The Utah Shakespeare Festival: The 1980’s & 90’s

1981 ticket

Fred and Barbara Adams had built their dream. The summer productions in the new Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre had sell out crowds nearly every night, operating at 98 to 99 percent capacity, which offered no room for growth. The Festival had become too successful for the current space.

A construction tour of the Randall L. Jones Theatre.

Festival and college representatives turned to the Utah State Legislature for assistance in funding the construction of the new theatre. The legislature, while agreeing that the project sounded interesting, refused to fund the building. A representative advised them to look into the mineral lease money that the mining companies operating in Iron County had been paying into for over fifty years. The mineral lease fund was established to offset the impact made by the mines on schools, hospitals, roads, and other public works projects. A large sum had been paid in, but very little taken out. The mineral lease board agreed that a new theatre for the Festival was worthy of funding and awarded most, but not all, of the construction costs. The descendants of Randall L. Jones, an early booster of southern Utah, provided the remainder of the needed funds, and the new theatre would now be named the Randall L. Jones Theatre.

Sunset at the Randall.

The 1989 season, the first using both the Randall Theatre and the Adams Theatre, featured six plays, three in each theatre, the most the Festival had ever produced in one season. Festival producers decided they would need two separate companies. They duplicated every position, one for the Adams Theatre and one for the Randall Theatre. This proved very expensive. The 1989 season ended with a $379,000.00 deficit. Relief came from Paul Southwick, vice-president of finance for Southern Utah University, who had been pulling some of the Festival profits each year into a rainy day fund, which had more than enough money to cover the deficit, and the Festival was saved. The Utah Shakespeare Festival did not repeat the mistakes of 1989 and began double casting roles for both the Randall and the Adams theatres.

Karen Thorla (left) as Helena, Alexis Baigue as Demetrius, Stefanie Resnick as Hermia, and Brandon Burk as Lysander in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2017 Shakespeare-in-the-Schools production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2017.)

Fred C. Adams believed in the power inherent in Shakespeare’s texts to change lives for the better, and the Festival created an education program to take that message to schools across the West. Fred’s traveling show, Costume Cavalcade, evolved into the Shakespeare-in-the-Schools Tour, a traveling group of trained actors who perform abbreviated versions of Shakespeare’s major plays in schools throughout the region. The actors also meet with the students after the show, answer questions, provide training, and help them better understand the concepts brought to life on the stage.

Brian Vaughn (left) as Smudge, Jered Tanner as Jinx, Michael Fitzpatrick as Frankie, and Gregory Ivan Smith as Sparky in the 1999 Utah Shakespeare Festival production of Forever Plaid. (Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

By the late 1990s the business community of Cedar City began asking the management team of the Festival if they would extend their season in an effort to keep the much needed tourism money flowing into the local economy. Southern Utah University worked with them for a test run in 1999. The Festival would pick two very small plays, Forever Plaid and The Compleat Works of Wllm. Shkspr (Abridged), and see if a fall season could be economically viable. The plan worked, and the fall season began.

R. Scott Phillips (left), Sue Cox, Douglas N. Cook, Fred C. Adams, and Cameron Harvey receiving the 2000 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. (Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

In May of 2000, the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League announced that the Antoinette Perry or “Tony” Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre would go to the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The Tony, comparable to the Academy Awards in film, is the most highly sought after accolade in American theatre and, for the Festival, was the culmination of nearly four decades of hard work and superior artistry.

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The Utah Shakespeare Festival – The First Two Decades

Keith Seegmiller (left) and Ron Carpenter playing the fanfare, 1962

Despite the summer heat, the audience for the first performance of the newly inaugurated Utah Shakespeare Festival numbered over five hundred. It was July 2, 1962, and everything was ready: every detail had been carefully looked to, every contingency planned for, or so they thought. Two young trumpeters had been recruited to play a fanfare announcing the beginning of the play. As the notes rang through the air, director Fred C. Adams realized that the cast had not rehearsed a way to get from the dressing room to the stage. Thinking quickly, he grabbed a torch from the rack of Hamlet props, lit it, and presented it to the costumed pages, directing them to lead the cast, in full view of the audience, to the stage. This actors processional, from the dressing room doors, across the patio, and to the platforms became a Festival audience favorite for many years.

