Greenshow at the Shakespeare Festival

The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City has a lot to shout about. This year they were the recipients of the coveted Tony Award for America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre. Now they weren’t awarded the Tony for the production of a specific play, but for the entire festival. And that distinction is important. Because there is a very big difference between a play written by William Shakespeare and a Shakespearean Festival.

Julianne Palma, Director, Greenshow ... Going to a Shakespeare Festival you are going to be immersed in the world of Old England.

And the Utah Shakespearean Festival does that better than anyone else. In order to get you more involved in the plays there are a number of free events for you to attend. Early in the day you can go on a backstage tour. Here you’ll get a chance to see what goes into making the festival work. It’s a rare opportunity not afforded to patrons of a ‘normal’ theatre. Not that there’s anything ‘normal’ about the Adams theatre where the Shakespeare plays are performed. It’s an open-air venue fashioned after the original Globe theatre where the Shakespeare plays were initially presented. The morning after the performance you can gather with other members of the audience to discuss the play at the Grove Seminar. A Shakespeare academician moderates the group and more often than not a member of the cast will come out to join in the conversation. If you’re new to Shakespeare this forum is the best introduction you’ll ever get, short of taking a college course on the subject. But what really makes this festival so different from going to a Shakespeare play is the Greenshow directed by Julianne Palma.

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Julianne Palma, Director, Greenshow ... A Greenshow is a show that begins before the evening's play, out on the grass. It's juggling, it's singing, it's dancing, its storytelling, it relaxes you, it takes you away from the modern-day world and allows you to immerse yourself in the world of Shakespeare. It gets you ready to hear the language. This festival is so unique because of the Greenshow. There are other festivals that have Greenshows but not on the scope that we'd do. We have three different stages, each stage has something different going on at all times for the 45 minutes before the play. On Welsh night we have a harpist, and then on the bigger stage we have the singing and the dancing and on another stage we have fights. And on Scottish night we of Highland Games. There isn't another festival that has a Greenshow on this scale.

To someone who has never been to the festival before it sounds a little daunting. Three different stages, each night featuring pastiche from three different countries. It just sounds like a lot of work to take it all in. But in fact it’s quite relaxing. There is no set structure to the Greenshow, so you can wander in and out of the performances without worrying about plot lines or dialogue. It’s really about… atmosphere. The intent of the performances is to make you feel at home. The idea is for the surroundings to be so natural that you’ll forget about the world you came from and slide gently into the world of Shakespeare. But as natural as it appears to be this world comes from a lot of hard work.

Julianne Palma ... The actors rehearse eight hours every single day six days a week. They have dialect classes they have dance rehearsal they have music rehearsal, stage combat and then we begin to put the shows together out of those training sessions. They get a lot of training here.

David Bert ... So the people we see in the Greenshow of this year we may see on stage in a couple more years?

Julianne Palma ... You will definitely see them on the stage.

The Utah Shakespearean Festival is the perfect summer getaway for anyone living in Las Vegas. With all the natural beauty of Utah, and the cultural significance of a Tony award winning theatre you’ll want to come back again and again. And you’ll need to. Because there are so many things to do and see here that it’ll take years for you to fit it all in. Remember, this isn’t just a play written by Shakespeare. Because of components like the Greenshow, the Utah Shakespearean Festival is an adventure.

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