Live your best life at this summer’s Utah Shakespeare Festival
By Geoff Griffin and Kathleen Curry
A trip to Cedar City for the Utah Shakespeare Festival offers adventures that range from the rugged to the refined. Sunny days can be spent at nearby national parks taking in nature in all its glory. Starry nights are for sitting outdoors in the cool of the evening listening to actors recite iambic pentameter written by a genius.
From June 27-Sept. 7, 2019, the USF summer repertory includes classics such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Conclusion of Henry VI: Parts Two and Three. There’s also The Book of Will, the Shakespeare-related play by Lauren Gunderson about a group of Shakespeare’s fellow actors trying to deal with the Bard’s death.
The festival’s non-Bard performances include the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as Every Brilliant Thing, a play by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe.
There are myriad ways to combine the plays in a weekend getaway, since they are performed both as matinees and evening shows in three different theaters. In addition to the plays, there are seminars and tours to fill the day in Cedar City, along with plenty of outdoor activities in the surrounding area. For a jam-packed visit to Cedar City, consider the following itinerary of plays, dining and outdoor play:
Salt Lake to Cedar City
To see the shows at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (195 W. Center St., Cedar City, 1-800-PLAYTIX, Bard.org), either book in advance online or stop at the ticket office in town. Getting to Utah’s “Festival City” is easy enough—just head south from Salt Lake City on Interstate 15 for 250 miles, typically a 3 ½-hour drive.
Keep the Shakespeare theme going throughout the weekend by staying at Bard’s Inn (150 S. 100 West, Cedar City, 435-586-6612, TheBardsInn.com), which dates back to 1912 and was designed by the same Randall L. Jones whose name is on the festival’s indoor theater. The eight air-conditioned rooms have private baths, TVs and Wi-Fi. Plus, a full breakfast is served every morning.
Bard’s Inn also has the advantage of being a five-minute walk from festival theaters and several area restaurants. One of the more popular is Centro Woodfired Pizzeria (50 W. Center St., Cedar City, 435-867-8123, CentroPizzeria.com). You can pick a combination of toppings, and let them know if you’d like your pizza cooked with “leopard spots” (well done) or “blonde” (lightly done). Centro also serves beer and wine, including selections from nearby Cedar City-based Iron Gate Winery (IGWinery.com)
If you arrive early enough in the day for a matinee, consider kicking things off at the festival with the ever-popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, at 2 p.m. in the Jones Theatre.
Part of the fun of attending a festival play in the evenings is enjoying the free outdoor Greenshow beforehand for musical performances and dancing. In 2019, look for three alternating Greenshow themes paired with the plays being performed later that evening: Scottish for Macbeth, English for The Book of Will and Russian for Hamlet. These lively and amusing shows are fun for all ages.
On most Thursday nights, you can catch a performance of The Book of Will at the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre. Built in 2016, the open-air theater is the festival’s symbolic home, featuring plays by Shakespeare and works by other playwrights that are suited for its outdoor Elizabethan architecture.
After breakfast, consider attending activities connected to the festival. Still have questions about a play you saw the previous night? You can ask a theater expert (and sometimes even the director or actors who attend) at the morning seminars held outdoors at the Balcony Bards Seminar Grove starting at 9 a.m.
USF’s Words Cubed program presents staged readings or workshops of new plays from visiting playwrights on selected dates, including a discussion between the writer, actors and audience starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Jones Theatre.
Backstage tours begin at 10:15 a.m. and allow guests to see how props, costumes, scenery and lights come together to make a show. There are additional production seminars at 11 a.m. if you really want to go in depth and ask questions about the mechanics of a play.
Stay on site for lunch for one of the Curtain Call Luncheons held on 10 different dates in July and August. They start at noon and last about an hour, giving you a chance to interact with festival actors and artists.
If you’re curious about what to expect from plays you’re about to see, play orientations are held outside at 1:15 p.m. before matinees and 6:45 p.m. before evening performances.