1963 Ticket

The initial two-week Festival season proved very successful, bringing in 3,726 visitors and over $2,000—enough to prove that this could be a profitable venture. Fred began assembling the creative team that would guide the Utah Shakespeare Festival to national prominence. This group would soon include directors Michael Addison and Tom Markus, scenic designer Douglas N. Cook, lighting designer Cameron Harvey, and technical director Gary M. McIntyre, among many others.

In 1965, Fred made a decision that would forever change the course of the Festival. He had built the organization using local talent, but his creative team, most of them college instructors from outside the area, wanted to give some of their students an opportunity to perform. Fred decided that he would open auditions to students from across the country. They realized that this influx of actors exposed audiences to a host of new talent and increased the notoriety and production ability of the Festival.

Early stage

Throughout the 1960s, the Festival productions would be carried out on a portable stage that would be built and removed after each summer season—with tremendous effort. However, the enthusiasm of the nightly audiences, sitting on their folding chairs, made the effort worthwhile.

Douglas N. Cook had joined the Festival in 1964. Cook was especially adept at designing scenery for Shakespeare productions. Under his guidance, the props department blossomed, and the sets better reflected the periods that designers were trying to represent. At the conclusion of the 1969 season, Cook applied his talent for design to work up some rough sketches for a new outdoor theatre space to replace the aging stage.

Early design by Doug Cook

Based upon his research, Cook knew that the new theatre would need to have three essential elements. First, it must have a thrust stage (this meant that the performance space would be surrounded on three sides by seats); second, it must have a gallery or multi-level seating; and, third, it must be open to the air. All of these designs were in every major Elizabethan theatre of Shakespeare’s day and would be necessary for the Festival’s new space. Technical and electrical planning also factored heavily into the design of the Adams Theatre. Technical director Cameron Harvey worked tirelessly to design a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system that would be unnoticeable to the audience but enhance the performance. Everything the Utah Shakespeare Festival had learned about producing the Bard would go into the design of the theatre.

Adams Theatre Performance

In 1977 the Adams Theatre, named after Thomas and Luella Adams (no relation to Fred) was complete, and despite having to remove the construction scaffolding forty-five minutes before the first performance, the actors and the patrons loved the new stage.

The Festival introduced its first matinee performance and its first musical, by presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado in 1977. Drawing from local talent, including a live orchestra and a young R. Scott Phillips as the Lord High Executioner (his only acting role for the Festival), The Mikado proved that the Festival could branch out into dramatic fields other than William Shakespeare.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival entered a new era when in 1981 it introduced its first Equity actors to its audiences. The Actors Equity Association is the professional union for theatre acting and stage management professionals.

Fred Adams, circa 1970

The 1970s proved to be an amazing decade of growth for the Festival. A new theatre was added, programs and staff were expanded, and professional actors joined the company. Still, Fred Adams had another idea, what if patrons could see more—works from other important playwrights, the “Shakespeares of other lands.” Of course the Adams Theatre would remain the domain of Shakespearean plays; what was needed was another space, another theatre

Cedar City: A Look Back – The Utah Shakespeare Festival

This year marks the opening of the 56th season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. We thought you would enjoy this photo of the founder Fred Adams as he directs the cast of The Taming of the Shrew. This was the first play of the first season. For the rest of July we will be detailing the history of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, an organization that still brings over 100,000 people to the local area each year.

Founding Director Fred C. Adams offers suggestions prior to 1962 opening night.

 

Frontier Homestead: Mission and Values

For the past year, the staff at Frontier Homestead, in cooperation with the Frontier Homestead Museum Foundation and other local partners has been working on new mission and vision statements. We are happy to report that we have wrapped up the process and are ready to present them to our patrons, friends, and supporters.  The full mission and vision statements are below, but as a teaser here is the new Park mission statement: To connect people to traditions, knowledge and ideas. Supporting statements flesh out just what this entails. Ultimately, we want Frontier Homestead to be a place where history becomes your story.

