Utah Shakespearean Festival: The Greenshow

The GreenshowThere was more to our visit to the Utah Shakespearean Festival than The 39 Steps, Much Ado about Nothing, and Pride and Prejudice. Not only were there more plays but there were such diversions as The Greenshow. The Greenshow is a series of complimentary performances presented six nights a week, prior to the evening theatrical performances. There are also several comely “tarts” selling Elizabethan fare.

The Utah Shakespearean Festival website has this to say:

The perfect mood enhancer for the Festival’s productions can be found each summer evening on the beautiful green and courtyard surrounding the Adams Shakespearean Theatre. The Greenshow features the spirited song, dance, and costumes of Shakespeare’s day, and it’s free! Add storytelling, juggling, and Elizabethan sweets, and you’ll have a fun-filled frolic to prepare you for the main stage performance that follows.

This time I only saw a few minutes of The Greenshow — just long enough to snap a couple of photographs. In prior visits I have watched a whole show for they are very entertaining.

The Greenshow

Next: The Randall L. Jones Theatre Backstage Tour

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Utah Shakespearean Festival: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice set

The set of Pride and Prejudice in the Randall L. Jones Theatre

Pride and Prejudice posterHaving already seen The 39 Steps and Much Ado about Nothing, we were looking forward to Pride and Prejudice to finish our two days at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen. It was begun in 1796, her second novel, but her first serious attempt at publication. She finished the original manuscript by 1797 in Steventon, Hampshire, where she lived with her parents and siblings in the town rectory. Austen originally called the story First Impressions, but it was never published under that title; instead, she made extensive revisions to the manuscript, then retitled and eventually published it as Pride and Prejudice.

The play is adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan and directed by B. J. Jones. The Utah Shakespearean Festival website has this to say:

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are desperate. With no sons, they are determined to arrange profitable marriages for their five beautiful daughters. However, when two eligible young men arrive in the neighborhood, excitement and passion begin to rule; and the Bennet household is in danger of being tipped firmly on its end. Fully capturing the spirit of the classic book, this adaptation is delightful, romantic, and fun for the entire family.

My wife owns the notable 1995 television version produced by the BBC starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Also the 2005 movie starring Keira Knightley (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Matthew Macfadyen. She also has the book. So it was destined that she would see the play.

For me, already knowing the plot and the ending, didn’t spoil the play. The interest now is not in what happens but how the story is told. It seemed to me that all the story was covered — I did not notice anything that was left out. But I do not think I would catch omissions anyway as I have not read the book.

Wikipedia has an interesting Pride and Prejudice Character Map showing the relationships between characters.
Pride and Prejudice Character Map

Next: The Greenshow
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Utah Shakespearean Festival: Much Ado about Nothing

Much Ado about Nothing poster
For our 30th anniversary Jill and I spent two days in Cedar City this week. Monday afternoon at the Utah Shakespearean Festival we watched The 39 Steps. In the evening it was time for Much Ado about Nothing, a comedy by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero.

The play is directed by B. J. Jones. The Utah Shakespearean Festival website has this to say:

Meet Beatrice and Benedick. To them love is a game of wits. Then meet Hero and Claudio. To them love is, well . . . just love. This vibrant and comic celebration of life and romance will introduce you to these opposite lovers, and to a host of villains, clowns, and eccentric characters. And you will cheer when these lively couples finally learn realities about life, love—and themselves.

The play is shown in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, dedicated in 1977. It is patterned after drawings and research of sixteenth century Tudor stages. Experts say it is one of a few theatres that probably comes close to the design of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced.

I found watching Much Ado about Nothing in an open air theater just adds to the experience. The play was very entertaining and funny. Sometimes, watching Shakespeare drags for me, being the uncouth man that I am, but I enjoyed this play and the time was gone all too soon.

Next: Pride and Prejudice
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Utah Shakespearean Festival: The 39 Steps

Utah Shakespearean Festival posters

For our 30th anniversary Jill and I spent two days in Cedar City. Our first stop was the play The 39 Steps showing at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. The original was the 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on the adventure novel The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan. The film stars Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

Utah Shakespearean Festival bannerThe play was adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel and is directed by Eli Simon. The Utah Shakespearean Festival website has this to say:

What do you get when you blend Alfred Hitchcock with Monty Python? A hilarious mystery spoof that will keep you guessing! Murder, betrayal, and espionage intertwine with sly and hysterical nods to many of Hitchcock’s films, resulting in one of the funniest plays to ever hit Broadway. See if you can figure out whodunit as this cast of four transforms into over 150 farcical characters!

