Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Join us for Playmakers' Pirates of Penzance

The students of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Playmakers program have been hard at work on their upcoming production of The Pirates of Penzance. Now they are ready to set sail and show it off with performances April 10 through April 14 in the Randall L. Jones Theatre.

Tickets are general admission and are $5 for children and students, and $8 for adults. They can be purchased by calling 435-586-7878 or online at

This group of over eighty Iron County students, together with their fearless leaders from the Festival’s education department, have put together what promises to be an exciting, adventurous voyage enjoyable for the whole family.

“Once a student has performed in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, they can do anything,” said Festival Education Director Michael Bahr.
Rehearsal scene

The Pirates of Penzance is a hilarious musical farce that centers on a host of colorful characters including sentimental pirates, bumbling policemen, dim-witted young lovers, dewy-eyed daughters and an eccentric Major General.

“This show is a wonderful tool for teaching diction, musicality and character, plus it's laughter and excitement for the whole family,” said Bahr. “In addition to public performances the student cast will be performing four matinees for local elementary schools.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Groundbreaking Marks a Historical Moment!

Today the cultural landscape of southern Utah was forever changed as the first shovel broke ground on the long awaited Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts on the campus of Southern Utah University. The Center is predicted to further establish Cedar City as a regional arts mecca.

It will serve as the home to the new Shakespeare theatre and a new studio theatre for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, an artistic/production building for the Festival, and the 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.

Dignitaries from across the state helped celebrate this momentous occasion including Julie Fisher, executive director of heritage and arts and member of the Governor’s cabinet; Senator Evan Vickers; Representatives John Westwood, Brad Last, Kay McIff, Don Ipson and Mike Noel, and Gage Froerer; Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler and members of the Utah State Board of Regents; Ann Crocker President of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation; Utah State Building Board members Dave Tanner and Ned Carnahan; the project’s architects Kevin Blalock and his team from Blalock and Partners; city and county officials; Southern Utah University Trustees; and SUU presidents past and present.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, the Utah Shakespeare Festival revealed that the new outdoor Shakespeare theatre would be named after the Engelstad family. After receiving a $5 million gift in 2012, at that time the largest in the theatre company’s history, the Festival is proud to honor the Englestad Family Foundation of Las Vegas.

The Englestad Theatre will still have the same intimate actor/audience relationship and will feel very similar to the current open air Adams Theatre. The space has updated amenities and modern accessibilities, including an elevator and increased ADA seating. The theatre will also have a flexible roof covering for inclement weather.

The Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre was also announced during the ceremony. This new 200-seat studio will provide a third, flexible option for Festival programming, allowing the production of small, intimate plays to complement the offerings in the new Englestad Theatre and the existing Randall L. Jones Theatre.

“For a quarter of a century the dream of a Shakespeare Center has been in the planning and fundraising stage,” said Festival Founder Fred C. Adams. “The new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will be a lasting gift to the Festival, Cedar City and Southern Utah University.  Beverley was a lifelong advocate and supporter of the arts.  She firmly believed that reaching children through the arts will make them lifelong appreciators of what is good and noble in this world. Today is the fulfillment of that dream as we actually turn earth to signify that this will become a long awaited reality."

Festival Executive Director R. Scott Phillips remarked, “The Center will enable the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the SUMA to expand programming and continue to contribute to the economic vitality of Cedar City.  SUU students, faculty, staff, and professional artists will have the opportunity to work and perform in these facilities perfecting their craft and creating lasting work. Upon completion, the Center will be a grand gathering place. I envision a future where every child in southern Utah will be able to experience professional live performances and participate in visual art regardless of geography, education, or economics."

Also included in the ceremonial program was detailed information about the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA). This state-of-the-art museum will feature approximately 5,300 square feet of exhibition space composed of four galleries: the Braithwaite, the Rocki Alice, the Austin and Magda Jones and the Jim Jones which showcases work by the renowned Utah artist. SUMA will exhibit international and regional art, as well as that by art and design students and faculty.

The museum will have dedicated space for collection storage, care and research. The building design will allow visitors to witness the behind the scenes operations in the Maud Trismen Mason Collection and Conservation Studio. The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Education Suite includes 1,000 square feet and will provide classroom space for hands-on educational activities for K-12 school groups, and workspace for the SUU graduate and undergraduate students who will operate the museum.

“SUMA has been a labor of love by numerous individuals who have given generously,” said Dean of Performing and Visual Arts Shauna Mendini. “Topping the list is Cedar City’s treasure, Jim Jones. At the beginning of this project, Jimmy wrote a letter of introduction stating: ‘I propose to give all I have to the building of a Southern Utah Museum of Art. I have a home, paintings, and work by artists I have known and loved over the years. These, I propose, will be the seed from which, with your help, this project will grow.’  I can speak with confidence that Jimmy would be delighted with how his seed has grown. His life-long dream was to see a significant art museum built in Cedar City and today marks the realization of that dream.”  

