The Utah Shakespeare Festival: Part 4- The Past is Prologue

Chris Mixon as Charlie Brown in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2002 production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright 2002 Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

The Utah Shakespeare Festival has undergone great change since its first season in 1962. Facilities have been constructed, productions have grown in size and scope, and the Festival staff has grown to include a number of full-time employees. In 2002 the larger format, three-play fall season debuted with I Hate Hamlet, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Twelfth Night. In 2011 the Festival announced that, for the first time, a play would run through the traditional break between the summer and fall seasons.

Fred and Barbara Adams, circa 1960

Tragedy befell the Festival when on October 22, 2008, Barbara Gaddie Adams, Fred’s wife and longtime partner and confidant, succumbed to a long illness and passed away. Barbara, along with Fred, had shepherded the Festival from words on a little yellow notepad to a nationally recognized, Tony award-winning theatre company. Barbara had coordinated all the preshow activities, the music, singing, puppet show, and dancing that provided the atmosphere for Festival goers as they prepared for the transition from the contemporary to the Elizabethan. Barbara Adams’s creative spirit is memorialized by a bronze plaque located on the wall of the Adams Theatre, near The Greenshow performing space—a fitting tribute to the program she proved instrumental in developing.

The Engelstead Shakespeare Theatre

The expansion of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s artistic and technical company and a longer theatrical season required new spaces.  The much loved Adams Theatre had served its purpose in enriching, entertaining, and educating the lives of those who sat in her seats and witnessed her bounty. Like the stage before, the passage of time and changing technology have taken their toll. In 2016, the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre opened its doors and a new Wooden O now stands guard over the works of the Bard and serves as an anchor for the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s future.

John Wascavage (left) as The Suspects and Paul Helm as Marcus Moscowicz in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2016 production of Murder for Two. (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2016.)

Additionally, the Eileen and Alan Anes Studio Theatre, now serves as a creative space for the development of new plays. This flexible 200 seat venue is able to be configured in a variety of seating styles to better enhance the vision of the playwright, designer, or director. The Anes theatre allows for the exploration of the theatrical experience and provides Festival patrons the opportunity to discover the diversity of the world stage. The Anes Theatre is home to the new plays program where scripts are workshopped and tested with a small audience before being moved to the larger Festival stages. This theatrical laboratory shows the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s continuing commitment to the development of theatre professionals and to the expansion of America’s influence on world drama.

USF Founder Fred C. Adams – at the beginning.

The future of the Utah Shakespeare Festival is rooted in the tradition of what it does well and in a commitment to utilize that shared past as a springboard for the future. The expanding and deepening of programs, the construction of new theatres, and the development of a core artistic company are not without challenges. However, these same difficulties were met and faced fifty years ago by a young drama teacher, and we all know how that turned out.

To find out more about the Utah Shakespeare Festival and see what is coming in the future, visit their website, www.bard.org

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