If you drive out for the summer portion of Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2014 season, which opens next week, be prepared to see double. The lineup features plenty of family mayhem, including two sets of twin confusion.
The first set of twins comes in The Comedy of Errors, set in a mining town in California during the 1849 gold rush. USF usually presents Shakespeare traditionally at its outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre—so this risks drawing some ire from the sizable percentage of its audience that prefers Shakespearean purity. "Comedy of Errors is a departure for us,” concedes David Ivers, co-artistic director at USF. “But the design on this production is so brilliant, and it is so hilarious. I’m very excited about it.”
Twelfth Night also features twins, along with a live band, whose playing will underscore one of Shakespeare’s most musical plays. That production will mark the first time Ivers has directed Twelfth Night, and he’s focusing the production on the opposing struggles of family and anonymity. “In what context do you have family or find family?” Ivers asks. On the other hand, “What kind of courage and confidence does anonymity give you? How does hiding behind an assumed identity as Viola does give her the ability to speak the truth and talk and act in a way that she wouldn’t if she were herself?”
Family matters in more of USF’s season, too—with the Dashwood sisters searching for love and harmony in a new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (“It looks like a film. The costuming and the lighting and what we have scenically is so gorgeous.”). This summer will also feature Into the Woods and its intertwining stories of fractured fairy tales; Henry IV, Part One and its tale of the wayward young Prince Hal; and Measure for Measure, with its troubling tale of how far a sister will (or won’t) go to save her brother.
Given that Ivers has his own young family, you’d be forgiven for thinking he planned the season that way, but he insists it’s not the case. “The plays do have thematic values, because they illuminate the human condition, so people draw parallels. But we try not to do that for everyone.” He pauses and laughs. “Although the thing that’s surfacing right now that [co-artistic director] Brian [Vaughn] and I didn’t anticipate is that there’s so many darn sets of twins this season!”
Utah Shakespeare Festival Through August 30 (Twelfth Night through October 18); dates, times and prices vary. Cedar City, Utah, bard.org.