magic.

2014 The Greenshow

Other season highlights include the many community outreach programs that the Festival participated in. These included Military Appreciate Night, July Jamboree, Groovefest, the Iron County Care and Share Fall Food Drive and Relay for Life.

Although the plays have closed, the Festival staff is hard at work preparing for the 2015 season. Artistic Director David Ivers commented, "The 2014 season brought strong productions and phenomenal artists to our stages. Our full time and seasonal staff are to be commended for delivering some of the finest professional theatre in the country. We are very excited to share 2015 with you!"

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is located on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Tickets for the Festival’s 54th season in 2015 are available by calling 1-800-PLAYTIX or by visiting the Festival website at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Update on the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts

Dreams Do Come True

After years of planning, fundraising, and dreaming our new home is finally underway. A lot has changed since the end of August, and hopefully this will inspire everyone to dream big, because they can come true! 

Fences came up on August 27, 2014. It started at the Randall Theatre and stretched all the way to our company housing, and permanently closed 200 West.

Once the fences were up, demolition began with 8 buildings crashing to the ground.  It was bitter sweet to see our old homes being torn down. 

Old Costume Crafts Shop

Fred Adams and Ashley Pollock infront of Administrative Building Demo

Startford Housing

Administration Building 
More Administrative Building 

Once all the buildings were down, it was time to remove all the debris and smooth everything out. 

So what was once this:

Turned into this:



Outside the Randall looks a little different: 

It is amazing to think that in two months buildings, parking lots and streets are now red dirt. Your support and donation dollars have made this possible. 

As of Friday, November 7, Big D, our construction company, is installing conduct, electrical wiring, and pouring site walls.

The Engelstad Theater's basement is taking shape as well:  

The Festival is thrilled to see our new home coming together. We will keep our audiences, donors, and fans updated as we build this dream together! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

David Ivers, Artistic Director, Guest Blog

Thoughts From David

I was approached last week by our PR department to do a little blogging on behalf of USF…Now…I’ve never done this before so you’ll have to forgive the form if it’s somehow not to “industry” standards.  I took the job (the blogging job) for several reasons. First, I thought: “Well, this will be good: force me as one of the Artistic Directors to formulate a few thoughts about what I’m doing at USF to help ‘move the needle’ and share a few thoughts about what’s in the works for the future….you know; have the courage to put it in INK.”  Now, on the heels of THAT thought, this arrived:  “MAN…..this will be so cool when, at 9pm, after my sons have read and cleaned and brushed and shared some thoughts about the universe and asked the big questions and are finally asleep and all the little plastic toys that scar my feet are picked up and put away; after Steph (my wife) and myself finish the dishes and prep the house for the next morning; after that’s all done and we SIT and re-introduce ourselves to each other, she will invariably ask:

“How was work today, anything new?”

I will get to say:  “Good. Good. Yeah. Did a little Bloggin’.”

 “Excuse me?” I can hear.

“Yup…did…uh….did a little Bloggin’. Blogging.”


“For USF…you know Nikki (Our PR Director) asked and I said yes…. (silence) I have a blog….(longer silence) I’m a blogger.”

 “What did you BLOG about, dear?”

“Just wrote a bit about, the work Brian and myself are doing as we continue to look for new plays to produce at Utah Shakespeare and contemplate commissioning mores classics like the recent Sense and Sensibility that just closed in our 2014 summer season.

I wrote a bit about how the new Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts (BTSCA) will certainly require us to adjust our thinking in terms of HOW we program and WHAT we program. I’m excited (I wrote) about the possibility of opening our season a bit earlier and looking at how we might extend the Fall component of our work to allow greater access for our student and local population. The BTSCA will incorporate a smaller, flexible theater which will allow us to produce intimate works of varying genres to help build an audience during portions of the year that are not typically programmed.

I continued, Brian and myself along with Executive Director Scott Phillips and General Manager Zach Murray are meeting weekly to strategize effective ways to produce our work more efficiently, to organize the Utah Shakespeare Festival in a way that protects our resources and improves the support we offer our full and seasonal staff.

Tony Amendola
We are currently working with our board to complete a Long Range Plan, which has been stalled over the last two years as other priorities, and challenges have moved higher up the list. I’m excited, I wrote, about the progress being made with the caliber of artists who appear on and off our stages and hope to continue the trend as we look toward a 2015 season that will bring noted stage, film and TV actor TONY AMENDOLA to USF as King Lear.”

“You sound excited” smiled Steph.

“I am…there was a lot to share in my little Blog debut. Things like our great working sessions with a really dedicated production staff on how the 2016 and 2017 season line-up(s) look. How our repertory of plays may weave in and out of the calendar year and how we support our local southern Utah community as we continue to reach out beyond our borders.

We have a new and innovative approach to branding recently brought to us by our Marketing and Communications team that will certainly support our mission.

And, I’m eager to share results and details of upcoming casting sessions as we put together the 2015 company and I’m hopeful we will be in a position to announce our 2016 season in the new BTSCA sooner than later (3 titles have been chosen!).

All in all, it’s been great to share a few thoughts with our friends and supporters as we continue to build some of the best theatre in our country.”

“Wow.”  Steph quipped. “Big day….can’t wait to read it.”