Thursday, February 26, 2015

Meet our New Production Manager

A New Production Manager for the Utah Shakespeare Festival

We are proud to announce Becky Merold as the new production manager for the Festival. Becky has worked at the Festival seasonally for twelve years as a stage manager and has worked on more than twenty plays throughout her tenure here.

“We are very excited to have Becky on board as our new production manager,” said Artistic Director Brian Vaughn, “Becky has already proved invaluable in the success of our stage management department, and I eagerly look forward to her leadership within production. Her organizational skills matched with her current knowledge of our repertory system make her immensely qualified for the position, and I know she will have a tremendous impact here at the Festival.”

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Merold has spent most of her time in the Midwest where she received her BFA in stage management with a minor in business at the Conservatory Theatre at Webster College. Merold worked at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre for ten years and just recently Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as an Actors’ Equity Association-member stage manager.

“Becky Merold is the right person with experience both at other theaters and here at the Festival,” said Ben Hohman, props director. “She has an excitement about our organization and its future.  We are looking forward to working with her to move the Festival forward into the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts which will lead to more exciting and dynamic productions, while being mindful of the Festival's unique history and its commitment to classical theater.”

“I am continually inspired by the Festival's commitment to high caliber theater,” stated Merold. “This would not be possible without our passionate and talented production staff. I am thrilled to lead them in creating a great 54th season. I am also excited to work more closely with Fred Adams, R. Scott Phillips, Brian Vaughn, and David Ivers and the entire Festival staff as we embark on the opening of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Progress is being made on the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts

Where we last left off....

There was a giant hole in the ground for the basement of the new Engelstad Theatre.

Layout of the theatre's footprint. This will be the guideline for the foundation pouring. The trap room has also been excavated.
Fred Adams on site during the first cement pouring. 

The next step was to outline and build the promenade walls that will outline the theatre. 

Cement pouring of promenade walls. 

 "Thou Wall, O Wall, O sweet and lovely Wall"

Promenade Randall View

After the promenade walls were set, the basement walls were next to go up. 

The basement walls can now be seen from the ground floor. 

Now the team is working on the office buildings and the new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre.

The Studio Theatre has been leveled and the north side walls are being put up. 

A lot has happened over the past few months and 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. To watch the construction in real time visit our website. Construction Progress

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bryan Sommer, Stage Manager for the Macbeth Tour

Bryan Sommer, a Salt Lake City native and SUU alum, is the stage manager for this year’s educational tour,  Macbeth. As stage manager, he will be the head wrangler for this production as they travel throughout 5 states, performing the show 89 times in spaces as large as a high-school gym and as small as living room.

Here are his thoughts about this adventure.

 Have you ever been involved with this play before?
Yes, my first time working on Macbeth was as an Assistant Stage Manager while in school at Southern Utah University. This play is actually my first repeat of a Shakespearean play! Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays; I'm looking forward to many more [Macbeths] in my future.

Have you ever toured before?
Does a Cruise Ship count?! No, I've never toured a show to several venues. But, I have taken a show and its venue to multiple locations aboard a ship!

What are you looking forward to the most?
Seeing the kids' response to the play. One of my favorite aspects of stage managing is witnessing the audience’s reaction/response to the play before them. And, especially with a young audience, the impression theatre can have on young eyes is amazing. It can change their life. I know my first play, Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror, changed mine.

What do you hope kids will take-away from your production?
What's done is done. Our actions always have a consequence; let that be a good or bad consequence, a reaction nonetheless. In this case, Macbeth and his wife do whatever it takes to get what they want, and to retain it. This includes murder, which then leads to their guilt, insanity, and ultimately their defeat.

Any other thoughts?
I'm thrilled to be going on this tour. We have an amazing cast and an excellent production that, I know, the kids will enjoy very much.

You can find more tour information at  #utahshakes #shakestour

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Fred C. Adams Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award

Two great men were honored recently at the twenty-fifth annual Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) conference held earlier this January in San Francisco.

To recognize and preserve the memory of Douglas N. Cook, who was a co-founder of the Shakespeare Theatre Association and the Festival’s producing artistic director emeritus, STA created the Douglas N. Cook Lifetime Achievement Award, which was graciously bestowed on Festival Founder Fred C. Adams.  