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum- Mission Statement

To connect people to traditions, knowledge and ideas.

We fulfill our mission by:

  1. Creating engaging, educational and experiential programming.
  2. Actively collecting the physical and oral cultural histories of Southwest Utah.
  3. Safeguarding our collections and maintaining Park facilities.
  4. Responsible fundraising.
  5. Collaborating with individuals, institutions, community partners and the Museum Foundation.
  6. Celebrating frontier lifeways through community outreach, special events and programs.
  7. Providing quality service to our community and all our visitors.
  8. Working with the Museum Foundation to establish an endowment of $10 million, the income from which will support the operational costs of growing and preserving the Museum’s collection and the management of all Museum activities and programs.
  9. Embracing and incorporating values as articulated by the History Relevance Campaign (www.historyrelevance.com).

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum -Vision Statement

As the new town square, Frontier Homestead State Park is the setting where all are invited to come to share experiences, learn, and connect with each other. The Park will realize its vision by adherence to the following values:

  • Stewardship: We will strategically plan for long-term sustainability of the resources entrusted to us.  We will secure adequate funding and infrastructure to preserve, exhibit and interpret the Museum’s extensive collections, and maintain sufficient resources to readily host community events, celebrations and public programming.  We believe safeguarding our past is the foundation by which future generations will thrive.
  • Relevance: We will be an integral member of our community, creating dynamic and inspiring exhibits and programs that are important to the lives of our audiences. We will continue to benefit future generations as a vibrant, inclusive institution that is fully involved in the life of Iron County and southern Utah. Our work to increase awareness and appreciation of history lays the groundwork for a strong, resilient community.
  • Professionalism: We will be leaders in superior customer service and industry practices. Staff and volunteers will continue to expand their experience and training in order to provide quality assistance to all our patrons.
  • Fiscal Responsibility: We will conduct the business of the park within our financial means, and seek to enhance and diversify our economic base where possible. We hold that cultural heritage is a demonstrated economic asset and essential component of a vibrant financial market.
  • Communication: We will utilize the latest technology to more effectively and efficiently advance the activities of the Museum. We will fully integrate our website and social media platforms to foster a strong digital presence.  Staff will actively engage visitors onsite and online.
  • Diversity: We will engage people of all ages, ethnicity, religion, economic circumstance, and education to provide a broader relevance to our museum. History enables citizens to discover their own place in the stories of their families, society, and country. By bringing history into discussions about contemporary issues, we foster a better understanding of multiple perspectives on the challenges facing our communities.
  • Management/Administration: We will strive to expand our staff in order to realize the full potential of our mission and vision, thereby meeting ever-increasing public utilization of the Park. We employ history to provide leaders with inspiration and guide posts for meeting the complex challenges in a rapidly changing world.
  • Park Facilities & Grounds: We will dedicate sufficient resources to the development and care of the structures and lands entrusted to us. We recognize that the park infrastructure is the basis for effective resource stewardship and the vehicle for our public service activities.

Black Bart: Stagecoach Robber and Poet

Stagecoach receipt

Subsidized by government contracts, stage lines, such as Wells Fargo and Company began carrying passengers as well as mail into the Western United States in 1840. Stage coaching quickly became the most elegant form of transcontinental transportation.

 

While there were many bandits who sought easy money by robbing stagecoaches, none had as much dramatic flair as English born Charles Earl Bowles, better known as Black Bart. Bowles conducted a series of successful stagecoach hold-ups throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon during the 1870’s and 1880’s. Bowles, terrified of horses, conducted his robberies on foot, was always courteous and used no foul language. He wore a long linen duster coat and a bowler hat, covered his head using a flour sack with holes cut for the eyes, and brandished a shotgun. These distinguishing features became his trademarks.

