CEDAR CITY — It seems like only yesterday that Utah Shakespeare Festival favorite actors David Ivers and Brian Vaughn were named co-artistic directors of the festival.
"Actually, January of 2014 will start our fourth year; it's sort of shocking to me, too," Ivers said in a phone interview. "In one way I look at it and it's going so quickly it means that we have a lot to do and things are going well. At the same time, I want to hold on and stop time; I don't want to be this busy."
But Ivers has certainly been just that. At the artistic helm of the festival as it's on its final fundraising push toward the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts (a new facility featuring a new Shakespeare Theatre, a studio theater and the Southern Utah Museum of Art), celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Randall L. Jones Theatre, and setting a festival goal to produce all of Shakespeare's histories in chronological order. "Richard II" is the second (following this summer's "King John"), and, oh, yes, Ivers has the title role.
King Richard is described as a cultured but disconnected king, whose mismanagement of his kingdom brings his ultimate downfall. This marked the beginning of the War of the Roses in English history.
"'Richard II' is my favorite Shakespeare play," Ivers said. "It first struck me and became a favorite in college; the language is stunning. It's some of the most beautiful poetry."
Ivers explains that, unusual for a Shakespeare work, the entire play is in verse. "Usually, he has a few characters speak in prose."
But beyond the language, this history play is filled with "political intrigue and the psychology of leadership, be it good or bad," Ivers said. "At its heart, he's an unfit king who has to come to terms with that — you get sadness and beauty from that.
"I've just always loved the notion of what happens to Richard as he becomes a more involved and evolved human being."
And Ivers confesses, "I've never been more nervous about a role," he said. "I've never been more personally invested in the way that I have to share every time we go through it — it's vulnerable."
Though each actor's discovery process is unique, Ivers said, "It's a process of trying to find honesty, which is a thing we bandy about as actors," he said. "Being truthful to the moment and to the experience of what this man is going through.
"It's the most challenging thing I've ever done," he said. Which is saying something for the man who, while helping to guide the festival into the future, has found the time to star in or direct six shows since moving to Cedar City, including "39 Steps," "Scapin," "Stones in His Pockets," "Dial M," "Romeo and Juliet" and, most recently, directing this summer's "Twelve Angry Men."
Ivers will star in "Richard II" opposite his long-time friend and fellow co-artistic director Vaughn — a nice bonus for festival regulars.
As the two go toe-to-toe on stage, they're hopeful folks make the quick jaunt to Cedar City for any (or all) of the three offerings this fall: "Richard II," "The Marvelous Wonderettes" and carried from the summer season, the popular "Peter and the Starcatcher."
Ivers said, "One of the things that's been really exciting with Brian is we've figured out a formula for the fall that is working really well," he said. "We've invested in a wider array of the human condition.
"When you think about it, 'Peter' is about finding oneself, 'Marvelous Wonderettes' is also about finding oneself or reconnecting with who you are, and 'Richard II' is all about identity — losing it, putting it in perspective.
"And fall is really the best time to be here and be reflective about the plays."
For more information, go to www.bard.org.