Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog – Welcome Aubree Rasmussen & Nano Taggart

Change is in the air at the Festival. Leaves are turning brilliant shades of red and orange, dirt is being turned for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts all while we introduce two new faces to the Festival family. Help us welcome Aubree Rasmussen and Nano Taggart.
Aubree Rasmussen started in mid-September as the Guest Services Manager. She’s responsible for managing the ticket office, house management and the volunteers who serve as hosts in our theaters.

Aubree grew up in St. George, UT.  She was a member of FFA (Future Farmers of America) where she specialized in gardening and plant identification. She moved to Cedar City to attend SUU (Southern Utah University) and graduated with a degree in Marketing. Her student job in Event Services evolved to a full-time position when she graduated.

Her parents and grandparents introduced her to the Festival and she’s always wanted work here. So when the Guest Services Manager position was posted, she applied and was hired.

When she’s not working, she loves to bake – her specialty is sugar cookies. She also loves to read young adult fiction and watch Netflix movies. Her favorite holiday is Halloween.

“I’m really excited to work for the Festival,“ said Aubree. “I have a great staff and I already love our patrons. I want to give people a good experience.”
Nathaniel (Nano) Taggart has been hired as the new Annual Fund Manager. In this role, he’ll work with Jyl Shuler (Development Director) on gala events and securing annual donations.

Nano’s relationship with the Festival began when he was a student at Dixie State in St. George, where he attended classes taught by Ace Pilkington, one of our Literary Seminar Directors. He transferred to Utah State where he graduated with a degree in English/Literary Studies. After a few years working outside of the arts, he returned to school at SUU and graduated last August with his MFA. While a student in the MFA program, Nano worked an assistantship in the Development Department, so we are thrilled to have him as a full-time member of the team.

2014 MFA Grads
Wicai, Heaps, Taggart, McDonald
He has a strong commitment to the arts. Five years ago, he was a founder of the Sugarhouse Review, a small press poetry publication. He writes poetry. And he serves on the board of the Cedar City Arts Council where is he is currently revamping their website.

“I love the Festival. Cedar City is an arts oasis in southern Utah and my wife Natalie and I are thrilled to be here. It’s an exciting time with the building of the Center – we’ll have an even greater convergence of the arts.”

Welcome Aubree & Nano!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Guest Blog- Eric Weiman

Another new face at the Festival is Eric Weinman who plays Fabian in Twelfth Night and was in our summer production of The Comedy of Errors

Have you ever worked at the Festival before?
I have never worked for the Festival before, this is my Utah debut!

What brought you to Utah Shakespeare Festival?
I sent a tape to David Ivers and Brian Vaughn last October, and was lucky enough to get a call from David in early January. I have always been very drawn to the level of quality that Utah Shakespeare endows every production with; how rigorous the attention to the work is, and how accessible and exciting classical theatre is here. Its reputation is justly earned, as the perseverance toward excellence is pursued by every single department of the company, from the technical to the front of house. 

What brought you to your field and what keeps you doing your craft?
Acting was something I naturally fell into. There was no “Ah-ha!” moment or revelation about wanting to pursue this craft; at a young age it just seemed as though it was the obvious course for me to follow. I was a tree in my junior high’s production of “Into The Woods Jr.” and everything continued from there. 

Quinn Mattfeld, Roderick Peeples and
Eric Weimanin Twelfth Night
Where’s your home base?
My home is Minneapolis, land of Ten Thousand Lakes. And -30 degree wind-chill. 

What’s your education/training background?
Thus far I have received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota/ Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. I would love to go back to school, however and pursue a Master’s Degree. 

Who/What inspired you to pursue your dream of acting?
My parents, first and foremost, are the biggest supporters and inspirations for following acting. As a young person interested in theater, they have always been supportive and accepting of the path I wish to follow. I also cannot think of where I would be today without Jon Ferguson and Ken Washington, two teachers and mentors of mine in Minneapolis who took chances on me early in my life as an actor and taught me that acting is a craft, an art, and not just a hobby. 

What is your favorite musical/play/Shakespeare play?
My favorite plays are The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh, and The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare. 

What is your dream role?
My dream role, as of now, is Sean in The Walworth Farce

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
If I were a superhero, I think I would want the ability to turn into different animals. That would work for any situation! If there was a battle, I could be a gorilla or tiger. If I had to hide, I could just turn into a mouse and run away. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - High School Shakespeare Competition

Over 3,000 students and 118 schools will participate in the 38th annual Shakespeare Competition hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University. From October 9 to 11 student thespians from across the Intermountain West will compete as actors, dancers, musicians, and theatre technicians before panels of theatre, dance and music professionals in the largest scholastic Shakespeare competition in the country.

“Since 1977 this event has shaped the cultural landscape of the Intermountain West,” said Michael Bahr, Festival education director. “Students have been exposed to dance, music and theatre through the universal stories of William Shakespeare. Once a student is touched by his works, they will never be the same. Our organization is proud to sponsor this monumental event.”

Competitors range from sixth grade to high school seniors. Each participating school is invited to prepare up to three monologues, two duo/trio scenes, and an ensemble scene, as well as an interpretive dance, minstrel and madrigal music, and several presentations in technical theatre. Performing on Festival stages and in many classrooms on the SUU campus, students are adjudicated by professionals in the field.

