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Utah Shakes - 53 Years and Still Running Strong


With a $38 million project under construction, a world premiere adaptation, a visit from England and the continuation of the Complete the Canon and History Cycle initiatives, the Utah Shakespeare Festival showed no signs of slowing down in 2014, its 53rd season. Producing 235 performances in rotating repertory in three theatres for 17 weeks is no easy feat, but through countless hours, a dedicated group of artists has pulled off another artistically successful year. Scroll down for photos from the 2014 season!

"Cedar City, Utah, is a midsummer's dream of a spot, where top-caliber theater rubs shoulders with high-desert canyons," said Los Angeles Timesreporter Sherry Stern. "If you're an avid theatergoer, Cedar City's Utah Shakespeare Festival is a must." A must indeed, especially with the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, the new performing and visual arts complex, under construction.

When the first shovel broke ground on the long awaited Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts on the campus of Southern Utah University, the cultural landscape of southern Utah was forever changed. Demolition of nine buildings took place in August and September, and now construction crews are working on rerouting utility lines. With red dirt flying, the Center is on track to finish in January 2016.

The Center is predicted to further establish Cedar City as a regional arts mecca. It will serve as the home to the new Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, the new Anes studio theatre, an artistic/production building and rehearsal studio for the Festival, and SUU's Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA). The Center also features a tree lined walkway and sculpture gardens and will offer many large public gathering spaces ideal for receptions and special events.

Another large undertaking this year was the world premiere adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility co-written by J. R. Sullivan and Joseph Hanreddy. Sullivan and Hanreddy also wrote Pride and Prejudice, which appeared at the Festival to great acclaim in 2010. The adaptation faithfully followed the plot and themes of Austen's beloved novel.

"From the masterfully adapted script, courtesy of Director Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan, to a beautifully simplistic set that allows for seamless transitions, this theatrical jewel opens the door to Austen's classic work in a way not previously explored," said Lisa Larson, reporter for The Spectrum.

Also, this summer scholars and lovers of Shakespeare traveled from England to America to study why Shakespeare is so popular here, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival was on their list of places to visit. Shakespeare on the Road, a team from the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is based in Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, stopped at the Festival as part of a 60-day road trip visiting 14 Shakespeare-related theatre festivals across America.

"We were thrilled to be a part of this amazing study being undertaken by the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust," said Festival Executive Director R. Scott Phillips. "Chronicling the love affair that America has with master William Shakespeare is astounding, and to have it done with our friends from the UK is even more astonishing."

The History Cycle initiative, now in its second year, introduced audiences to young prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part One. According to Barbara Bannon from the Salt Lake Tribune, "Henry IV, Part One is a compelling start to the story of Henry V's kingship. Its to-be-continued ending promises good things to come."

One of the goals of the History Cycle is to have elements of consistency within each production as this further establishes a common thread from one show to the next. It gives cohesiveness to this series that is engaging and dramatic. The most exciting development with the History Cycle is the announcement that three actors have been hired with the commitment that they will continue their roles throughout the Henry tetralogy.

Larry Bull, who played Bolingbroke in 2013 in Richard II, returned in 2014 to assume his role as the newly appointed King Henry IV. Sam Ashdown, who was new to the Festival this season, was been hired to play Hal. Audiences will see him grow over three seasons from a young, rebellious teen (Prince Hal in 2014) to one of England's most heroic and noble kings, Henry V in 2016. Last but certainly not least is Henry Woronicz who is playing the loveable rogue knight, Sir John Falstaff.

The Festival continues to offer more than just plays: guests were able to experience the free nightly Greenshow, the New American Playwrights Project, Bardway Baby!, production and literary seminars, orientations before every show, backstage tours, educational classes, and Repertory Magic.

Other season highlights include the many community outreach programs that the Festival participated in. These included Military Appreciate Night, July Jamboree, Groovefest, the Iron County Care and Share Fall Food Drive and Relay for Life.

Although the plays have closed, the Festival staff is hard at work preparing for the 2015 season. Artistic Director David Ivers commented, "The 2014 season brought strong productions and phenomenal artists to our stages. Our full time and seasonal staff are to be commended for delivering some of the finest professional theatre in the country. We are very excited to share 2015 with you!"

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is located on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Tickets for the Festival's 54th season in 2015 are available by calling 1-800-PLAYTIX or by visiting the Festival website at

Photo Credit: Karl Hugh / Utah Shakespeare Festival 2014

Sam Ashdown (left) as Prince Hal and Henry Woronicz as Sir John Falstaff in the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2014 production of Henry IV Part One.

Eva Balistrieri as Marianne Dashwood in the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2014 production of Sense and Sensibility.

Aaron Galligan-Stierle (left) as Feste and David Pichette as Malvolio in the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2014 production of Twelfth Night.

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