CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s new home at the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts pays homage to the old while ushering in the new.
The festival left behind its longtime residence in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre at the end of the 2015 summer season in anticipation of the opening of its new facilities, which were dedicated July 7. The dedication marked the fulfillment of a dream festival founder Fred Adams and his wife, Barbara, formed more than five decades ago: for Cedar City to have an all-encompassing theater complex.
The USF portion of the new center for the arts includes the open-air Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, the previously existing Randall L. Jones Theatre and the new black box Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre. Rich wood and a chevron pattern throughout the facilities tie the buildings together in a visually stunning way.
The Adams Theatre served the festival well for 38 years, and although leaving it for the Engelstad Theatre meant trading in a bit of nostalgia, everything about the new theater is an improvement.
The level of intimacy appreciated by audiences in the old Adams Theatre is carried over into the Engelstad. According to information from the festival, the Engelstad Theatre seats 913 people, a mere 25-seat increase from the Adams Theatre, and festival employees indicated during a tour that the stage is almost exactly the same size as in the old theater. The Engelstad was also constructed so that no posts in the orchestra level are needed to support the gallery level, which means there are no obstructed views in the theater. A backstage tour also made it apparent the facility does a much better job at accommodating the needs of the actors and production staff.
With more comfortable seats, and with the refreshment booths and bathrooms — including an increased number of women’s bathrooms — available on both the first and second level, the Engelstad ultimately feels like a more convenient, accessible version of the Adams Theatre.
A theme of the new facilities is centralization as all three theaters, the Greenshow lawn, festival administration offices and the Balcony Bards Seminar Grove — where play orientations and seminars are held — are on the same block, so guests no longer have to cross the street. Tickets are also only available at a single ticket office, located outside the Anes Theatre.
One of the only disadvantages to the new facilities is the lack of a rain stage. Previously, if weather prevented a show from continuing in the Adams Theatre, the performance would continue indoors in the Auditorium Theatre. The new facilities do not have a similar indoor space, but according to the festival’s website, if a performance is canceled before intermission, credit will be issued to all guests, but if it is canceled after intermission, no credit will be issued.
On the whole, festivalgoers will find beautiful new facilities in the Beverley Center that will feel like home in no time at all.
Here are reviews of five of this year's plays: