Hello! I am back! You probably didn’t even notice I was gone because I am a master of the scheduled blog post.
Where was I, you may ask? Oh, just my favorite place in the entire world. Cedar City, Utah, home of the Utah Shakespearean Festival and pure awesome.
The story of my family and the Utah Shakespearean Festival began in 2002, when we packed up in our Subaru for the first time and made the trek. I was 11 and the MT was 8. Younger than most people start being serious theater goers, but my parents have always taken the approach of exposing us to great things earlier than most. I saw my first Shakespeare play that summer, As You Like It, in the closest existing replica to Shakespeare’s Globe outside of London. And it was magic. I fell in love with Shakespeare there on that warm July evening and, in many ways, the theater too.
Since then, Cedar Ciy has been my home away from home, the only sure fixture of every summer where we can really get away from it all. It is our best week as a family, a week of glorious theater and lively intellectual discussion surrounding the Bard and his better and lesser known works. It was also the sight of the best days of my high school years, when my theater department competed in the national high school Shakespeare competition1 annual held there.
I love the USF. I really can’t emphasize this enough. I love the plays they do. I love the seminars they do. I love the infuriatingly pretentious discussions about the plays and the seminars that is had daily at the pine grove. I love sitting on the wet grass and watching the pre-show while reading our souvenir program and talking about the actors’ previous roles like some people would discuss stats on a baseball card2. I love watching the sky and worrying about rain driving the outdoor shows inside, which it never does3. I love the giant banners with photos from the shows, I love the canyon wind that whips the stage, I love the gold leafing in the Randall theater balcony. I love the giant tree in the Adams courtyard and the woodcarver that words underneath it. I love the statue of Shakespeare in the lobby. I love the field where we used to rehearse before the Shakespeare competition (see first picture in this post). I love trying on masks with the MT in the gift shoppe. I love that they spell it gift shoppe. I love the uncomfortable seats in the Adams Theater balcony, the overpriced cream cheese tarts we always buy at intermission. I love being too shy to talk to the actors we spot around the festival grounds and feeling like we’ve just had a celebrity siting.
Most of all, I love the way this small community in southern Utah all comes together every year to make some damn fine Shakespeare.
This is the second summer in a row that I didn’t think attending the Shakespeare Festival was going to happen for me, but it did, and I feel so lucky to have gone again4. I love, love, love the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and the gift they gave little 11 year old me of beautiful, exciting theater that has been inspiring me ever since, and continues to inspire me every day.
- Performing at the USF with my high school team is what I still think of as my Patronus Moment, or if dementors ever attacked me and I had to conjure a Patronus, running down to collect our first prize trophy is the happy moment I would think of.
- The MT and I are a bit possessive of the people who work at the festival. We have our favorites, our least favorites, our outrages and excitement over casting. It’s a very niche sort of nerd.
- Last year, we had the privilege of seeing a sensational production of Titus Andronius on the outdoor stage. We were apprehensive all day that a storm was going to break and force the show indoors, but instead of rain, we just got lightning and thunder, meaning that during the most climactic moments of Shakespeare’s darkest show, the sky was full of lightning. It’s the sort of magic you can’t pay for or plan.
- This year, I felt like I needed to go because of one particular play we saw: Peter and the Star-Catcher. Remember how I saw this play a few months ago in New York? Well I saw it again in Cedar City5 and had one of the most emotional reactions to a play I’ve ever had. It is a beautiful play in its own right, but it was one of those strange and serene coincidences where a certain piece of art comes to you right when you need it, and it changes you6.
- I realize it isn’t Shakespeare. They don’t just do Shakespeare.
- Not a joke, I am tearing up just thinking about it. It may be years before I can think about Peter and the Starcatcher without tearing up.