Twenty-nine summers ago, a young Howard Jensen was perfecting his lines in "Hamlet," making sure that the first Utah Shakespearean Festival audience would indeed find something rotten in Denmark.
And all the while, as Jensen recited his "to be's or not to be's," two farm boys straddled their bicycles and quietly observed from the shadows of trees.The boys began coming to the campus of Southern Utah University, then the College of Southern Utah, from the beginning, said Fred Adams, founder and executive producer.
"They were there when we started building the stage and they kept coming while we started our rehearsals, even when we were still in the books," he said.
"I didn't really notice them until we started putting the pallets in for the seating and Mac (G. McLain McIntyre) asked me if the kids on the bikes were in the way. And I told him `No, they're just fine.' After that, I noticed them riding silently in on their bikes about every night to watch."
While the boys became regulars at the rehearsals, Adams says he never became acquainted with them. They stayed out of the way and were careful not to create any disturbances.
"Every now and then I noticed they were talking with some of the company members, but they were never on a really personal basis. They were just always there," he said.
When it came time for the crew to don costumes and start regular performances, however, the festival's two most dedicated aficionados were gone.
"I felt badly that they had only seen the play in pieces and never in its finished stage," Adams said.
It was nearly 20 years later when Adams recounted the story to a women's group in Richfield. Afterward, he was approached by a woman who said she was the boys' aunt. "She said I needed to hear the end of the story," Adams said.
The woman said the boys lived in Kanarraville, 12 miles south of Cedar City. When they were finished with their daily chores, they were allowed to ride their bicycles in to watch festival rehearsals.
When the actual season started, they didn't buy tickets to watch the plays, but instead, scouted out the best trees near the stage. They did get to see all three of the first year's plays in their entirety.
"She said one of them was married and had children and the other had returned from an LDS mission, and to that day they could still recite word for word the lines from `Hamlet,' " Adams said.
"That's a good example that you don't have to be a city slicker or a university man to get something from Shakespeare," he added. "Everyone can get some kind of enrichment from the plays - people from any level and from almost any age can find something to enjoy about Shakespeare."
While Adams still doesn't know the names of the boys who pedaled 24 miles almost daily to the festival, he still uses their story to illustrate the universal appeal of the theater.
He still looks for them and "kind of hoped that they would come up and say, `You probably don't remember us, but we're the ones who used to ride our bikes in.' "
R. Scott Phillips, managing director, said the brothers, wherever they are, are invited to come and see the festival in its 30th season, including this year's production of "Hamlet."