It was exciting for my husband and I to come back to the Utah Shakespeare Festival for our third year in a row. It is becoming a tradition I look forward to every summer, and while we can't afford to see all of the productions, everything we do attend at the Festival is pretty incredible.
2011 marked the Festival's 50th year! To commemorate the occasion, several rare copies of Shakespeare works were loaned from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. It was awesome to see a first edition Complete Works of Shakespeare - dated 1623, as well as first edition copies of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo & Juliet. A Midsummer Night's Dream
From the beautiful costumes (King Oberon's was a particular favorite), to the rich dialogue, and the hilarious slapstick antics, A Midsummer Night's Dream was hands-down my favorite play this year. Directed by festival founder Fred C. Adams, it was clear from the seamless production that he knew this play forwards and backwards. I love how the three separate stories come together: the mischievous fairies, the four young lovers, and the troupe of actors rehearsing a play. Kymberly Mellen as Titania and Betsy Mugavero as Hermia were particular favorites. If you only see one play this year, it should be Shakespeare's popular comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" Noises Off!
This was my first time seeing Noises Off!, the popular stage comedy written by Michael Frayn. I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in, especially because the synopsis was pretty vague. Needless to say, it was one of the most hilarious and well-executed plays I have ever seen! Noises Off! tells the story of a play within a play. Act I is the play being rehearsed on stage, with the actors stumbling through their parts. During Act II the set is flipped around and we get a behind-the-scenes view of what is happening to the actors between takes. Love affairs gone awry, alcoholic actors, and missing contact lenses are just a few of the humorous things you can expect to happen. By Act III the set is turned back around again and everything has completely deteriorated - both on and off the stage. If you love not just funny, but laugh-your-head-off comedy, you must see Noises Off!
Romeo & Juliet
Romeo & Juliet is probably my all-time favorite Shakespeare tragedy, so I was very excited to see the Festival's production this year. I love the story of star crossed lovers, who, through a series of unfortunate circumstances meet an untimely end. But Romeo & Juliet is not merely a beautifully written tragedy, but a moral lesson on the power of love and hate. It was fun to see the play performed in the Adam's Theater (an outdoor theater similar to "The Globe"), with all of the characters dressed in Elizabethan costumes. Some of the standout performances were Magan Wiles (who was an exceptional Juliet), and Matt Mueller who practically stole the show as the fiery Mercutio. Romeo & Juliet was wonderful Shakespeare drama from beginning to end. "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!"
If you have the opportunity to attend the Festival this year, I hope you will. However, next year's lineup promises to be just as good. With productions of Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Scapin, Mary Stuart, Stones In His Pocket, The Drowsy Chaperone, and To Kill a Mockingbird, 2012 may just be the best year yet. Happy viewing!
*Photos by Karl Hugh, Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011.