ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Fred C. Adams, the 84-year-old founder of southern Utah’s annual Shakespeare festival, is still going strong, overseeing an event that has grown from a small production in 1962 to one that now draws 150,000.
Adams’ name is synonymous with the Utah Shakespearean Festival, which puts on performances each summer of the Bard’s plays and other contemporary pieces at Cedar City’s Southern Utah University.
Brad Carroll, who is directing this year’s performance of “South Pacific,” said when he mentions to people in the theater world that he’s worked at the festival, he’s often asked, “Do you know Fred?”
“Of course, this festival is Fred,” Carroll said.
“We wouldn’t be here without him,” said David Ivers, an artistic director at the festival. “He’s created a life and profession for so many, many people.”
Adams, who worked in theater in New York, was inspired to share his love of Shakespeare through a festival after seeing annual waves of summer tourists travel to southern Utah’s red rock landscapes. He visited Ashland, Oregon, to scout out the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and then returned to Cedar City, to what was then known as the College of Southern Utah, to launch the annual event.
That first year, a band of college students and locals performed “The Taming of the Shrew,” ”Hamlet” and “The Merchant of Venice,” on a makeshift platform outdoors.
The popular festival now operates on a multi-million dollar budget and stretches over several months.
“It takes a lot of guts to start a theater company. It’s a very brave endeavor. And to be successful at it is astounding,” said actress Betsy Mugavero, who performed in a 2011 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Actor Peter Sham, who is performing in “The Taming of the Shrew” this year, said Adams is one-of-a-kind and his personality makes it easy to see how he’s grown the festival.
“There’s a countenance to him,” Sham said. “He’s in love with life and Shakespeare. Boy, he’s in love with Shakespeare.”
Adams still serves as honorary executive producer of the festival, in addition to his day job traveling the world to raise money and awareness.
His chief effort of late has been raising money for the $38.6 million needed to complete the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, which will include an art museum, black box theater, rehearsal space and open-air Elizabethan-style theater at the university’s campus.
The center’s facilities are scheduled to open in time to host performances next year, The Spectrum of St. George reported (https://bit.ly/1Hv5Eku).
Adams said he doesn’t love asking people for money, but he does the work to help bring Shakespeare to more people.
Despite the success of the festival, Adams said his life’s biggest achievement is his four children and 14 grandchildren.
“That’s my triumph,” he said. “The festival has been a joy, but anyone could have done it. I just happened to be here with an idea at the right time. And it was the right time. Everything clicked.”
Information from: The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com
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