The Utah Shakespeare Festival truly is a rarity (they received an Tony award for regional theatre back in 2000). Every summer they produce six plays, generally three Shakespearean and three not, and they have a green show and backstage tours and other activities (my kids love the gift shop and the treats). I'm sure there are other regional Shakespeare festivals that do similar things, but there aren't any near us. I've done research, and the Shakespearean festivals near us generally produce just one play for the summer.
I got to see all six plays this year. I'll be honest and say that I didn't like Anything Goes. I found it offensive at times and boring. Zero plot. And the music was very repetitive. (Here's a picture from the website).
Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost was next, which I also found a little bit boring. It is one of Shakespeare's "lyrical" plays, and there are a lot of speeches which I could not follow. But I still enjoyed it and my girls did too.
The boringness ended there. We saw Peter and the Starcatcher next, based on a super exciting children's book by Dave Barry. If you live anywhere near Utah, you need to get yourself down to Cedar City to see this play (it's running through October). I don't think I've ever laughed so hard during a performance. It was hilarious and magical and fantastic. We took everyone but Flannery to this one, and they all LOVED it.
Next was King John which was surprisingly fascinating. I'm not into kingdoms and rulers, until I go to a Shakespearean play, and then I am.
12 Angry Men was a standout. I love that movie (rent it if you haven't seen it), and the actors in this production were so good. The themes of mercy and justice and civic responsibility are so moving. I knew what was going to happen, but I was still worried until the very, very end that right would not prevail.
We (everyone but Flannery! Even Shaemus!) saw The Tempest last.
Tempest is not my favorite Shakespearean play, but it has some really interesting story lines and fabulous characters. It's the themes in The Tempest that I love. Particularly the theme of forgiveness. The last speech in the play, the speech by Prospero, so moved me, I'd like to quote some of it now. (After forgiving his brother, who does not deserve forgiveness, and seeing his daughter betrothed to her love, Prospero decides to give up his very powerful magic. This speech is given to the audience. I especially love the last two lines.
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint. Now 'tis true
I must be here confined by you
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got,
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free
Prospero is not blameless in this play, and I think this speech acknowledges that. Just as we want to be forgiven for our mistakes, Prospero's asking us to forgive him. He's literally saying, I can't get off this island and be free of the curse of living here the past twelve years until you applaud and end the play.
Brilliant. And my kids loved it too. Even Shaemus. There is something about Shakespeare so captivating, even our kids get it. Sometimes underestimate them when we assume they can't!