According to STA Past President, Jeff Watkins of Atlanta Shakespeare Company, the award was given to Adams to acknowledge his twenty-five years of service and involvement with STA. “We really should express our gratitude, love, and admiration while Fred is still with us,” said Watkins. “The time to honor Fred is now. His contributions to the field cannot be overstated. Likewise his impact on STA, which is such a supportive atmosphere… so much knowledge, so much wisdom, so freely shared among great and small, and Fred, of course, would be the great.”

“To me, Fred is the living, beating heart of STA,” said STA Executive Director Patrick Flick.  “As a young member he was quick to make me feel welcome with a smile, a handshake, a joke or a kernel of wisdom.  Now, Fred is a trusted ally and friend, and holds the keys to the institutional memory of STA.  That is invaluable not only to me, but to every member of STA.”

“I was totally surprised,” said Adams. “I had no idea this Lifetime Achievement Award had even been created in memory of Doug, so I’m thrilled to be recognized with an award that has his name on it. I am so fond of STA and hope it continues to thrive in the years to come.”

“STA has over 150 members from around the world and continues to grow,” stated Flick.  “None of this would have been possible without that first meeting on a cold January day in 1991 when Fred Adams joined Doug Cook, Sidney Berger and a ‘happy few’ Shakespearean producers in Washington, DC to create this wonderful thing we now call STA."

The Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) was established to provide a forum for the artistic, managerial, and educational leadership for theatres primarily involved with the production of the works of William Shakespeare; to discuss issues and methods of work, resources, and information; and to act as an advocate for Shakespearean productions and training.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog – Drew Shirley as Macbeth for the Tour production

Drew Shirley, who is playing Macbeth in our Tour production, has appeared here at the Festival for 4 seasons. Last year, he was in Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, and Sherlock Holmes: the Final Adventure. He earned his BFA at Emporia State University and his MFA in acting at University of Illinois. While he has participated in a school tour for the Kingsman Shakespeare Company, this will be his first tour where they travel in a van and visit 5 states in 3 months.

We chatted with Drew, right after the first two performances: one at the Iron County Correctional Facility in front of ten young inmates and one for the Iron County schools with over 900 kids.

Tell us your thoughts about Shakespeare and this play.

First – in high school, I hated Shakespeare (like many kids). It wasn’t until I worked here in 2008 that I realized how incredible Shakespeare can be. When you see it done well, it can be life changing!
Shirley (Macbeth) &
Harris (Lady Macbeth)

Our production of Macbeth is a high octane train ride to hell. It moves really fast. The first half is like a ghost story or a fable. The second half is the descent into insanity, war and hell.

And it’s not a morality play. Shakespeare often shows us the opposite side of the same coin; no one is all good or all evil. It makes it more interesting. The play is about making decisions and the consequences of those decisions. All of us make the “easy” decision – the little evils that we do. Macbeth makes the “easy” decision to kill the king. And then it all unravels.

What are your thoughts on touring?

I think it’s important for the kids. I figure there’s someone like me out there who hates Shakespeare. I have a shot to make him/her fall in love – it could be life changing.

With live theatre, there is something asked of the audience. It’s not like a movie. If they stay with us for the first ten minutes to get through the language, then they will be hooked and stay with us.

I also believe it’s important for adult actors to work with the kids in the workshops. We can show that acting isn’t just selfish but that we can help people. I’ll teach the Improv and Shakespeare Text workshops.

What about the different venues?

Voss (Macduff) &
Shirley (Macbeth)
We have to be really careful with the fights because each school and venue will be different. They are stage fights, but it is contact fighting, so it can be scary if we don’t practice. And I have to worry about breathing when I’m “dead.” I’m always afraid I’ll cough.

I know we’ll have challenges on the road – flat tires, breakdowns, lighting or sound that doesn’t work. So we have to be totally in the moment and chose how to respond. We have a really good group of people with a good balance of skills and temperaments so I know we’ll be fine.

The Tour departed Cedar City on January 22 for Las Vegas. After two weeks there, they will hit the road, visiting five states with 65 performances . You can learn more about the tour at

#utahshakes #shakestour