In Cedar City, UT, two blocks from the The Iron Gate Inn, a charming bed and breakfast where I am staying, I spotted Southern Utah University, headquarters for the Tony award winning Utah Shakespearean Festival that is currently running from June 21st through September 1st. There is also a Fall schedule that runs from September 14th through October 27th.
In preparation for the main event, the Greenshow is in full swing and the lawn is thick with captivated adults and children. Six days a week I am told, there is a nightly Greenshow with differing themes. This Thursday evening the first performance of Shakespeare’s comedic farce, Twelfth Night is preceded by outdoor entertainment, vaudevillian in nature. There are jokes with silly punch lines, actors raving about the freshly baked fruit tarts available from wandering, costumed wenches, and well-choreographed dances and songs.
Twelfth Night resonates with the giddy heraldry of switched identities, and love’s labours lost, sensed, and ultimately found. The actors are all so well-trained that when they speak, the lines are easy to understand and their meaning is obvious. The outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre captures the spirit of its Elizabethan inspiration. Being situated under the stars, with partial covering over the balcony makes this an especially nice summer venue. If by chance a storm sweeps in, the festival planners have built matching sets in the Randall L. Jones Theatre across the street. Rain or shine Shakespeare will go on.
The play opens in a city in Ilyria with Feste, a clown, servant to Olivia (Jared Tanner) who proves to have acute comedy timing as well as a beautiful singing voice. Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle (Phil Hubbard) is a proper naughty drunkard, while Orsino, duke of Ilyria (Michael Sharon) makes us feel his romantic outbursts. Meanwhile, Viola (Shelly Gaza) and her brother Sebastian (Ryan Schabach) overcome the obvious difference in size and appearance to make the roles work seamlessly. Malvolio, steward to Olivia (Donald Sage Mackay) is duped by Maria, Olivia’s maid (Anne Newhall) and made to repent in a dungeon for his idiotic behavior towards the fair, not to mention rich countess, Olivia (Carey Cannon). All of these performers belong to Actors Equity. The leads and supporting players are all professionals, either highly seasoned, or on their way to earning their union cards.
The direction by B.J. Jones is light, and adept. The sets by Bill Forrester provide just the right royal and seaside ambiance. The characters are confused while the audience knows exactly where they are. The lighting by Donna Ruzika is so subtle that one doesn’t think about it. The music by Joe Payne helps to clarify the storyline. Everyone in the production does an exceptionally good job.
At intermission the smell of fresh fruit pies, roasting nuts, and chocolate treats makes stretching my legs a must. I enjoy a fresh-baked raspberry tart. The snack bar serves a variety of English themed food as well as espresso, hot chocolate and sodas.