Though its hard to imagine you could run out of things to do while vacationing in our beautiful red rock country, if you enjoy quality theater you should certainly make the effort to attend the Neil Simon Festival held during the summer months in Cedar City, an easy 50-mile drive north of St. George on the I-15 freeway.
This 12th season of outstanding theater will feature a playbill including Chapter Two by Neil Simon; They’re Playing Our Song, from the book by Neil Simon with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager; I’m Not Rappaport by Herb Gardner and starring Peter Sham & Clarence Gilyard; and, The Foreigner by Larry Shue. This year’s season will entertain audiences with alternating performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from July 8 to August 8. You can also enjoy improvisational comedy performances and a one-night only new play reading. See the website for more information at www.simonfest.org.
The Festival’s founder Richard Bugg, a Professor of Theater at Cedar City’s Southern Utah University, “discovered” the large volume of work by one of the great playwrights of the 20th century in 1997. Believing Simon’s plays to be universal in nature and worthy of performance to a wide variety of audiences, Bugg began the process of convincing others in the community and soliciting support for a festival honoring Neil Simon, not unlike those honoring Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and other important playwrights.
In 2003, the Neil Simon Festival opened to the applause of small, but appreciative audiences in Cedar City’s Heritage Center Theater.
Thinking Neil Simon should be aware of the honor bestowed on him, Richard Bugg was able to get a phone number he hoped would eventually lead to a conversation with the famous playwright. With trepidation, Richard dialed the phone, expecting to reach a secretary or an agent. The voice at the other end said, “Hello?”
“Mr. Simon?” Richard asked in a shaky voice.
“Yes,” the voice answered.
A flustered Richard Bugg explained his plans to Mr. Simon who said he was honored, but wondered, “why Utah?”
Richard doesn’t recall his on-the-spot answer, but given some time to contemplate, wishes he had said, Because your humorous analysis of the American Culture, while grounded in your own experience and sub-culture, is universal. Even rural westerners understand the human struggles your plays explore. We are moved as well as entertained by your muses. We honor your work and wish to share it and preserve it … and, I strongly believe you are one of the most important writers of the last century so your plays need to be produced and conserved for generations to come.
He might have also added Cedar City is Utah’s Festival City and Utah has a long history, dating back to Brigham Young, of quality theater.
If you’re vacationing in St. George in July or August, you may want to escape the Dixie sunshine to spend a beautiful – and cooler – summer evening (or a matinee performance) at the Neil Simon Festival. Register today for tickets to the Neil Simon Festival at www.simonfest.com. You will also want to reserve a comfortable condo with a view of our red rock country by booking online with us, or calling us today!