Plays not the only thing at Utah Shakespeare Festival

The Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City stages its 2012 season June 21 through Oct. 20. The 51st season for the award-winning event on the campus of Southern Utah University will lure thousands of theatergoers. The festival's first season in 1962 drew 3,276 visitors. Today, the four-month season draws 130,000.

Many Southern Nevadans plan annual summer and fall trips to Utah to attend theater performances, take in special events and enjoy the region's spectacular scenery.

Cedar City is about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas via Interstate 15. Use Exit 59 in Cedar City and head east on 200 Street North to 300 West. Turn south to reach the university on Center Street.

Each season, the festival offers eight stage productions in a mix of Shakespeare's plays and other theater presentations. Shakespeare's plays this season include "The Merry Wives of Windsor," a comedy; "Titus Andronicus," a vengeful epic drama; and "Hamlet," considered his most mature tragedy. Other productions include the stage adaptation of Harper Lee's best-seller "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Mary Stuart," a tale of Elizabethan royal intrigue written in 1800. Lighter fare includes the comedy "Stones in His Pockets"; Victor Hugo's epic turned musical, "Les Miserables"; and a classic farce, Moliere's "Scapin."

The festival uses three structures for its major presentations: the indoor Auditorium Theatre and the Randall L. Jones Theatre and the outdoor Adams Theatre, a replica of the old Globe Theatre of Shakespeare's time. Audiences in the outdoor theater encounter brisk evening temperatures and occasional summer showers. Rained-out performances end up in the Auditorium Theatre.

Ticket prices vary widely according to theater, location of seats and day and time of the performance. Although brochures and information on the Utah Shakespeare Festival can be found locally, many people find accessing the information online is much easier. View the theaters and their seating, performance schedule and ticket prices at Reserve tickets as soon as possible. You can do so online or by calling (435) 586-7878 or (800) 572-9849.

The festival swirls with associated activities. Offered free of charge in the courtyard of the open-air theater before evening performances, the Greenshow features music, dance, entertainment and food traditional to the Elizabethan period. Costumed vendors, musicians, jugglers, magicians and storytellers mingle with the crowds of visitors, but the pickpockets and cutpurses of Shakespeare's day will not attend. Orientation sessions, also offered free before evening plays, give overviews of the plots and characters. Backstage tours and seminars offered Tuesdays through Sundays explore staging, costuming, makeup and production. Inquire locally about special evening feasts, luncheons with actors and directors, and arts and crafts fairs.

As soon as you decide what you want to see and reserve your tickets, book a place to stay in Cedar City or the vicinity. The town boasts a good selection of motels, bed-and-breakfast inns, vacation rentals and RV parks, many within walking distance of the university campus. If you choose to stay nearby, allow time for travel, finding parking and walking to the campus.

Certainly, theatergoers find it easy to fill the hours before the shows.

Scenic roads head in every direction, state and national parks are nearby, and historic sites abound. In Cedar City, visit the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum, formerly Iron Mission State Park, on Main Street near downtown.

Margo Bartlett Pesek's column appears on Sundays.