We at the Utah Shakespeare Festival wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.
We are taking a blog break and will be back in January with news about the 2014 School Tour and updates about our exciting 2014 season.
You can find the latest information on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/utahshakespeare and our website www.bard.org.
Until then, stay warm and safe.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Our 2014 season features a world premiere of a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility. Authors Joe Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan shared their thoughts about the play and their creative process.
When were you approached by David Ivers and Brian Vaughn (USF’s artistic directors) about creating this adaptation?
J.R. Sullivan: Conversations about a USF commission of the work to premiere at the Festival began in 2011. An agreement to move forward was reached in 2012.
What are the challenges of adapting such a well known work to the stage?
Sullivan: Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a lengthy nineteenth century novel and the first difficulty is devising a dramatic scheme that will tell her story in a compact but dramatically effective way. Taking place over the course of nine months, there are multiple settings, both exterior and interior. As with Pride and Prejudice, it has been our method to devise a production scheme that can tell the story swiftly, imparting a theatrical ingenuity to its style while also realizing dramatic momentum and suspense.
Joe Hanreddy: The initial challenge is getting past the hubris of doing it at all. Sense and Sensibility is a finely detailed, sublimely subtle masterwork of fiction—a perfect work of art... The great fear is coming off like a graffiti artist desecrating a great monument.
What do you think is the essence of the book?
Hanreddy: The antithesis of the title reflects two very different mind-sets towards love, courtship and marriage. Marianne’s notions of love aren’t different from those at the heart of popular romantic movies, books and songs today. She believes that love happens at first sight, and she straightaway falls for a handsome young stranger who heroically comes to her aid in a storm. Elinor, on the other hand, loves more slowly. Elinor realizes that time is, in fact, essential to nurturing a truly deep connection.
Sullivan: As Austen’s title suggests there is sense and sensibility at issue in the story, abstract concepts that are much in play in the real lives of the characters. Reason and emotion might be another way to talk about this now. While Elinor is a character that governs her feelings and is circumspect in her expression of them, Marianne is one who acts impulsively and is passionate and emotional about her likes and dislikes...Jane Austen’s interest in examining the value of Sensibility - which by the novel’s publication had evolved into the full blown cultural trend of Romanticism – forms the basis of the novel and so it is that Marianne’s journey from sensibility to sense forms the arc of the play.
What role will you each play in the production?
Sullivan: Joseph Hanreddy will be directing the premiere of the play for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I will be in residence for the first week of rehearsals and then return when the production is in tech and dress rehearsals.
How have the recent readings and workshops influenced the script?
Sullivan: Hearing the play read by good actors makes an enormous difference to the progress of the work. Important adjustments were made after each of the play’s readings – the first in Chicago in March of 2013, and then in Cedar City in October 2013.
Why will we love it?
Hanreddy: Jane Austen was the first great realist of literature and wrote brilliantly entertaining, revealing and funny stories that transcend time, culture and gender. At their core, modern relationships have almost everything in common with the ones Austen writes about in Sense and Sensibility.
Sullivan: It’s a great story filled with great characters. Its romance is balanced with its drama, its comedy with insight and sharp perception into human nature. Jane Austen created a deeply memorable and much beloved tale with Sense and Sensibility and it is our hope that this adaptation does full justice to her times and ours with an exciting rendition.
Sense and Sensibility opens June 24, 2014 and is one of eight plays in the 2014 season. You can learn more about the season and purchase tickets at www.bard.org
Friday, November 8, 2013
Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - “To have faith is to have wings” 52nd Season Soars at the Utah Shakespeare Festival
|2013 Peter and the Starcatcher|
The Utah Shakespeare Festival soared this year in more ways than one. Not only did the Festival produce a regional premiere of a Tony Award-winning play, it continued the Complete the Canon initiative, started the History Cycle, and the company is preparing to break ground on a new arts center. The Festival continues to push the envelope and through countless hours and a resilient company of artists, the Festival once again received tremendous praise this year for an artistically successful season.
