View on the Arts

Utah Shakespeare Festival – From My View


by Judy Reich

photos by Karl Hugh


AMuchAdo-9528The 2016 theme of the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival on the Southern Utah University Campus in Cedar City, Utah, is “The Greater Escape.” For me, it has been an annual great escape since I first attended the Festival in 1990. Often, I’ve escaped more than once each season. As a Las Vegan since 1988, in a fast-paced behind-the-scenes career in broadcasting, a 24/7 industry, it was challenging to get away.


But those escapes to the Festival – I’d often see six plays in repertory over three days – have always been treasured. My trip this summer was no exception.


This year, there were many new things and changes to expect and experience. I was pleased to learn the minute I stepped onto the SUU campus, the then, the now, and the future tastefully blended together.  


When you’ve visited an area that many years and times, and know that there will be changes, one can feel a bit apprehensive. I was comforted at many turns during the days I was there. They have maintained the integrity of the past, the excitement of the present, and the hope of the future to positively impact future generations of those who love, and will learn to love, art, dance, and theatre.


On July 7, 2016, I attended the ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony of the new $39 million The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts.
The Beverley incorporates visual arts, live theatre – including the Festival – and education at SUU, in a two-block area. It also features the new Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) which was dedicated the same day.


Through the years I visited the Braithewaite Museum on the SUU campus. Years ago Donna Law, now SUU’s Executive Director, Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service, showed me some of Jimmie Jones’ paintings soon after they were donated. Now, these beautiful pieces of art are featured at the SUMA.


The core of my trips to Cedar City, the Festival, was wonderful again this year. They kept with the Festival’s mission statement, “The Utah Shakespeare Festival presents life-affirming classic and contemporary plays in repertory, with Shakespeare as our cornerstone. These plays are enhanced by interactive festival experiences which entertain, enrich and educate.” This year, mission accomplished.


Of the four plays I saw in July, there was world class acting, music, dancing, sets, lighting, and costume design, as well as laughter and learning with Cocoanuts, Henry V, Mary Poppins, and Much Ado About Nothing.


The people are who and what make the Festival so special. Festival Founder, Fred C. Adams, now Executive Producer Emeritus, is a treasure. He has AMuchAdo-2028worked tirelessly over the Festival’s 56 seasons. This year, he realized his dream of the Festival and The Beverley. And, he has a role in Much Ado About Nothing. He was a show-stopper the evening I saw it. Often, as script leeway allows, Fred’s name is woven into the dialogue of contemporary plays. R. Scott Phillips is the Festival’s Executive Director, responsible for articulating and implementing the Festival’s values, vision, and mission, and protecting its artistic image. He has been at the Festival since 1977. Brian Vaughn and David Ivers were appointed the Artistic Directors of the Festival in 2010. Brian began his history with the Festival in 1991 as a SUU student and actor in The Greenshow (free outdoor entertainment featuring three shows alternating nightly). David has spent 19 seasons with the Festival.  All of these creative men have acted in and directed plays through the years. This season, Brian and David star opposite each other in The Odd Couple, and they will rotate in the roles of Oscar and Felix.


I look forward to a return visit, if not two, to the Festival this season. My old favorites remain – plays in repertory, The Greenshow, the gift shop, seminars, and tours. And some new favorites have formed – Shakespeare Lane, and the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre which replaced the previous outdoor Adams Theatre.


And next year, during the 2017 Season, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will be in repertory with a shared cast and set of the theatrical adaptation of the Academy Award-winning movie, Shakespeare in Love, in the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre.


For more information:

Utah Shakespeare Festival: visit or call (800) PLAY-TIX

Southern Utah University: visit

The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Center for the Performing Arts: visit


Sam Ashdown as King Henry V



About the author:

JudyReich.LasVegas.HeadShot.2016Judy is with the Nevada Broadcasters Association and assists non-profits and government agencies to broadcast important public messages on NVBA’s member radio and television stations across the entire state of Nevada. Previously, she was Program Director and Community Affairs Director at KSNV, Ch. 3, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, Nevada, for nearly 18 years. Judy also is an Audio Describer for Broadway shows for patrons who are blind or with low vision at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. She has been a lifelong Broadway show lover and has seen and enjoyed shows in Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas, Nevada; Cedar City and St. George, Utah; Los Angeles and San Diego, California; Broadway, New York; and London, England.



The 2016 Festival Plays

Much Ado about Nothing  Jun 27 to Sep 8

Henry V  Jun 28 to Sep 10

The Three Musketeers  Jun 29 to Sep 9

The Cocoanuts  July 1 to Oct 15

The Odd Couple  Sep 14 to Oct 22

Mary Poppins  July 2 to Sep 3

Julius Caesar  July 29 to Oct 22

Murder for Two  Aug 4 to Oct 22

The Greenshow  Jun 27 to Sep 10


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