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Shakespeare's in season
Festival offers trio of Bard's classics, also drama, comedy

CEDAR CITY -- H.G. Wells and his famous Time Machine have nothing on Fred Adams and the Utah Shakespearean Festival he founded in 1962.

For its 38th season, the festival will transport audiences to such diverse times and exotic locales as ancient Troy, under siege by the Greeks . . . the fantasy world of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" . . . a not-so-merry Christmas with King Henry II . . . a British seaside resort in the late 1800s . . . and the Washington Senators' stadium in the mid-1950s.Patrons are also invited to indulge in an authentic Renaissance feast and mingle with jugglers, magicians and storytellers in the festive Greenshows.

Beginning Thursday, when preview performances begin for the three outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre productions, through Sept. 4, the three stages will be bustling with a trio of classics by William Shakespeare ("A Midsummer Night's Dream," "King Lear" and "Troilus and Cressida"), along with James Goldman's riveting drama "A Lion in Winter," George Bernard Shaw's 100-year-old comedy "You Never Can Tell" and the rousing Broadway hit "Damn Yankees."

Adams notes that he's not surprised that Shakespeare was recently selected as "the man of the millennium."

"No one has touched lives like Shakespeare has," he said. "We gain so much insight into our own lives just by reading or hearing or seeing his words."

In addition to that man-of-the-millennium honor, Shakespeare has also been hot this past year, with the Oscar-winning "Shakespeare in Love" and the recent release of a film version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The Cedar City-based festival co-sponsored a sneak preview of "Midsummer" a few weeks ago at the Crossroads Cinemas.

Adams, giving his own quick critique exiting the theater, felt that the movie was slightly confusing.

"If you want to see the real thing, come to Cedar this summer," he said en route to the Crossroads Plaza parking lot.

The movie may not be faring as well as expected at the box office, but "A Midsummer Night's Dream" has long been a popular offering at the festival. This marks the seventh go-around in Cedar -- and the fifth time the USF has mounted "King Lear."

This is only the second time around for "Troilus and Cressida," Shakespeare's spin on the Helen of Troy legend. It was last mounted by the USF in 1984.

"But 'Troilus' is mentioned frequently in our seminars, and many patrons have asked when we're bringing it back. I think that, plus word-of-mouth, will be the secret to it succeeding. It's not a well known title," said Adams.

There are several familiar performers returning to the festival, along with some new faces.

One actor who's new at the festival, but pretty well known across the region, is former Brigham Young University professor Charles L. Metten, now dean of Southern Utah University's College of Performing and Visual Arts. He'll be playing optimistic Coach Van Buren in "Damn Yankees," being directed by former USF marketing director Roger Bean, whose "Mikado" drew raves in 1996.

The lengthy list of familiar faces includes Leslie Brott, playing Eleanor in "The Lion in Winter" and Mrs. Clandon, the liberated mother, in "You Never Can Tell"; longtime USF performer George Judy as Old Joe Boyd, the fanatic Senators fan in "Damn Yankees" and the treacherous Calchus in "Troilus and Cressida"; and another favorite with USF patrons, Brian Vaughn, as love-struck dentist Valentine in "You Never Can Tell" and the faithful son, Edgar, in "King Lear."

Also on board this year are A. Bryan Humphrey, back for his seventh USF season, as the smooth talking Applegate in "Damn Yankees" and a friendly waiter in "You Never Can Tell"; associate artist Russ Benton, back for his fourth year (Prince John in "Winter" and Quince in "Midsummer"); Dudley Knight as the misled Earl of Gloucester in "King Lear" and the Grecian King Menelaus in "Troilus and Cressida"; Equity actor William Metzo as King Lear and as Trojan war hero Nestor in 'Troilus"; and Jeannie Naughton as the legendary Helen of Troy in "Troilus" and the treacherous Goneril in "Lear."

Among the new faces will be Richard Elmore, who has 15 years of experience at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, as King Henry II in "The Lion in Winter" and the estranged husband, Mr. Crampton, in "You Never Can Tell."

A young singer from New York City, Michele Smith, "is doing a smashing job as Lola in 'Damn Yankees,' " said Adams. "She's just stunning, with a Broadway-quality voice."

The festival's Greenshows and Royal Feaste are also being revamped this summer.

"Instead of being tied directly to each evening's productions, the Greenshows will rotate with an Irish night, a Scottish night and an English night, each one showcasing dances and entertainment from those three countries," Adams said. "They're just an entertainment to get people enthused and move them back in time."

The Feaste, being directed by Las Vegas performer (and SUSC graduate) Doug Baker, who originated the festival's first feast 15 years ago, is going back to its Renaissance roots.