It took me awhile to catch on but there are only four actors in the play. This is where a lot of the humor is involved as characters, at times, are switched at a frenetic pace. There were an amazing amount of costume changes as there are over 150 characters.

It was clever (and funny) how the train and car rides were simulated. At one point, one of the actors was so funny that the other actors had a great deal of trouble keeping a straight face. This set off the audience laughing anew.

This mystery spoof is intertwined with sly and hysterical nods to many of Hitchcock’s films. Most of these had gone over my head before I finally caught on.

Really, my theater ticket was wasted on me.

Next: Much Ado about Nothing
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The Scarlet Pimpernel at Davis High

Rick, Jill, Sharon, and Max in the auditorium.

Ready for the Pimpernel

Our good friends Max and Sharon Blair invited us to watch “The Scarlet Pimpernel” at Davis High School. Before any strenuous activity we need to eat so we went to the Little Orient Restaurant in Layton. After a great meal we sat down in the Davis High School Auditorium ready for the musical. We were three rows back from the stage with the first row unoccupied. So close I could have left my glasses at home.
Image of the Pimpernel's flower on stage curtains.

The Plot

With the help of Wikipedia, here is the plot: In 1792, during the French Revolution, Marguerite, the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney, had unintentionally caused a French aristocrat and his sons to be sent to the guillotine. When Percy found out, he became estranged from his wife.

The “League of the Scarlet Pimpernel”, made up of 19 English aristocrats, are rescuing their French counterparts from execution. The Scarlet Pimpernel, their leader, takes his nickname from the drawing of a small red flower with which he signs his messages.

At a ball attended by the Blakeneys, Percy’s verse about the Pimpernel amuses the other guests:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.

Jill holding a program.
Meanwhile, Marguerite is blackmailed by Citizen Chauvelin. Chauvelin’s agents have stolen a letter incriminating her brother Armand, proving that he is in league with the Pimpernel. Chauvelin offers to trade Armand’s life for her help against the Pimpernel. Marguerite passes along information which enables Chauvelin to learn the Pimpernel’s true identity.

After Percy unexpectedly leaves for France, Marguerite discovers that he is the Pimpernel. Desperate to save him, she pursues Percy to France to try to warn him. Percy is reunited with his wife when they are both taken prisoner by Chauvelin but the couple manage to escape. With Marguerite’s love and courage amply proved, Percy’s ardor is rekindled.

Impressions

The singing was magnificent and the orchestra played well. There was a lot of effort put into the costumes and the props and that made the play all the more enjoyable. The humorous lines were delivered well and the audience responded readily. Already knowing the story helped me a lot. When I attend a play I usually expend most of my attention on figuring out the plot that I don’t enjoy the show. Of the play, the director Andra L. Thorne said:

While “The Scarlet Pimpernel” holds many important themes and ideas, one of the most important is said by Percy in Act I. In reference to what is happening in France and Percy thinks his band of men should do, Percy says, “Then when is the time? Do you hear me? Neighbor denounces neighbor — oh, and no longer just aristocrats, but teachers, priests, poets! Off go the heads — blood soaks the stones of the streets! I tell you they’ve gone insane, and I ask you: what should we do?

The time to render help is seldom convenient and it sometimes takes courage. As Andra says, “Change, and making a difference somewhere in the world, is a process, not an event.”
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Utah Shakespearean Festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Jill by the posters of all the plays.
This is our second day at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Yesterday we saw Cyrano de Bergerac. Today we attended a matinée of The Two Gentleman of Verona. We enjoyed the play and the dog appeared to be the biggest hit with the audience. We will be watching Othello this evening and I will probably report on the play tomorrow. We are enjoying the uncrowdedness of Cedar City and the clear skies. It is pleasant to walk around the campus with so many shade trees to cool our way.