On most Fridays, you’ll be able to see two of Shakespeare’s greatest characters in one day by going to the indoor Randall L. Jones Theatre to see Hamlet at 2 p.m. followed by Macbeth at the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare at 8 p.m.
Between performances, visit the Honolulu Grill (1760 N. Main, Cedar City, 435-867-6428, HonoluluGrill.net) and order a Hawaiian plate. All the island classics such as Kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, katsu chicken, macaroni salad and shaved ice are available along with sandwiches and salads.
Cedar City to Kolob Canyons
After breakfast on Saturday, stop at The Grind Coffeehouse (19 N. Main, Cedar City, 435-867-5333), the unofficial go-to coffee spot for actors and others who work at the festival. In addition to serving great coffee, The Grind also sells sandwiches that you can pack for a picnic lunch while hiking later in the day. Try the “bageletta,” a riff on the traditional muffuletta, served on a bagel with ham, turkey, salami, olive tapenade, romaine and balsamic dressing.
The festival’s location in Southern Utah allows play-goers to spend time enjoying nature. Cedar City can be a jumping off point for Cedar Breaks National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park and the southern entrance of Zion National Park reached by going through Hurricane and Springdale.
If you’re looking for a way to enjoy a national park but still be back in time for a matinee, Kolob Canyons is the closest option. As part of Zion National Park, Kolob Canyons’ entrance is easy to access and is just 17 miles south of Cedar City on Interstate 15. Once in the park, a driving route takes you to several dramatic overlooks. In addition, the Timber Creek Overlook Trail is an easygoing 1-mile round tripper with minimal elevation change, while the Taylor Creek Trail to Double Arch Alcove is a 5-mile round trip and typically takes about four hours. Started early enough, these morning hikes allow you to be back in Cedar City in time for an afternoon play.
Indoor shows for Saturday afternoon include The Conclusion of Henry VI, starting at 1 p.m. at the Anes Studio Theatre, a smaller indoor venue that holds an audience of 200. Also, as part of the festival’s Complete-the-Canon Project, this season, the festival is combining two of the three parts of the Henry VI trilogy in one 4 1/2 -hour production. Begun in 2012, the festival’s project promises to present every one of Shakespeare’s 38 plays no later than the year 2023.
For dinner, try Pisco Peruvian (1180 Sage Drive, Cedar City, 435-677-7088, PiscoPeruvian.com), which began as a food truck in 2015 but became so popular, it moved to a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2016. Chef Tavo Mejia, a native Peruvian, uses a generations-old family recipe to cook the restaurant’s most well-known dish, pollo de la brasa. The chicken is marinated overnight, then roasted and served with sides such as fried yucca or Peruano beans.
Close out your festival experience on Saturday night with the Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night under the stars at the Engelstad.
Cedar City to Brian Head
There’s still time for one more adventure before heading home. Get back on I-15 heading north, but take the Parowan exit and get on State Route 143 to head up to Brian Head Resort (329 SR-143, 435-677-2035, BrianHead.com), which, at 9,600 feet, boasts the highest base elevation of any mountain resort in Utah. The drive takes about 45 minutes. In the summer, the mountain trails are great for hiking and mountain biking. Other summer activities on the mountain include disc golf, a climbing wall, a mini zipline, archery and a bungee trampoline. Of course, the easiest way to take it all in is riding the lift up the mountain while enjoying the views.
On your way back to the I-15, stop in Parowan at Mountain Bistro (625 W. 200 South, Parowan, 435-263-0059, MountainViewLodge-Parowan.com), a Chinese restaurant in the Mountain View Lodge. The chef’s specials include spicy pepper fried shrimp or a Chinese hot pot served with shrimp, scallops, beef, chicken and pork.
With world-class theatrical productions, nearby eye-popping scenery and a town dotted with Shakespearean-themed accomodations, the award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival is just the place to be “merry as the day is long,” as the Bard scribed in Much Ado About Nothing. Not only is it a Utah festival that lasts all summer, but one that enlightens and inspires all who attend.