Friday, April 10, 2015

Be Back Soon!

The Festival's Blog will be on hiatus as we transition to a new website.  Check back in mid-May for a whole new Blog experience.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - 2015 Casting - First Round

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is proud to announce the casting of the first eight actors for the 2015 season. All are familiar faces, having appeared at the Festival in the past. Actors include Tony Amendola, Melinda Pfundstein, Aaron Galligan-Stierle, Sam Ashdown, Betsy Mugavero, Peter Sham, David Ivers and Brian Vaughn. Please check for complete casting available soon at

After several seasons performing in the hit ABC television show, Once Upon a Time, Tony Amendola is back this year in the title role of King Lear.  He’ll also be appearing in Henry IV Part Two. Amendola was last at the Festival in 2010 appearing as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and The Porter in Macbeth. Television credits include Once Upon a Time, Continuum, CSI: NY, Dexter, Stargate and The Practice.

Melinda Pfundstein, who has appeared in numerous roles at the Festival, will perform this year as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Goneril in King Lear. Many Festival-goers will remember Pfundstein for her acclaimed portrayals last year as Olivia in Twelfth Night, Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods and Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. She has also appeared in such roles as Rosaline in Love's Labour's Lost, Constance in King John, Fantine in Les Misérables, Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, Roxanne in Cyrano de Bergerac, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and many others.

Aaron Galligan-Stierle will take on Luther Billis, the crafty sailor in South Pacific, and Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew. At the Festival last season, Galligan-Stierle played Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Feste in Twelfth Night. Previous seasons he has performed in Peter and the Starcatcher, Anything Goes, The Merchant of Venice, The 39 Steps, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Room Service and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Sam Ashdown returns as Prince Hal in Henry IV Part Two. Ashdown will also be Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew and part of the King Lear ensemble. Ashdown made his Festival debut last year as the young Prince Hal in Henry IV Part One and John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility. He’s performed at a variety of theatres including Chicago Shakespeare Festival, Northlight Theatre, American Players Theatre and Broadway Playhouse.

After a year away, Betsy Mugavero will return to the Festival to play Constanze, the flirtatious and resilient wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus. She will also appear as Kitty Verdun in Charley’s Aunt. Mugavero’s past Festival credits include Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher and Jaquenetta in Love’s Labour’s Lost in 2013. She’s also been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Noises Off!, The Winters Tale, As You Like It, Henry V, The School for Wives, and The Taming of the Shrew

Peter Sham, head of the acting and directing program for Southern Utah University’s Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, joins the Festival company as Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew. He’ll also have roles in King Lear and Henry IV Part Two. Sham is most recently known for his work as book writer/lyricist on Lend Me A Tenor: The Musical, which celebrated a successful run at the Gielgud Theatre on London’s West End. Sham has been in several productions at the Festival, and has performed at the Asolo Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre, Eastside Playhouse, Perry Street Theatre, Artpark and Yale Cabaret.

Along with directing this season, both Artistic Directors, David Ivers and Brian Vaughn, join the acting company with Ivers appearing as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus and Vaughn as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.
As an actor Ivers, had been in over forty productions throughout eighteen seasons, including title roles in Richard II and Scapin. Festival directing credits include Twelfth Night, Twelve Angry Men, Romeo and Juliet, Cyrano de Bergerac and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). 

Vaughn has played over forty roles in the past twenty years, including the title roles in Hamlet, Henry V and Cyrano de Bergerac. Festival directing credits include Henry IV, Part One, Peter and the Starcatcher, Dial M for Murder, Greater Tuna, and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare in the Schools).

You can purchase tickets online at or by calling 800-PLAYTIX. And be sure to check back for Round 2 of casting! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Meet Our 2015 Directors

Nine highly-talented directors from across the country are already knee-deep in costume designs, scenery sketches, and play scripts as they prepare to create the transformative stories of their plays for the 54th season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival June 25 to October 31.

As a tribute to the venerable and much-loved Adams Shakespearean Theatre, Festival Founder Fred C. Adams will be directing The Taming of the Shrew as part of that theatre’s farewell year. After this year, the Festival will be moving its outdoor productions to the Engelstad Theatre, which is currently under construction. “I am thrilled to be able to direct one last time in this lovely theatre,” said Adams. “While The Taming of the Shrew is a delightful comedy, I feel that it is also a beautiful love story, and we will have a lot of fun discovering this often-overlooked facet of this delicious play."

Artistic Director Brian Vaughn will direct the fourth play in the Festival’s continuing History Cycle, Henry IV Part Two. Vaughn directed Henry IV Part One last year and is excited to be continuing the story with the same design team.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for our audience to see the progression of characters, within a recognizable context of design that will hopefully help provide clarity for the continuity of the story,” said Vaughn. “Henry IV Part Two is a very different play than Part One; there is a greater sense of melancholy throughout and where Part One is all about youth and rebellion, Part Two is very much about age and people dying away. It also has a fabulous cliff-hanger at the end which propels us into Shakespeare’s greatest treatise on war, Henry V.”