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation provided the lead gift of $6 million for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. Other major gifts were given from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Rocki Alice, the Ashton Family Foundation, Garth and Jerri Frehner, the Simmons Family Foundation, O.C. Tanner Company, Austin and Magda Jones, the estate of Jim Jones, the State of Utah, Iron County, and Cedar City Corporation.

The Center is expected to begin rising on the Southern Utah University campus this summer, with completion in 2016. The Festival will continue without interruption its current programming of eight shows and a free nightly Greenshow, as well as seminars, orientations, and backstage tours throughout the construction period.

For more information or to donate visit or

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog - Ray Seams, Zany #3 in The Taming of the Shrew

Ray Seams, who plays Hortensio and Zany #3, hails from San Antonio, Texas. He has a BA from the University of Northern Colorado.

What are you looking forward to the most about this tour; why did you want to become involved? What do you hope to learn?

I love tours! Growing up I got to see a lot of shows that came through San Antonio and it really made an impact on my life. I took this tour so I could make that same impact on someone else's life. If I never experienced live theatre as a child I probably wouldn't be doing what I do today.

What do you hope to contribute or give to young audiences during this tour?

I want young audiences to listen and not just watch. So often now we just let our eyes take control, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but we forget that our ears play a vital part in storytelling. I'm hoping they understand our show as much as they enjoy watching all of our crazy antics. So far so good.

Why do you think live theatre is important? 

Live theatre is important because of the magic it creates. There's something so beautiful about someone on stage telling a story right in front of you. It's important to share things with people but more specifically to them, not to a camera. Live performance creates an energy that can't be explained. A live audience is a powerful force and combined with some amazing storytelling, you have something beautiful that can't be replicated. Sure you can repeat the show a million times but it will never be exactly the same, that's what's so perfect about theatre. Every show is an opportunity to find new depth or meaning, to create more layers of a character you thought you already knew. It's never perfect and you’re never done rehearsing, you're just experiencing and living in the moment, the audience is there to watch, listen and help you on your journey.

The Tour is on the road through mid-April, stopping in forty+ venues in three states. You can learn more at

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog – Misha Fristensky, Zany #1, in the Tour Production of The Taming of the Shrew

Michael (Misha) Fristensky plays multiple roles in The Taming of the Shrew: Tranio, Grumio and Zany #1. He was born in Switzerland, spent a majority of his childhood in Colorado and now calls New York City home. He studied Musical Theatre and Sociology at the University of Northern Colorado.

What are you looking forward to the most about this tour; why did you want to become involved? What do you hope to learn?

Fristensky as Zany #1
I am looking forward to the challenging aspect of having to perform a show multiple times and keeping the material fresh and making it seem as if we're doing it for the first time in every town. Going on a tour has always been a goal of mine because of the chance to travel and really become immersed in a show. I am thrilled to be surrounded by such a talented cast and creative team because each day I learn something new about my craft that makes me that much more excited to be a part of this great art-form.

What do you hope to contribute or give to young audiences during this tour?

During the tour, I hope to spark a flame that will continue to grow and burn bright in the young audiences. Each of us has a special moment as to why we decided to pursue this career path, and I hope that we have the pleasure of making that moment happen for some of the audience members.


Why do you think live theatre is important?

With the technology and devices of today, I think people are losing sight of what makes being a human being so great. Our everyday interaction with one another and the memories and experiences we gain from those are second to none. I think it is great that we have the ability to share that with one another with the click of a button, but in doing so, we can forget how important it is to look at someone in their eyes, listen, and genuinely respond.

Live theatre gives us that hour and half where we ask people to forget about all the distractions of the day, and get lost in a story that has the ability to reconnect us to that sensation of being able to feel something as a result from live human interaction. I believe it's magical and has the possibility to change lives.

The tour departs in late January, visiting three states and forty+ venues. You can learn more about the tour at

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Meet the 2014 Directors

A can’t-miss 2014 season, which runs from June 23 to October 18, is coming together at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Paving the way to artistic success is a talented lineup of highly experienced directors who are hard at work on this year’s plays.

Laura Gordon is returning to the Festival to direct this summer’s production of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Gordon directed last season’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Winter’s Tale in 2011. Measure for Measure is a seldom-produced but daring dark comedy, where Shakespeare tests integrity and decency to the limit. Gordon commented about the show saying, “what I find interesting about the play are the psychological journeys of the characters and the high stake dilemmas that many of the characters are facing. I want to find a way to bring the 17th century to the Utah audience in 2014, rather than having the audience travel back in time to meet the play.”