Judith Reynolds, a journalist for the Durango Herald, said it best, “With its multimillion-dollar production budget and cast heavily sprinkled with Equity Actors, the Utah Shakespeare Festival continues to mount spectacular and thought-provoking productions.”
|Mattfeld (Blackstache) and|
2013 Peter and the Starcatcher
The biggest coup for the Festival this year was receiving the rights to produce the regional premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher. It played to sold-out houses and broke the million-dollar mark at the box office. “It was an amazing experience, and to top it all off, the Festival received positive comments and kudos from Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Group,” said Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn.
Peter and the Starcatcher, by Rick Elice and based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, was a thrilling, imaginative, theatrical experience about Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, and all the memorable characters he encounters on his journey to Neverland. Festival guests raved about the production, and many returned to see it for a second, third and even fourth time.
In 2012, the Festival announced an exciting new initiative to produce the entire canon of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight plays called Complete the Canon. This year, the Festival introduced the second phase of the Complete the Canon program, the History Cycle. Audience members can expect to see all of Shakespeare’s 10 history plays in chronological order starting this year with the rarely-produced King John and Richard II. One of the goals of the History Cycle is to give a cohesiveness to this series that will be engaging and dramatic.
|Jones as King John|
According to Barbara M. Bannon, reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune, “King John is not staged often, but this strong production makes it well worth seeing. Its vivid portrait of England's unstable political climate sets the stage for the histories that will follow.”
|Ivers (Richard II) and|
2013 Richard II
“The superb acting and pleasant designs helped me realize that Richard II is one of the most underrated of Shakespeare’s plays,” said Russell Warne, managing editor for the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association. “The Utah Shakespeare Festival has created an excellent installment of their Complete the Canon initiative to produce every Shakespeare play over the course of 12 years.”
Last fall, the Festival joined forces with Southern Utah University in order to build the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. The Center will include a long-awaited new outdoor Shakespeare theatre, studio theatre, the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA), and the Festival’s much needed artistic and production facility. This partnership has propelled the campaign forward, and in the spring, a $6 million gift was given from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation in order to create the multi-million dollar arts center.
The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will incorporate visual arts, live theatre and dynamic arts education and will dramatically enrich the cultural life of Cedar City. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the spring of 2014, and the Center will be completed for the opening of the Festival’s 2016 season. Construction will not impact the Festival experience, and guests can continue to expect exceptional customer service and quality entertainment.
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.
Other season highlights include the many community outreach programs that the Festival participated in. These include Military Appreciate Night, Free Night of Theatre, 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 2014 season.
"The Utah Shakespeare Festival is proud to continue to offer performances of the highest caliber for our thousands of guests from across the US,” said Executive Director R. Scott Phillips. “We continue to explore the power of live theatre and appreciate the on-going support of our loyal theatre patrons."
“The Utah Shakespeare Festival once again proves that all the world’s a stage — and every stage is a world,” said Carol Cling, journalist for the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is located on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Tickets for the Festival’s 53rd season in 2014 are available by calling 1-800-PLAYTIX or by visiting the Festival website at www.bard.org.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
This fall, the Festival’s Education Department is switching things around. Instead of a Playmakers where the local schools come to the Festival for a performance, they’re taking Playmakers to the schools with a production of Schoolhouse Rock. During November, Schoolhouse Rock will perform for five Iron County schools.
Tell us about Schoolhouse Rock.
Michael Bahr: Schoolhouse Rock was very popular during the 70s and 80s.
Josh Stavros: It was originally a series of television commercials, cartoons, that would air on Saturday morning on a number of different educational topics: How a Bill Becomes a Law, Multiplication, History, Parts of speech, etc.
Bahr: My daughter knows the preamble of the Constitution because of the song, “We the people...”
Describe the production.
Bahr: We’re taking a group of 33 kids and we’re performing the music of Schoolhouse Rock: it’s 14 songs and 45 minutes long. These songs are very catchy while teaching great lessons. They have great resonance with a crowd.
What do the performers learn?
Bahr: It’s really great training ground if you’re trying to teach someone how to act, sing and dance. Which is harder - tour or production? They both bring different challenges and they teach different things to the kids.
