Fred Adams continues Cedar City legacy

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Photo credit: Collin Cooper | Photo Senior Staff | @coop.97

Fred Adams, founder of the Utah Shakespearean Foundation, was the guest speaker at this month’s Master Mind Lecture for the Center for the Advancement of Leadership program. Adams spoke about having a focused vision and how the Shakespeare Festival started in Cedar City.

Adams, originally from New York, informed his parents at age 8, that he wanted to be a theater director.
His father said, “Just remember Hell is working 8 hours a day at something you do not like.” His father was a huge influence in his life.

Adams encouraged those in attendance to, “Follow your dreams, follow your passion, do the thing that pleasures you, do the thing that fulfills you and you will never work a day in your life.”

He went on to explain that this advice has guided his entire life—from when he was in the army, to when he served an LDS mission, and throughout graduate school.

After moving to Utah, he attended the College of Southern Utah. There he began a theater program. He chose three plays to perform with Taming of the Shrew to close the season. The first two plays brought in a dismal 25-30 audience members. However, Adams persevered and decided to follow through with Taming of the Shrew.

He recruited the college’s football team because he didn’t have enough actors for the performance. With their support, Taming of the Shrew was such a success that he ended up extending it two extra weekends. It was through that experience that he discovered the small town’s connection with Shakespeare.

Cedar City is a small town four hours south of Salt Lake City that was founded by Irish miners. One of the first things these miners did was put together a group of actors who performed Shakespeare. The city is rich in Shakespearean history. This gave Adams and his fiancée the idea for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. They outlined a dream, made a blueprint of their vision, figured out how much it would cost, and how to run it. The next thing they had to figure out was how to fund it.

The college couldn’t help because they had no funds. Adams went to various clubs asking for donations. “It went as well as a pregnant pole vaulter,” Adams said. Finally, he went to a Lion’s Club where they offered to underwrite the festival.

The first year of the Shakespeare Festival was more successful than they had imagined. They started out with 21 volunteer students and a budget of $1000, and now more than 50 years later they have 400 actors from across the globe, and are operating on a budget in the millions.

The Utah Shakespeare Company is now ranked as one of the top five Shakespeare festivals in the world. Due to their success, several states, including California, have offered to move the company to have them perform in their state.
“For the past 55 years it has consumed my life. I’ve had to carefully weigh each opportunity to see if it took away from my focus,” Adams said.

His final advice was, “Find your focus and look up, work on it. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be quick but when you’ve decided on what you want to do and when you’ve decided on what you want to be—stick with it. When it’s not as much fun, stick with it, when you are tired and want to quit stick with it and you will experience one of the miracles of God.”