Black Bart

On his final robbery, Bowles was wounded in the hand and left a number of personal items at the scene, including a linen handkerchief, with the laundry mark FXO7. The Wells Fargo detectives were able to identify the Chinese laundry that Bowles used thus able to track him to his modest boarding house, where he was arrested.  Bowles was also known to leave handwritten poems at the crime scene, the most  famous:

 

Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,
And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will, I’ll try it on,
My condition can’t be worse;
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis munny in my purse. – Black Bart

One of the most exciting pieces in our collection is our Wells Fargo Stagecoach. The coach, made in the Concord style was crafted by Gronway Parry, whose restored wagons and farm equipment formed the bulk of our collection in 1973 when the museum opened. Parry built the stagecoach in the 1950’s and it has been used in parades, movies, and television. The Parry coach is the only replica in our collection. We invite our visitors to climb about and imagine themselves on their own stage journey across the West. Just be sure to watch out for Black Bart.

American Pickers is coming to Utah

Mike and Frank

Here at Frontier Homestead we recently received a call from an Associate Producer of AMERICAN PICKERS, a very popular show on the History Channel. She asked us to pass along some exciting news about the show coming to Utah and asked us to send out some information to anyone who might be interested in having the hosts Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and their team explore through their collection as they return to Utah. They plan to film episodes of the hit series AMERICAN PICKERS throughout the state in July 2017.

AMERICAN PICKERS is a documentary series that explores the fascinating world of antique ‘picking’ on History. The hit show follows Mike and Frank, two of the most skilled pickers in the business, as they hunt for America’s most valuable antiques. They are always excited to find sizable, unique collections and learn the interesting stories behind them.

As they hit the back roads from coast to coast, Mike and Frank are on a mission to recycle and rescue forgotten relics. Along the way, the Pickers want to meet characters with remarkable and exceptional items. The pair hopes to give historically significant objects a new lease on life, while learning a thing or two about America’s past along the way.

Mike and Frank have seen a lot of rusty gold over the years and are always looking to discover something they’ve never seen before. They are ready to find extraordinary items and hear fascinating tales about them. AMERICAN PICKERS is looking for leads and would love to explore your hidden treasure. If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send us your name, phone number, location and description of the collection with photos to:

americanpickers@cineflix.com or call 855-OLD-RUST.

 Where History is YOUR Story

Frontier Folk Festival 2017

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum and The Frontier Homestead Museum Foundation are pleased to bring the second annual Frontier Folk Festival to Cedar City, Utah, June 16-17, 11 am – 8 pm each day. Thanks to the support of sponsors, admission is free.

Original art, live music, and delicious food combine to celebrate the diverse heritage of southern Utah.  The Frontier Folk Festival promises to be filled with remarkable talent.  Featured performers include Clive Romney, The Red Hill Rangers, Karyn Whittemore, Silversage, and the Griffin Family.

 

Performers at the 2016 Festival

“We’ve been talking about this idea for years,” says Todd Prince, Park Manager.  “Working with our Museum Foundation, we finally decided to take the leap and offer a new experience to the community and all our patrons.  It will be a great event for anyone attracted to history, the visual arts and folk music.”  Museum Foundation Chair, Mike Scott, added, “The Foundation is thrilled to offer this family friendly experience to the community.  It is a wonderful opportunity for us all to experience our heritage.”

Art, craft, and food vendors will be on hand.

The Frontier Homestead Museum Foundation is looking forward to a diverse, high quality show, and wish to thank its exhibiting artists, musicians, and food purveyors in advance for helping to bring the arts in all of their forms to the residents of Iron County and beyond. The Foundation Board also wishes to extend a special thank you to the Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism & Convention Bureau (http://scenicsouthernutah.com) for their support in helping to advertise the festival throughout the western U.S.  A list of all Folk Festival sponsors can be found at http://frontierhomestead.org/arts-festival.

For more information call the Park at (435) 586-9290.

