University News

Iconic Theatre Sets the Stage for Farewell Season

June 23, 2015
Author: Tommy Gugino
Category: USF

Utah Shakespeare Festival scene, photo by Karl Hugh

In 1977 Fred Adams, an instructor at Southern Utah University — then Southern Utah State College — wanted to bring a theatre to the then rural town of Cedar City, Utah. What seemed far-fetched soon became a reality after Adams partnered with donors to build the iconic Adams Memorial Theatre, an outdoor stage that has become an iconic landmark.

And now 40 years since its inauguration, the Theatre has created a rich history of  playing host to Broadway stars and Tony Award winning plays. With such fame, the stage has is gaining a new home at the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts and the Adams Memorial Theatre will welcome its last guests.

Before the stage was set, Adams proposed the new theatre to the Southern Utah State College, he said it could be used for a variety of purposes, including “band concerts, dance reviews, lectures, road show competitions, out-of-door movies, school assemblies, Easter sunrise services, pep rallies, astronomy classes and commencement.”

Rich ties to the community were instantly connected and the Utah Shakespeare Festival (USF) were born, instantly becoming a landmark in the southern Utah town and attracting visitors from across the globe.

“You can find articles about it in England, New Zealand, Prague and Czechoslovakia,” Adams said. “People have focused on that building as one of campus’ icons and it has given SUU an image in a revered and recognizable sense.”

Adams went on to state that without SUU’s administrators, past and present, the Festival would not have been as successful. “The Festival is where it is today because of the presidents at this school who have caught the vision of what the Festival can do academically.”

Because of that support Adams states that USF has created a rich history of providing audiences an opportunity to escape their daily lives and become attached to the story and its characters.

Adams reflects on a night that his 3-year-old niece was watching Romeo and Juliet. “Romeo came into the tomb and saw Juliet supposedly dead and takes out a bottle of poison and my little niece cried out, ‘Don’t do it! She’s not dead!’ Of course it cracked up the entire audience, but it said a whole lot to me about what theatre is suppose to do.”

That same emotion has been evoked in SUU students, where they have been able to work with professional actors to hone the craft they hope to practice once they graduate.

One musical theatre student, Luke Johnson, senior from West Valley City, Utah, said of the impact the Adams’ stage has had on him, “Working with the Utah Shakespeare Festival and all the professionals has helped me immensely. To be a part of the artistic process and to have these actors as my mentors creates connections for me that I couldn’t get any other way.”

Besides being used for productions, the Theatre has hosted many student activities since 1977, most recently a movie screening sponsored by SUU Student Association (SUUSA).

Kenten Pope, SUUSA vice president of activities, said, “That event was one of the most well attended movie nights I’ve seen at SUU. Sitting in the theatre made you feel like you were in the film and really set the mood for the movie.”

In its closing season, the Adams Memorial Theatre will host three classic Shakespeare plays, which will run from June 25 to September 5. Continuing its history cycle with the story of Henry IV Part Two; it will also show the comedy The Taming of the Shrew, a story of a couple’s quest to confuse and outwit each other; and King Lear, a king who descends into a world of madness and chaos.

Playing in its sister stage, the Randall L. Jones Theatre, this summer will have South Pacific, Amadeus, and Charley’s Aunt on the docket. For tickets and more information, visit www.bard.org.  

Photo credit: A scene from the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2011 production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. (Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh.)



Contact Information:
Jessica Young
435-865-8696
jessicayoung2@suu.edu