David Pichette (left) as Fool and Tony Amendola as Lear in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of King Lear. (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2015.)

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is bidding farewell to its Adams Shakespearean Theatre, the fest’s beautiful Old-world-style venue modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, at the end of this summer. Since 1977, theatre-goers have made their way to Southern Utah University’s campus in Cedar City to experience the fest’s plays at the open-air Adams Theatre, which is the perfect spot for a show on a warm night (A Midsummer’s Night Dream, in particular). Next season, audiences will instead experience the new Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center of the Arts and the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, we road tripped from Salt Lake City to Cedar City to experience King Lear at the Adams (while we still can).

After finding shelter the Stratford Court Hotel, only a seven-minute walk from the theatre, we ate dinner at Centro Pizzeria on Center Street and hit the festival’s free Greenshow before the play.

Centro Pizzeria

Centro, a hip spot with chalkboard and wood-paneled walls, opened in 2012. The restaurant serves 12-inch, woodfired pies. While those with gluten allergies are often limited to smaller pies at other places, I appreciated the fact Centro keeps its gluten-free pizzas the same size as its regulars. We had ours with aged mozzarella, crème fraiche sauce, mushrooms and garlic.

Our gluten-free slices at Centro

If you drop by Centro, ask for a microbrew to go with your slices. You won’t find alcohol at the fest. You will find plenty of teas, hot chocolate and coffee drinks, along with tarts and treats, at the concession outside the Adams.

At the Greenshow, held just steps away from the Adams, we saw Irish dancing and singing group Gael Byrds, who got the crowd to dance and clap along as they performed everything from Danny Boy to a tapdance routine set to a Dropkick Murphy’s song.

Gael Byrds

King Lear is a tragedy, which tells the story of Lear, who divides his estate between two of his three daughters when he asks them how much they love him and likes their answers. Lear’s third daughter, Cordelia, isn’t quite as flattering as her sisters, resulting in her banishment from Lear’s kingdom.

But Lear’s narcisicm comes at a price when the two daughters he favored betray him and he descends into madness.

The best part of the show was Lear himself, played by Tony Amendola, who previously took on the roles of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and The Porter in Macbeth at the festival. We felt Amendola’s stage presence in each of his scenes. The veteran actor sent chills down spines as Lear screamed at the sky, and he cracked us up when he went off script to ask “What is the cause of this thunder?” when Fourth of July fireworks were being set off nearby.

Tony Amendola as Lear in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of King Lear. (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival 2015.)

We felt transported into Lear’s world. The sets, the lights and the excellent acting proved why the Utah Shakespeare Festival is a quintessential Utah experience. Directed by Sharon Ott, the play earned its standing ovation.

Cedar City is three and a half hours away. Get info on tickets here.