The Utah Shakespeare Festival presents several Shakespeare classics along with contemporary and original works each season. The Tony Award-winning repertory company is packed with opportunities for visitors to learn about the plays beforehand, tour backstage and watch live performances.
“I grew up coming to the Shakespeare Festival as a kid and it’s the reason I wanted to be an actor," said Kaitlin Mills. "And I auditioned and after several years of auditioning I got in and I haven’t looked back.”
Kaitlin Mills grew up in Utah and plays Hermia who is caught in a romantic accident where she loves one man, but is loved by another in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Belle in The Tavern and a monk in the festival’s Greenshow- a light hearted pre-show with dancing , music and parodies.
Company member, Kelly Rogers came to southern Utah from North Carolina. She plays Puck in a 1920’s style version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream
“Well, I have to say that playing puck is a joy that I never knew. I never expected to play Puck," said Rogers. "And so it has been a particularly joyful gift to play this role."
Rogers plays Phebe in As You Like It and is taking on the roll as Sally Mae in the comedic farce, The Tavern.
“I didn’t really get involved with Shakespeare period until I was in college," said Rogers. "Shakespeare’s always challenged me. It’s hard to do and especially in college I wanted to learn more about it and this seemed like a great place to come. But I didn’t work here until 2015 so I’d already been out of school for 4 years when that happened.”
For Mills, performing several shows with actors who have been around the theater block has given her the opportunities she has needed to learn from experienced performers amidst the chaos often experienced during repertory theater.
“Whether on purpose or not they always tend to bring a really great group of people together," Mills said. "And you bond very quickly because of how the rehearsal process works here. And so I would say that the people here are my favorite part of the festival.”
The community of actors, audience members and educators that converge at the festival during performances and educational workshops are especially important to Rogers. The festival is known for sponsoring camps and other outreach programs that give company members the chance to teach.
“I’m a huge fan of the education department here," said Rogers. "They really engage in so many ways with all different levels of the community. So I love doing actors seminars or backstage tours or teaching Shakespeare to kids or doing these sorts of things.
"I think my favorite moments are standing backstage before my first entrance as puck," said Rogers. "We have actually two four-year-old girls playing the changeling child. Sometimes they will come backstage and watch the mechanical scene. It is just so magical to watch kids watch theater. They love it so much. Even yesterday Jane, who is one of the changeling kids backstage said, 'I love watching this play.' I just loved her. I think that’s my favorite thing this year.”
The festival continues through Oct. 21 in southern Utah’s Cedar City.