Having a touring production, I can teach kids how to set up, how to walk in and perform in a different space. That’s a very different skill set. During auditions we told the parents “it will be your job, parents, to get them to the schools, to rehearsals at this time.” This is an experiment; there is no lead here. This is an ensemble piece. All the kids perform every time. The youngest is 8 and the oldest is 17.
Who are some of the performers?
Stavros: Some names familiar to Festival patrons would be Britton Gardner (Gavroche in Les Mis), Bailey Duncan (Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird), as well as Eliza Allen and Kailey Gilbert who were fairies in Midsummer.
How is this program funded?
Bahr: SUU’s Beverley Taylor Sorenson College of Education funds this via the Center for Innovative Education. This is money given to SUU specifically for educational outreach.
Any closing thoughts?
Bahr: I know the kids will love it - it’s high energy and interactive. The teachers will love it - they’ll probably sing along. And I don’t want to minimize the training opportunity with this group of 33 kids. Every kid sings, every kid dances, every kid is part of an ensemble. Every kid will tour.
My first dream is to take these students out touring in the schools. And the second dream is that we can tour all year because it provides training for those that are performing and curricular engagement for audiences. We can provide a construct for them to have conversations about the educational material.
You can find examples of the Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons on YouTube. Here’s the link for the Preamble to the Constitution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30OyU4O80i4 and Nouns http://www.schooltube.com/video/21001073474c19344891/ .
You can learn more about the education programs of the Festival at http://www.bard.org/education/index.html
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Have you ever wondered what goes into casting for six plays that open in three days and play in repertory? We spent some time with David Ivers and Brian Vaughn, artistic directors, to get those questions answered.
Where do you start?
Brian Vaughn: The very first thing we do is find out how many roles there are in the season and then we break it down - based on the numbers of actors budgeted and how many people we need to fill each show.
We also have an Actor Count Comparison Chart - how many roles in each show are needed and then you think about that in the rep scenario. For example: Starcatcher had 12 actors - 11 men and 1 woman and it played opposite The Tempest, which had 18 actors. We look at that comparison - how many people are available per night and then it’s fitting the number of people we have in the budget and the number we have to cast.
David Ivers: We use an Excel spreadsheet with the plays across the top and the actor column is classified by equity, associate artist, non-equity, Greenshow performer, interns and understudies.
Where are you auditioning this year?
How big will the 2014 company be?
Vaughn: There are over 100 roles and we’ll probably have an acting company of over 60.
What goes into the decision process?
Ivers: We tend to land actors in the equity company in major roles as our guideposts. We’ll have a landmark of one role and then that opens a window - here’s the only other place they could be available. Twelfth Night I’m sure will be a linchpin as Peter was because it’s the show that carries through into the fall. So the cast of Twelfth Night is going to dictate much of the fall casting. It’s a lot of Brian and I going back and forth and hammering it out.
Vaughn: There will be a lot of incarnations. It becomes about putting the right person in the right role. Where is this person going to be the most valuable? For example: Is it going to be more valuable for us to have Melinda Parrett play Reno Sweeney versus something in King John? Probably because we know she’s going to tap and sing her heart out. So let’s put her in there and where else can we use her? It also comes to what the director is looking for, so we cross-reference all the directors’ notes.
What’s the hardest part of casting
Vaughn: Narrowing it down. It’s not just one thing. You have to fit people into 2 or 3 things and then it’s a numbers game. We make sure we don’t overwork the non-equity people and make sure the equity people are used to their full potential.
Ivers: It’s the most important job we do, other than selecting the plays. And it’s probably one of the most labor intensive, between the travel, the auditions and the manipulation of all the infomartion into something that makes sense. We’re always thinking about it on and off the job.
How important is the Company versus the individual?
Ivers: I believe in company. I believe in us having a company of people. I believe in promoting that for the benefit of the work. You have to find the right kind of people who remains hungry and doesn’t take things for granted. That’s the other component - finding good company members who play well with others and are willing to do heavy lifting - be part of the ensemble as much as they are a lead.
When will we know the cast for 2014?
Ivers: We hope to wrap it up by the end of December and we should announce by early 2014.
You can check our website at www.bard.org for casting updates and we will have a blog posted as soon as we know!