Sharon Ott will direct the famous tragedy of King Lear with Tony Amendola playing the title role. Ott and Amendola worked together at the Festival in 2010 when Ott directed The Merchant of Venice and Amendola played the role of Shylock. Ott has directed at theaters throughout the country including Playwrights Horizons, Public Theater, Manhattan Theater Club in New York, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory, Huntington Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and many others.

Charley’s Aunt, the hilarious British farce, will be directed by Artistic Director David Ivers. Ivers has directed many productions at the Festival including last year’s Twelfth Night and 2013’s Twelve Angry Men. Love, romance, and secret disguises drive the plot of Charley’s Aunt, which will play throughout the Festival season, from June to October.

After directing last summer’s gold rush themed The Comedy of Errors, Brad Carroll is back at the Festival directing this year’s musical, South Pacific. Carroll has been involved with numerous productions at the Festival including, Les Misérables, Johnny Guitar, HMS Pinafore, Spitfire Grill. South Pacific is one of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s most beloved musicals with songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair.”

J.R. Sullivan will direct Amadeus, Peter Shaffer’s brilliant fictionalized account of the lives of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antionio Salieri. Sullivan has directed many productions at the Festival, including Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, Stones in His Pockets, The Glass Menagerie, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Other theatre credits include Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Studio Theatre in Washington D.C., and Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Robynn Rodriguez returns to the Festival to direct Shakespeare’s romantic adventure The Two Gentleman of Verona. In 2013 Rodriguez made her professional directorial debut at the Utah Shakespeare Festival with the acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s, King John. A classically trained actor, Rodriguez received her MFA from ACT and was a member of the resident acting company at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 22 seasons where she appeared in over 40 productions. Chockfull of confused men, cunning maidens, and a hilarious and sly dog, The Two Gentleman of Verona will delight anyone who has ever been in love or would like to be.

Directing the frightfully exciting Dracula is Jesse Berger who is the founding artistic director of Red Bull Theater, an off-Broadway theater in New York City. Berger has directed new plays and classics for The Old Globe, Denver Center, Pittsburgh Public, PlayMakersRep, Barrington Stage and many more. Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula will run this fall through Halloween. Get ready to sink your teeth into the story of the world’s most famous vampire.

This year’s Greenshow will once again be directed by Associate Education Director Josh Stavros. Last year Stavros directed the Greenshow along with Fred C. Adams. There will be three different themed nights for patrons to enjoy, each one taking elements of classic songs and dances. The free pre-show entertainment features spirited song and dance, the perfect way to spend thirty minutes before that evening’s show. Add Elizabethan sweets, and you'll have a fun-filled frolic to prepare you for the main stage performance that follows.

"I'm very much looking forward to engaging with these six powerful and entertaining plays, said Ivers. “It will be particularly lovely to witness our Founder working on the Adams stage as we make way for the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts in 2016. Our 2015 season has something for every age and gender and is sure to provide our patrons with a huge palette of theatre!"

Tickets are on sale for the Festival’s 54th season, which will run from June 25 to October 31, 2015. For more information and tickets visit or call 1-800-PLAYTIX.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Molly Wetzel- Witch & Lady Macduff in the Tour Production of Macbeth

The tour is still out on the road and going strong since January.  We decided to check in with actor Molly Wetzel, who plays a Witch, Lady Macduff and many other parts in Macbeth.  Molly has been with the Festival for the last two seasons. Last year, she appeared in The Greenshow, Into the Woods as Lucinda and Sense and Sensibility. She earned her BFA at Otterbein University and currently lives in New York City. This is her first role in Macbeth and her first time touring.

She shared her thoughts about the play and the tour.

How do you make this story relevant for the students?
Wetzel, Harris, Ivers

I honestly think that the story is relevant to everyone. Everyone can relate to wanting something, and figuring out what lengths you need to go to get what you want. Macbeth just has to go to great lengths to become king (spoiler alert?). We watch Macbeth deal with the consequences of his actions, and ultimately have to decide for ourselves what he should have done, which of his actions we would consider "worth it", and whether he truly got what he wanted. The show still makes me think when we run it, and I'm very familiar with the script!

What do you hope the students will take-away from your production?

Wetzel as Lady MacDuff
 I really hope the students will take away that good and bad isn't always black and white- there are definite shades of grey. Macbeth does things that are bad for sure, but does it really make him a bad person? Is there such a thing as a bad person? I hope that our production starts a dialogue about that. 

What are some challenges that you might run into while on the road?

Tour Company
I'm sure there will be some mishaps during the show throughout the run, and it may be challenging to fix some of them with such a small group. During summers at USF if you rip a costume, you let your dresser know and they take the appropriate steps to fix it. On the road we only have the 10 of us and we'll have to fix it ourselves! Luckily our costume team taught us how to take care of things like this before we left, but I imagine we'll have those sorts of challenges. However, so far our group is really cohesive and can go with the flow- I'm sure that will help us a lot. 

The Tour is currently on the road, performing in 5 states until April. You can learn more at

#utahshakes #shakestour