 Where History becomes Your Story

Cedar City: A Look Back – Union Pacific Train Depot

The Cedar City Depot was built and paid for in 1923 by Union Pacific with the hope that a railroad spur would increase rail tourism in Southern Utah. The trains brought tourists and movie companies into the area and the depot served as the gateway to the national parks until 1960, which marked the final year for regular passenger use of the railway. The north end of the depot served as the express office where local residents could pick up rare items such as salmon and halibut from the Northeast. The depot officially closed in 1984 and now serves as the location for a variety of local businesses.

The depot, 1924.

The depot with the El Escalante Hotel in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

The UPC vehicles ready to transport the arriving tourists.

The cast of “Forlorn River” leaves Cedar City, 1926.

Trains leaving the depot.

Book Review: Death by Petticoat – American History Myths Debunked

Here at Frontier Homestead, we thought we would, from time to time, share with you what we are reading. This month our review comes from one of our interns, Maureen Carlson. We encourage you to share with us your favorite reads as the year progresses.

Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald is an American Historical book full of many historical myths told around the US in museums, historical books, and classrooms. This book, as the title states, debunks those myths, telling how they were or may have started, or even just stretched with a bit of truth, then giving the facts at the end of each myth.

Everybody has heard that the second most common reason for death for Colonial women, just under childbirth, was burning to death from a petticoat that caught fire, haven’t they (Myth #1)? Or, that the reason so many Colonial women used a fire screen was to protect their wax makeup from melting off (Myth #4)? Considering those are both incorrect, it is a shame that so many people seem to not only believe those myths, but that they continue to be told in history books, classrooms, and museums alike all around the country! The truth is that petticoats, being made of wool, cotton, and linen, burned very slowly, even if they did catch fire, allowing the women to stop the incident before it spread too far.

The fact behind women’s makeup melting is that Colonial women, in reality, hardly wore any makeup at all. If they did decide to wear makeup, women had to make it themselves using various ingredients. Not one of those ingredients was wax. The actual purpose for the fire screen, which wasn’t even a common household item, was to shield one from direct heat. Now that makes perfect sense, wouldn’t you think?

 Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald holds quite a few of these little myths, tall tales, and stretched truths in her little book. Sixty-three of them, to be exact. It is a short, easy read and is quite informative. I admire the work and research that Theobald has put in to debunking so many tidbits that happened to get twisted and made up throughout the years. It is astonishing to me how much is taught as our history that isn’t even true!

One example in this book that really surprised me as being a fabrication of time is Myth #59: “Quilt designs were really secret codes meant to assist escaping slaves through the Underground Railroad”. According to Theobald, this myth began in the 1990’s and no one knows why. Since then, many have worked together to debunk it without much success, sadly, as it is still being taught. The book states that “there is no evidence or example of coded quilts” (117). I grew up with this story in elementary history classes and seeing it on TV shows quite often, so couldn’t believe when I saw it in this book. It is a nice story that made me feel good, which is one of the reasons it has stuck around. People like a good story that is either exciting or gives you warm fuzzies. But if it is false, no matter how it makes one feel, it should not be spread. That is how Theobald feels as well, and why she wrote this book and does the research that she does.

Death by Petticoat is an enjoyable book, for the most part. Many of these so-called myths within the book I have never even heard of myself. Reading through the stories, I found that I have actually been taught the truth or had common sense enough to realize the facts myself, as some of the myths seemed too far-fetched for anyone to believe. That being said, there were a number of good things that I did learn, and it is an interesting book. It is worth checking out if you want something quick and interesting to read. The contents might even surprise you!

Cedar City: A Look Back – Welcome Sign

Tourism has been and continues to be an economic mainstay for Cedar City and Iron County. In summer of 2016, a little over one million visitors, ate, slept, shopped, and were entertained in our local area. This does not count the thousands who come during the winter to enjoy our amazing winter recreation opportunities. This Welcome sign stood on the corner of Main and Center for many years. The photo was taken in 1947. For up to date information visit the Cedar City – Brian Head Tourism Bureau at visitcedarcity.com