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Utah Shakespeare Festival 2021 promises to be a magnificent experience

Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre
Shakespeare Festival

“The 2021 season at the Utah Shakespeare Festival will be like no other in our history,” said Executive Producer Frank Mack in announcing the upcoming theatre season. “It is our 60th year, it is dedicated to our founder, Fred C. Adams, and it marks our return to producing after missing 2020. It will be a magnificent experience.”

The season will feature eight plays in three theatres, plus some of the extra Festival experiences guests have come to love over the last six decades, including “The Greenshow,” various seminars, orientations, and numerous classes. And it will be even more exciting because it marks the return of professional theater to Cedar City after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season.

In addition to dedicating the season to him, in August the festival is celebrating the life of Fred C. Adams, who founded the Festival in 1961 and passed away in February.

The season will run June 21 through Oct. 9. The plays will be William Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” “The Comedy of Errors,” ”Pericles, and Cymbeline,” as well as “Ragtime” by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty, and Lynn Ahrens, “The Pirates of Penzance” by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, “Intimate Apparel” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, and “The Comedy of Terrors” by John Goodrum.

Tickets for the 2021 shows are $23 to $85 and go on sale Aug. 17: go to the Festival website at bard.org, call 800-PLAYTIX, or visit the Ticket Office at the Beverley Center for the Arts.

“This upcoming season is a mixture of plays rolled over from the canceled 2020 season, with the addition of three exciting and reflective plays that capture the heartbeat of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s enduring mission,” said Artistic Director Brian Vaughn. “All of these titles explore varying themes of identity and mortality; the debate of fate versus free will; and the examination of the human spirit’s ability to overcome injustice and oppression. Combined, they make up a rich tapestry of drama that magnifies the intricacies of our collective humanity.”

Performers in Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2019 production of The Greenshow.
Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2019

In the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre

The 2021 season will start June 21-23 with three Shakespearean shows running in rotating repertory in the festival’s beautiful outdoor Engelstad Theatre.

Playgoers will have a chance to see the rarely performed “Pericles” from June 21 to Sept. 9, a tale of high adventure presented for only the third time in the festival’s history. Pericles is searching for thrills, treasure, and family. But his loves die, his friends deceive him, and the gods seem to be against him. In the end, he finds the most important treasure of all: himself.

“Richard III” is the next installment in the festival’s history cycle, completing the story of the War of the Roses told in “Henry V,” and the three parts of “Henry VI.” Playing from June 22 to September 10, “Richard III” features one of Shakespeare’s most charming and evil villains. Richard, the ambitious son of York, has taken the English throne by exploiting or murdering everyone in his path, but it isn’t clear that he can keep it in the twisted world he has created.

“The Comedy of Errors,” one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays, will open June 23 and play through Sept. 11. Featuring not just one, but two sets of bewildered twins, it’s double the laughter and twice the fun as confusion reigns supreme. You will laugh from beginning to end as these bewildered twins try to unravel the lunatic events swirling around them.

In the Randall L. Jones Theatre

Two spectacular musicals and a hilarious two-actor farce will be featured in the indoor Randall Theatre.

First will be the ever-popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, “The Pirates of Penzance,” which plays from June 25 and runs to the end of the season, Oct. 9. Spotlighting a ship full of zany pirates, a bevy of giggling maidens, and a band of bumbling policemen, the show is one of the most charmingly silly love stories ever to grace the stage. Alack! Alack! Will our hero, Frederic, ever be reunited with his love, Mabel?

Next will be “Ragtime,” the story of a wealthy white couple, a Jewish immigrant father and daughter, and an African-American ragtime musician whose lives intertwine and sometimes collide as they seek the American dream at the volatile turn of the 20th century. This stirring musical epic captures the beats of a nation: the conflict, the hope and despair, the search for justice, and—of course—the ragtime. The show opens June 26 and plays through Sept. 11.

Balancing out these two large musicals will be a play that is smaller in actor numbers, but features dizzying action and dialogue: “The Comedy of Terrors” features two twin sisters, two twin brothers, and a third brother thrown in just for kicks. It sounds like a familiar Shakespearean comedy, but this spooky and madcap farce revs up the action even further as two actors play all five characters: a police officer, a confused thespian, her twin sister-gone-bad, a conniving charity worker, and his bumbling twin brother. It plays July 29 through Oct. 9.

In the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre

Another Shakespeare play and a lyrical and warm but powerful play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage complete the 2021 season in the Anes Studio Theatre.

“Cymbeline,” William Shakespeare’s fantastical romance, will open on July 16 and run through Oct. 9. A wicked stepmother, a banished soulmate, villains, ghosts, long-lost princes, and a lion-hearted heroine are all a part of this mythic tale based on the legends of ancient Celts and chock-full of deception, intrigue, innocence, and jealousy on the road to Happily Ever After.

Completing the season will be Intimate Apparel which runs from July 17 to Oct. 9. Esther is a single African-American woman in early 1900s Manhattan who has sewn her way out of poverty stitch by stitch, creating fine lingerie for her wealthy clientele. But she is alone and cautiously exchanging love letters with a Panama Canal laborer on his way to New York, despite mutual tender affections with her Jewish cloth merchant. This warm, heart-rending play gently weaves an intricate tapestry of our need for intimacy while exploring social divisions of race, religion, equality, and class.

“The 2021 season marks 60 glorious years producing Shakespeare under the stars at the Utah Shakespeare Festival,” said Vaughn. “It will be a season filled with celebration and reflection, including honoring the legacy of Festival founder Fred C. Adams and the incredible achievements of his remarkable life.”

“The confluence of many circumstances will combine to make 2021 an exciting season—celebrating sixty years of great professional theatre in beautiful Cedar City, honoring our visionary founder who made all this possible, and getting to produce shows for our wonderful audiences, by our amazing artists, after a year-long hiatus,” said Mack.

For more information on plays or the festival in general, and to order tickets, visit the festival’s website at bard.org. Or you may call 800-PLAYTIX or visit the ticket office at the Beverley Center for the Arts.