A little stroll through SUU

Gerald R. Sherratt Library on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City

When Lizabeth narrowed college options down to her top three choices, Southern Utah University was on the list. She first experienced SUU while traveling with fellow Arizona School for the Arts students to the Shakespeare competition for students, where she’s been both a competitor and a supporter of competing peers.

Thursday we were back on the SUU campus, taking in art exhibits featured in this year’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The little but lovely town of Cedar City, where the university and festival are located, is brimming with families and groups of teens here to enjoy the summer plays we’re also eager to experience.

One of many idyllic stretches of green on the campus of Southern Utah University

Our Thursday calendar was plenty full. Lizabeth hit The Grind coffee house while I did my minimal primping and prep for the long day ahead. I brought along a notebook with information on all the Utah Shakespeare Festival offerings, as well as other area attractions — which for me means the local library and museum.

I snagged a festival souvenir program too late in the day to realize there was a morning event, a part of the New American Playwrights Project, we really wanted to attend. Lesson learned and noted for next year’s trip to Cedar City. It’s quite literally the case that there is always something amazing going on during the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Exhibit at Southern Utah University featuring costumes, renderings and related artwork

Then we headed to SUU, where we hit the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery to explore an exhibit titled “The Costume Designer’s Art: 50 Years at the Utah Shakespeare Festival” where fun finds included a bit of “Falstaff” garb and a lavish hat from a production of “Peter Pan.” Also lots of fascinating sketches, costumes, accessories from chain mail headgear to golden jewelry and more.

This Karl Hugh photograph of the Randall J. Jones Theatre (from Winter 2006) is part of an exhibit at the SUU library

We also explored artwork at SUU’s Gerald R. Sherratt Library — including large stone sculptures at the library’s entrance and photographs of festival productions through the years displayed in the “We Are Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On” exhibit. There we saw a rare 1623 edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the torch carried during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and much more.

We have Valley actress Maren Maclean, the lovely lady on the right in this old festival photo, to thank for introducing us to the Utah Shakespeare Festival

Elsewhere we saw photos from 50 years of festival productions, including one picturing Valley actress Maren Maclean performing in Chekhov’s “The Seagull” during a festival many years ago. We have Maclean to thank for introducing us to the Utah Shakespeare Festival in the first place. You did good, Maren.

The gift shop beckoned us in with a rich selection of books, attire, toys, games, jewelry and more. An assortment of swords hangs over each of two cashier areas, and I’m guessing some young boys find this the most fascinating area in the shop.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival gift shop is brimming with unique gifts and souvenirs

As we exited, a family entered with two little girls dressed in full princess garb — complete with tulle skirts and shiny shoes. Even floral wreaths atop their precious heads. They’d just come from an exhibit of costumes, props and scenery called “Golden Dreams” (where Liz later sat on a bench with a statue of the Bard and showed me the festival’s shiny Tony Award).

Lizabeth was excited to show me the box (lower left) used in The Merchant of Venice, which is one of several productions we saw during our 2010 trip to the festival

We saw an afternoon performance of “The Glass Menagerie” in the Randall L. Jones Theatre. It’s a theater work I first fell in love with last season when it was performed quite masterfully by Arizona Theatre Company at the Herberger Theater Center. (ATC, by the way, has just announced a new hire in managing director Mark Cole, formerly general manager with Miami City Ballet.)

The day turned less glamourous as we headed back to our hotel for a date with the washing machine. We often wash clothes when we travel so we can get by with carry-on bags rather than dealing with baggage claim rounders. I’m losing my tolerance for such things as I get older.

The Adams Memorial Theatre in a 1973 photo by Boyd D. Redington (L) and a 2003 photo by Karl Hugh

But we had something exciting to look forward to as we waited for the agitator to stop twirling — an evening performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the outdoor Adams Memorial Theatre. There’s simply no substitute for experiencing Shakespeare in such a setting. Night falls. Winds rustle. Crickets sing. It’s magical.

A view across the stage of the Adams Memorial Theatre, where we had amazing balcony seats for an evening performance of Romeo and Juliet

After Thursday evening performances, several company members head to The Grind, which is transformed into a cabaret theater setting, complete with stage, mics, piano and such. The event is just $10 to attend, and proceeds go to REACH — a program that helps festival actors find future employment.

Four members of the Utah Shakespeare Festival performing company, including a young trio who performed a song from the musical Annie during the Thursday cabaret

Art afficianados can get a serious art fix in this town. Watch for future posts sharing more art-related adventures in Cedar City. And check out SUU when your high schoolers start exploring college options. There’s plenty here to love.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about the Utah Shakespeare Festival, including fun family offerings, by visiting them online at www.bard.org

Coming up: Lifetime “Dance Moms” audition — Oh no, they didn’t!

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