Every year high school students put together a dance piece, either a duet/trio or ensemble piece, based on Shakespeare’s text, sonnets or poems. The choreography can be in any style, however it must be concert or performance dance. Dancers are adjudicated based on the use of space, rhythmic and timing, dynamics, technical ability and originality of the piece.

Andra Thorne from Davis High talks more about why she brings her students to the Shakespeare Competition. “I go so students can see other students work, they learn more from other students than they ever will from me. Professionals in the industry also critique them, which is absolutely invaluable. Students can finally understand why Shakespeare is a ‘big deal’, they can feel it and if they can perform Shakespeare, they can perform anything.”

The Shakespeare Competition is dramatically increasing their online and social media presence this year in order to engage students and increase communication during the competition. Visit their Twitter feed at @UTShakesComp, Instagram at @shakespearecomp and their Facebook page at to see updates and changes about the competition.

As part of the total experience, students are invited to attend the Festival’s fall productions of Twelfth Night, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, and Boeing Boeing. More information and an event schedule can be found online at


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog-Rick Peeples

Roderick Peeples, a favorite at the Festival, is playing Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. He's also Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night and was Egeon in The Comedy of Errors this summer.

Have you ever worked at the Festival before? If so, for how many years and in what roles/capacity?
This is my fifth season with USF. My first season was 2009, when I played Fluellen in Henry V, and except for the 2010 season, I’ve been here since. I’ve played roles ranging from Peter Quince in The Midsummer Night’s Dream to Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, to Falstaff in Merry Wives of Windsor, to Juror #9 in Twelve Angry Men, and everything in between.

What brought you to Utah Shakespeare Festival? What is it about the Festival that brings you back?
I’ve worked at a number of different festivals across the country, and USF is my favorite. It’s a combination of the people, the organization, the audiences, the climate and location.  It’s just one of the best places to work. Ever.

What brought you to your field and what keeps you doing your craft? 
Working in the theatre is the only thing that has constantly held my interest. Every other profession I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many - advertising, photography, computer programming among others) has ultimately left me bored and dismayed. Acting keeps me engaged and learning.

Where’s your home base? 
Although I was raised in Texas, I’ve been based in Chicago for the past 25 years, and I consider it my home.
Trinculo in The Tempest, USF 2013.

What’s your education/training background? 
I received a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980. My mentor there was Michael J. Finlayson, who was one of the early major influences on the Utah Shakespeare Festival; an award named after him is still awarded annually to a promising young actor in the USF Company.

What are you looking forward to this season? 
I’m looking forward to once more assaying the role of Sir Toby Belch in David Ivers’ production of Twelfth Night. I played Toby about ten years ago, and I’m trying very hard to get him right this time. Also very much looking forward to playing Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, this fall.

Who/What inspired you to pursue your dream of acting/designing?
I was mesmerized as a child by Sir Laurence Olivier’s film performances in Hamlet, Richard III, Boys from Brazil, etc. I was awestruck by his ability to transform himself from role to role. I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps.

How will you spend your time off while here?
I am an amateur astronomer, and Utah offers some great night skies for exploring. In Chicago, I’ve been a sky show host at the Adler Planetarium for many years. Since I’ve been coming to Utah, I’ve made a point of hosting live sky shows, where I try to point out some of the interesting things in the night sky. I hope to continue that tradition this year.

Roderick Peeples as Sir Toby Belch and
Quinn Mattfeld as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night.
What is your favorite musical/play/Shakespeare play? 
So hard to pick just one; Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Tempest, and King Lear. For musicals, Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables are right up there. Death of a Salesman is probably my favorite single American play.

What is your dream role? 
Willie Loman and King Lear.

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be? 
To be able to tell the story that would instantly dispel all fear and despair, displacing them with permanent inspiration and hope.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog- Anthony Simone

Meet Anthony Simone. 

Anthony plays Valentine/Officer/Ensemble in Twelfth Night and Policeman/Clergy in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. He was Pompey in Measure for Measure this summer.

Have you ever worked at the Festival before?
This is my first time at the Festival, and I'm really excited to be apart of this wonderful season.
USF has been on my theatre "bucket list" for some time. 

What brought you to your field and what keeps you doing your craft? 
As a child, I often would get lost in my imagination spending hours as an astronaut trying to explore new parts of the universe or roaming through the pride lands as Simba the mighty King. So as you can imagine I jumped at every chance to perform both at school, as well as church plays.

But, in terms of why I keep doing my craft? I would say it's because I love the challenge(s) that every show presents, as well as the things I constantly get to learn about myself and humanity as a whole.  

Where’s your home base? 
I'm currently a vagabond as I just graduated from UCI with my MFA in Acting.  After, my contract with USF ends I plan on moving to NYC and starting the next chapter of my life.

What’s your education/training background? 
Well I was originally a pre-med major back in undergrad.  But after meeting my mentors Margaret and Peter Larlham by fate one day, in the midst of my Sophomore year, I decided to try double majoring.  And after graduating I took a year off before I was accepted into UC Irvine's MFA Acting program.  

Anthony Simone (left) as Pompey and Henry Woronicz as Escalus Measure for Measure. 

How will you spend your time off while here?
In no particular order - hiking, Vegas, sleeping, continue editing my one man show and start working on my winter body!

What is your favorite musical/play/Shakespeare play? 
A Winters Tale

What is your dream role? 
So many . . . but today's truth would be Simba in Lion King or Edmund in King Lear or Levee in August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Back Bottom

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
I'd want to be able to fly.  Or better yet stop time so I can finally catch up on all my Netflix videos and books I want to read.