This Summer, Follow the Bard to Utah

Utah arches national park“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” How true, your kids and grandchildren sigh, per chance around midsummer.

Well, maybe in not these exact words, written about 500 years ago by William Shakespeare. And to be honest, midsummer is in late June when summer break has just started for many children. But have you noticed that by late July, they are a little bored? Take them away to gorgeous Cedar City, Utah—away from the heat that blankets so much of the country during July and August—and give them an experience they won’t have anywhere else.

Because the Utah Shakespeare Festival has been on a mission to entertain, enrich, and educate since 1962—the days of Camelot. Just don’t tell them it’s something they might recognize from school.

Utah Shakespeare Festival: Rowdy, Fun Theater for All

Try to forget any lingering memories of Shakespeare from boring middle or high school English class with students haltingly reading unfamiliar Early Modern English out loud. Reading a play and watching one are two entirely different experiences. The truth is, Shakespeare’s plays are filled with fights (swords and otherwise), staged battles worthy of a Minecraft raid, teenagers sneaking out to meet up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and jokes from outrageous characters who dress the part.

A lot of Shakespeare’s plays are also downright hilarious and set standards that are pretty familiar.

• Mistaken, swapped, or faked identity? Done it, in The Twelfth Night and A Comedy of Errors, long before Freaky Friday and Yentl. • A love potion goes to the wrong guy? J.K. Rowling wasn’t the first to use this. This theme was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the 1590s. • Gossip out of control? Much Ado About Nothing. Possibly influenced Gossip Girl. • What’s funnier than an overblown ego being shown up? This was perfected in The Merry Wives of Windsor, first performed around 1600.

And where else besides House will you hear a physician say a urinalysis is healthier than the patient?

Cedar City Fight Nights

The Henry IV plays and Henry V feature a lot on war and politics. If you find yourself unable to turn off the Fox News Channel or MSNBC, these are your plays. And you won’t annoy your friends by harping on these characters during an after-theater meal because they will be doing the same.

Even the more exciting, dramatic and comedies alike have some pretty hilarious scenes. Falstaff is a character Shakespeare used in several plays for comic relief. He’s in The Merry Wives of Windsor and most of the plays with “Henry” in the title.

Post-Bard Theater

The Utah Shakespeare Festival also stages plays by other playwrights. Here are a few interesting ones scheduled for the 2014 season:

• Sense and Sensibility, a Jane Austen comedy that was also a popular 1995 movie starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. • Into the Woods, written by James Lapine and made into a musical by Stephen Sondheim. This isn’t your grandmother’s Red Riding Hood. Or Cinderella for that matter. • Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure by Steven Dietz. As if anything is really final with Holmes.

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