The Play

The Two Gentleman of Verona is a free-spirited and engaging comedy. For anyone who has ever been in love, this youthful indulgence is replete with love-smitten (and confused) men, cunning (and disguised) beautiful maidens, and the most likable canine ever to grace the stage. Valentine (Justin Matthew Gordon) and Proteus (Matt Burke), the two gents in question, prove that Romeo is not the only lad in Verona to feel the raptures of love!
Matt Burke as Proteus and Lindsey Wochley as Julia

The Actors

Matt Burke is also playing Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew.  Previously at the festival he had roles in Twelfth Night, Coriolanus, King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Doctor Faustus. He will be featured in the upcoming HBO movie Recount.

Justin Matthew Gordon is also playing Cassio in  Othello. Previously at the festival he had a role in Coriolanus, Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical. He appeared in the movies: We Were Soldiers and What’s Bugging Seth.

The Theater

We watched the play in The Auditorium, completely renovated in 2004. It is the venue for matinées and kept us cool and in the shade on the hot summer afternoon. It is also used for performances that are “rained in” from the Adams Shakespearean Theatre. Fortunately the weather was clear yesterday for Cyrano de Bergerac. The theater seats 853. The Auditorium is nowhere near the same as being outdoors in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre. However, the acting was just as excellent and we enjoyed our first taste of Shakespeare this year.

Utah Shakespearean Festival: Cyrano de Bergerac

Jill with the executive director, R. Scott Phillips

The Festival

My wife and I are in Cedar City for two days for the Utah Shakespearean Festival. We were last here two years ago and before that it was a twenty years. Each time we have enjoyed ourselves immensely. With just a short 3 1/2 hour drive with not a rickety road anywhere we arrived in good spirits ready for theater. The plays take place on the campus of Southern Utah University that is located not far from five national parks. Skiing is 40 minutes away at Brian Head.

The Play

Cyrano de Bergerac, written by Edmond Rostand, is the play we watched tonight. We like to add one or two non-Shakespearean plays to our itinerary. Set in Paris in 1640 the play is about an expert swordsman, eloquent poet, and eligible bachelor. Cyrano (Brian Vaughn) shies away from wooing Roxane (Melinda Pfundstein) because his overly-large nose masks the beauty of his soul. Instead, he helps his bumbling young friend, Christian (Drew Shirley), court her by writing entrancing poetry for the young man to recite.
This is me with one of the ushers just as we were allowed in to be seated

The Actors

In real life Melinda is the wife of Brian. They both have performed at the Shakespearean many times over the years and have become a favorite of festival goers. The fact that as a married couple they are deeply in love will add another layer to this romantic and beautiful play. Brian and Melinda both attended Southern Utah University. In addition to their roles in Cyrano de Bergerac, Vaughn will be playing Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Pfundstein will play Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof. We plan on seeing The Two Gentlemen of Verona tomorrow afternoon.

The Theater

The top left photograph is Jill with R. Scott Phillips, the executive director of the festival. It was taken a few minutes before the play began in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, dedicated in 1977. It is patterned after drawings and research of sixteenth century Tudor stages. Experts say it is one of a few theaters that probably comes close to the design of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced. It is so authentic that the British Broadcasting Company filmed part of its Shakespeare series there. It is named for Grace Adams Tanner, a major benefactor of the Festival, and her parents, Thomas D. and Luella R. Adams. It seats 819, plus 66 gallery-bench or standing-room seats. Jill and I have always attended the festival in August on our anniversary. August in Utah is usually very hot but in the evening in Cedar City the temperature is just right. In this open air theater the atmosphere is perfect in more ways than one. With the excellent acting it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t know much about this play before tonight. It was spoken in rhyme which I do not normally like but this time it came off rather well because it was so clever. Jill remarked that she didn’t know how Brian Vaughn (Cyrano) could remember so many lines. Maybe it is easier because they rhymed? It was a nice touch to place on our seats a blanket, seat pad, program, souvenir bottle of water, and a note attached with our name on it. This was for those who had purchased premium seats. That is why we also got to meet the director. All I did was to buy tickets that got us close to the front of the stage. Speaking of which, before the play started I took a photograph of the stage for which I was rebuked. Apparently the stage is copyrighted. Fortunately the director has not been copyrighted yet so you get to see him.

I plan on reporting on an actual Shakespeare play tomorrow. Unless writing about Shakespeare is also copyrighted. :)