We have spent several weeks in different seasons in Utah, a state with so many beautiful places to experience and such varied and fascinating. It is a state focused on strong families and has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. When we returned this year we centered our activities in Cedar City for the opening week of their 47th annual summer Shakespearean Festival (1-800PLAYTIX). This repertory theatre has won the coveted Tony Award for the Best Theatre Productions, which is only given outside of New York City to one place each year. The season runs from June 21 through October, with nine different plays running in three different theatres. The Adams Shakespeare Theatre, which is similar to the old Globe Theatre in England where the original Shakespearean plays were performed in the 1600’s. The theatre is an outdoor venue with elaborate stage sets for three different plays performed twice a week for the six evening performances. We were able to see a different play each night for the three nights we were in Cedar City. Each play was an outstanding production. We found that we were just as much in awe of the presentation and acting as we had been when we attended plays over the years in England at the Shakespearean Theatre in Stratford. The Randall L. Jones Theatre is an indoor intimate theater where six modern plays and musicals are performed throughout the season.
These plays are performed as matinees each day and then again at night time performances. If we had stayed the whole week in Cedar City, we could have seen a different play every day with some days seeing two plays in one day. The Auditorium Theatre is prepared with identical sets of the Shakespeare plays being performed in case of rain and is also the theatre where the matinee Shakespeare play is performed each Wednesday. The theatres are on the beautiful campus of the University of Southern Utah, which works in coordination with the Shakespearean Festival’s year-round staff, to produce the finest months of theater you can find outside New York City and Los Angeles.
Repetory theater is extremely demanding in that the actors, who are all professionals with outstanding credentials, perform in two or three different plays. It is fun to recognize them in completely different costumes, wigs, and make-up rendering entirely different personas from one night to the next. We could not imagine how they flawlessly remember the long passages of lines and act with completely different demeanors in the various plays. Founder of the festival and formerly a professor of theater arts at the University is Fred Adams with his wife Barbara. He also instigated the wonderful, free, educational talks in The Auditorium before the plays, in which he or others explain the context of the play and give a bit of history connected with the performance. Even though we majored in English literature, we learned so much from these insightful explanations.
If you arrive from the west, remember Utah is Mountain Time and an hour later than Pacific time. We nearly missed the free hour of Theatre on the Green before the evening play where locals and guests gather for a performance of song, dance, and humor related to the coming play. The Green Show is funny and fun for the whole family to enjoy sitting on the lawn beneath huge trees and experiencing Elizabethan times. Vendors in costume walk around at this time and during intermission with many delectable foods to sell. Everyone laughingly proclaims, “We’d come back again just for the tarts!” To further help the audience appreciate and experience the genius of Shakespeare the director of the previous nights performance leads a discussion, question and answer, session about the previous night’s play under the shade of large trees near the Theatre. This is most informative and interesting. We learned more in an hour about each play than in a semester of college Shakespeare!
For groups coming to the Festival, especially student study tours, there are special accommodations in the dormitories, and teachers offer extra guidance in making this an especially meaningful learning experience. For this you should inquire several months prior in order to assure space. The variety of plays performed is astounding, and the educational opportunities abundant. And during winter season the Organization even takes Shakespeare plays to schools in six states, with the idea that even youngsters can enjoy and understand Shakespeare and develop a passion for live theater. Check the Shakespearean Festival Website to apply for your school. Many grants are available. There never is a dull moment in this large organization, which shares some responsibilities with local Tourism Office and the University. We will definitely return many times now that we have discovered this in-depth opportunity to enjoy and grow in understanding of live theater.
Cedar City has several hotel chains and many beautiful Bed and Breakfasts for accommodating all the visitors. We loved our stay at Iron Gate Inn, which is an expertly rennovated historic property within walking distance of the Theatres and of downtown and the park, where other events are always happening throughout the year. Our hosts, Susan and C.R. Wooten, are most gracious and make visitors feel at home and very welcome. C.R. is a builder by trade and Susan is an artist, so the rennovation, which they did themselves, provides the most comfortable and beautifully appointed historic home for you to enjoy.
Each bedroom is decorated differently and named for grand parents. You can choose to have your breakfast in the spacious dining room or on the shaded patio, surrounded by their blooming garden. Our entire experience there was delightful, and the breakfasts are each a different specialty of local recipes.
In short, Cedar City and the Festival are not to be missed! To further enjoy your visit to this are, you can drive in less than an hour to 10,000 feet elevation to enjoy the cool, fresh air in summer (when you might even encounter a freak snowstorm.)
The small town of Brian Head has an excellent resort hotel, Cedar Breaks Lodge, condos, and cabins and a couple of small eateries and restaurants. We loved our stay at Cedar Breaks Lodge, where our spacious room included a wonderful fireplace, delightful even in summer for the really cool nights. And of course, we loved the pampering at their excellent spa.
We have returned again and again to Mountain View Pizza Pub for yummy light meals and especially their famous BrianBerry pie and, our favorite, BrianBerry Peach pie! Fabulous! In summer, if you are a confident mountain biker, you can take your bike up on the ski lift and enjoy challenging trails down the mountain. We chose to ride the lift up for the great views and make the hike down. You can also ride the lift back down. In winter this is a beautiful ski resort with new lifts and mountains opening in 2008.
We traveled just a short drive farther up the mountain to Cedar Breaks National Monument, where we experienced one of the most unique creations in nature. We looked out over thousands of hoodoos in shades of orange, red, and white and could imagine Native Americans wrapped in colorful blankets frozen into stone pillars. Ranger-led programs for adults and children are throughout the day and evening in summer. Once each month the program is a Star Party, which we were lucky enough to enjoy. With huge telescopes and an entertaining explanation of the night sky, we were entranced with the vast number of stars we could see on the wondrous mountain top. In winter, if the road is open, snow transforms this natural wonder in to an icing frosted fairyland.
Another short drive from Cedar City took us to Kolob Canyons, the most recent part to be included in Zion National Park and the least visited or known about. Just five minutes off Highway 15, you can drive through this beautiful scenic area in a half hour, or you can stop to enjoy marvelous hikes and photo ops. We were so glad our excellent guide, Maria Twitchell, who grew up in the area and knows every mountain trail, took us there for an easy hike. She is the capable director of the Cedar City Visitor Bureau, where you’ll find all the information you need for the holiday of your life. Come discover for yourself as we did the best kept secret vacation area! We are SO glad we did!
Utah is the home of many of the nation’s most magnificent National Parks and Monuments, including Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Escalante (Grand Staircase), Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Cedar Breaks and Zion. We once spent a month in our RV enjoying each of these natural wonders. Even in the summer when temperatures are near 100 degrees the climate is not uncomfortable because of the dry, desert air, and nights are actually chilly. The scenery in each of these places is magnificent and there is so much to see and do.
If you live in a city and don’t know how to enjoy being in nature, just ask one of the friendly Park Rangers or a sign up for one of the excellent guide services found in the area. When we visited Zion National Park this time, we found Zion Rock and Mountain Guides in Springdale, Utah, the town at the West entrance to Zion. We were impressed with the great experience and knowledge they had about the area and the wonderful guided outing we had through them. While hiking on our own in Zion National Park, we chose the easy and more moderate hikes with great photo ops, but if you are brave, you can go to the top of Angel’s Landing where the natural walkway at the peak is only a few feet wide with canyon below on both sides.