Artistic Director Brian Vaughn will direct the third play in the Festival’s continuing History Cycle, Henry IV Part One. Last year Vaughn had the honor of directing the regional premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher at the Festival, which received rave reviews. He was also a guest director for the Orlando Shakespeare Festival in 2013. This will be Vaughn’s first time directing in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, but after acting on the Adams’ stage for over twenty years, Vaughn is very familiar with the nuances of that space.  Henry IV Part One is one of Vaughn’s favorite works by Shakespeare, and he’s very excited to explore this historical family drama.
After directing last summer’s musical comedy, Anything Goes, Brad Carroll is back at the Festival with this year’s The Comedy of Errors. Carroll has been involved with numerous productions at the Festival including, Les Misérables, Johnny Guitar, HMS Pinafore, Spitfire Grill. Also, in collaboration with Peter Sham, Carroll created and composed Lend me a Tenor: The Musical and Christmas Carol: On the Air. It's double the laughter and twice the fun in Shakespeare's hysterical Comedy of Errors. There’s not one, but two sets of twins and there will certainly be shenanigans swirling around them.

The world premiere of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility will be directed by co-adaptor, Joseph Hanreddy. Hanreddy along with J.R. Sullivan were commissioned over two years ago to write this script for the Festival and after many staged readings and rewrites, it’s ready to make its debut on the Randall L. Jones stage. Hanreddy and Sullivan also successfully adapted Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which was seen at the Festival in 2010. Sense and Sensibility is full of repressed passion and soaring emotions. It tells the touching and comic story of the Dashwood sisters who are both looking for true love, but in very different ways.

Jeremy Mann returns to the Randall L. Jones to direct Stephen Sondheim’s fractured fairytale, Into the Woods. Mann has directed and conducted several classic musicals at the Festival, including The Music Man, Man of La Mancha, and The Secret Garden. Mann thinks “Into the Woods has the potential to resonate powerfully for audiences, both young and old, because ultimately it’s about the challenge of being a human, and how to face individual and communal problems on this planet.”

Artistic Director David Ivers will direct Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Twelfth Night, which plays in the Randall L. Jones Theatre from June until October. Last season at the Festival, Ivers directed a brilliant production of Twelve Angry Men. For two years in a row, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has invited Ivers to be a guest director at their prestigious company. Ivers is very excited “that Twelfth Night will have such a long run in the Randall, allowing Shakespeare to be exposed to our loyal guests and new students across many regions.”  It’s all hilarious confusion and rollicking laughs in this, one of Shakespeare's most sparkling gems.

New to the Festival will be Christopher Liam Moore who is directing Boeing Boeing. Moore has worked at many other regional theatres including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, Guthrie Theatre, and Arena Stage. Boeing Boeing features a playboy bachelor who is living the life, juggling the arrivals and departures of three gorgeous flight attendants. But his supersonic lifestyle goes into a tailspin when flight schedules change and all three women arrive at his apartment on the same evening. It is a bumpy, but hilarious ride in this classic farce, full of flirtatious hijinks, slamming doors, and utter confusion.

Co-adaptor of Sense and Sensibility, J.R. Sullivan will direct playwright Steven Dietz’s Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. Sullivan has directed many productions at the Festival some of which include Stones in His Pockets, Glass Menagerie, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Murder is elementary in this a mystery adventure about the world’s most popular detective. "The game is afoot, Watson—and it is a dangerous one!"

Last, but certainly not least, this year’s Greenshow will be co-directed with Festival Founder Fred Adams and Associate Education Director Josh Stavros. Adams and Stavros have worked on many Festival projects. Most recently, in 2011, Adams directed and Stavros was the assistant director for A Midsummer’s Night Dream, which was broadcast live on BYUtv and won a Regional Emmy for Best Special Event Coverage Live.
Adams and Stavros are excited to direct The Greenshow because it’s a perfect way to spend forty minutes before that evening’s show. The free pre-show entertainment features spirited song and dance. Add Elizabethan sweets, and you'll have a fun-filled frolic to prepare you for the main stage performance that follows.

Tickets are on sale for the Festival’s 53rd season, which will run from June 23 to October 18, 2014. The eight-play season includes Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, The Comedy of Errors, Henry IV Part One, and Twelfth Night.  The season will also include the world premiere adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility written by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, and Boeing-Boeing by Marc Camoletti. 

For more information and tickets visit or call 1-800-PLAYTIX.