The late Elvira Condomine's supernatural shenanigans; political intrigue in ancient Rome; hillbilly nonsense in Dogpatch, USA; the unconventional goings-on with the Order of Little Sisters of Hoboken; swashbuckling excitement in France; a dark tale of familial greed; the romantic exploits of one of Shakespeare's most lovable rogues; brothers looking for brides in the Oregon wilderness; and the gaudy flamboyance of pre-war Germany - this is just a sample of the characters and situations audiences will see during this summer's lineup of theater festivals.
From classic drama in Cedar City to musicals (outdoors on a brand new stage at Sundance or indoors at Ogden) to a mix of comedy and drama at Logan and Provo, there are plenty of choices for 1992 festivalgoers. (For performance dates and information, see related story in this section today.)The "big five" festivals are the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Sundance Summer Theatre, Utah Musical Theatre, Old Lyric Repertory Company and Castle Theatre Festival.
The Utah Shakespearean Festival is not only Utah's foremost summer theater program but also ranks among the upper echelon of such festivals in North America. For 1992, it will have stage/screen veteran Harold Gould in the title role of "King Lear."
"This is probably the most talented group of performers we've ever brought together," said Kathleen F. Conlin, festival casting director. "They are more mature and experienced than any other group we've had here at the festival."
In addition to the six mainstage productions (three outdoors in the renowned Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre and three others in the newer, state-of-the-art Randall L. Jones Theatre), some actors also take part in the colorful Greenshow activities and the grand, medieval Royal Feaste.
Things are bustling, too, at Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon, where actors are rehearsing "Carousel" to the sounds of bulldozers and construction crews racing to finish a new million-dollar, two-stage theater.
Artistic Director Jayne Luke noted that the original stage, built in 1970, was initially intended as a temporary facility.
"Through the years that I've been artistic director ," Luke said, "various architects and designers have come through and I've told them what I liked and didn't like about the old stage."
Sundance's 1992 season will see the older facility's replacement finally built.
The new theater features a mainstage seating area for 1,200 people on benches and lawns, and a smaller stage (doing double duty as the right wing) facing a smaller amphitheater for 250. It was designed by Jack Bogan, of the California-based theater design firm of Landry & Bogan.
Thousands of Utah theatergoers may be already familiar with Bogan's work. He also designed the Randall L. Jones Theatre in Cedar City and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
In addition to a new stage, with considerably improved dressing rooms, restrooms and concession facilities, the entire amphitheater area has been redesigned. All new benches now provide more comfortable seating and better sightlines for 750 (an increase of 200 over past seasons). Also, the lawn seating area, which many patrons prefer, has been newly terraced.
Gary Beer, president of The Sundance Group, said the new outdoor facility was "made possible in part by generous funding from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and Michael & Barbara King.
"This is a real milestone for us. It's a state-of-the-art facility for the audience as well as the performers. And we've manageed to do it in such a way as to keep the outdoor environment the predominant influence."
During the 1992 season, "Carousel" and "Li'l Abner" will alternate on the Eccles Main Stage, while "The Adventures of Por Quinly" and "The Right Self," two new plays for children, will be showcased on the Alexandra Monroe King Stage, named for the Kings' daughter.
Beer said the budget for the construction project itself was about $800,000. The total, including all of the technical equipment, is nearly $1 million.
The project began last fall with razing of the old stage and installing the infrastructure and electrical work. When the snow melted this spring, the new stage was built, the seating areas were renovated and the equipment was installed.
The new facility will be dedicated on Saturday, June 27, when
"The Adventures of Por Quinley" will premiere at 4 p.m. followed by the opening performance of "Carousel" at 8:30 p.m.
Luke noted that this was "the hardest season we've ever had to choose," explaining that newBroadway shows are just not available.
"Last year we had the lucky combination of two fairly new shows (`Big River' and `Into the Woods')," she said. "In consulting with (Robert) Redford, we decided to open with a classic."
Luke said she is trimming the show's sentimentality and focusing more on the classic music and dance and the dramatic issues.
"One of my biggest objections about musical theater," said Luke, "is that it's frequently done with a kind of `marshmallow' style. But `Carousel' is about a man who loves his wife. Although he's a misfit and he does hit her, he doesn't know how to express love. This issue is as timely today as it was yesterday."
Luke, who is directing and choreographing "Carousel," has a cast that includes Steve Sater as Billie Bigelow, LaDawn Petersen as Julie Jordan, and Jillette C. Dayton as Carrie Pipperidge.
(Note: In the photograph on the cover of the Arts section, Luke and John Caywood, director of "Li'l Abner," are flanked by Tiffany Crabtree and Kevin Halladay, playing Daisy Mae and Li'l Abner, and by Petersen, Sater and Dayton from the "Carousel" cast.)
In addition to several Sundance Institute activities (the play development lab and the annual independent film producers' workshop during July), one special event this summer will be a benefit concert in August featuring Kurt Bestor.
In Ogden, the Utah Musical Theater season is taking shape for another summer of Broadway (and off-Broadway) hits. Sue Hiatt, marketing director for the series, said that her goal for 1992 was to sell 1,500 subscriptions for the season, compared to just over 1,000 the previous year. But when she checked her figures, she discovered that subscriptions have gone way beyond that projection. Some 2,000 season tickets have been sold thus far.
Further north, Utah State University's Old Lyric Repertory Company, hopes to lure people to Cache Valley for its "Great Summer Escape" season - "Blithe Spirit," "Nunsense," "Rumors" and "And a Nightingale Sang . . . " in its downtown Logan site, the venerable old Lyric Theatre on Center Street.
And in Provo, the Actors' Repertory Theatre Ensemble has made good use of another historical site - the old Depression Era amphitheater at 1300 E. Center St.