is home to the Tony Award-winning Utah
, which has been staging outstanding
productions since 1962. But there is another,
lesser-know theatrical group in town, this one honoring playwright
Neil Simon. Below we provide information about the Neil
Simon Festival, which just kicked off its 2014 season.
We work to preserve and honor the works
of playwright Neil Simon and his contemporaries as well as foster the
development of new American plays that follow the Simon tradition of
character-driven plots and comic introspection into the American
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor
- The Star-Spangled Girl
- You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
- Greater Tuna
- Driving Miss Daisy
Plus these events:
- Off the Cuff Comedy Improv Troupe
- New Play Contest - Staged Reading
- Apprentice Intensive Show
- Preview Night Benefit
In 1997, Founder Richard Bugg was
reading one of Neil Simon's plays, when he glanced at the dust cover
of the book and saw a list of all of Neil Simon's plays to date. The
list was impressive. Richard realized that Neil Simon was one of the
great playwrights of the 20th Century.
Believing that Mr. Simon's plays are
universal in nature, and worthy of preservation, Richard wondered why
a festival honoring Neil Simon, such as those that honor the Bard,
George Bernard Shaw, and others, was not already in existence.
After a few years of planning, Richard
was ready to start such a festival. In 2002, Cedar City, Utah (the
city where Richard serves as a Professor of Theatre) built the
beautiful Heritage Center Theater. With a venue now available, he
knew it was time to pursue his dream. Richard created a non-profit
corporation and reached out to friends and colleagues to serve on the
organization's Board of Directors. He approached a local businessman
and asked him to serve. The man felt he was to busy to serve on the
board, but, wishing to help, donated $500 toward the effort.
Thinking the Mr. Simon should be aware
of the honor about to be bestowed on him, Richard sought for a way to
contact the playwright. Richard called a celebrity friend and asked
him if he had any way of contacting Mr. Simon. Richard's friend
replied that he had just worked with Mr. Simon on a tour of one of
his plays and offered Richard a phone number. With trepidation,
Richard called the number, expecting to contact a secretary or an
agent. The voice at the other end said, "Hello?"
"Mr. Simon?" Richard replied.
"Yes," the voice answered.
A little flabbergasted, Richard
explained his plans to Mr. Simon. Mr. Simon said that he was
honored, but wanted to know, "Why Utah?"
Richard doesn't recall his on-the-spot
answer, but says:
Given some time to
contemplate, my answer has become: 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 that your plays evaluate. We are moved as well as
entertained by your muses. We honor your work and we wish to share
it and preserve it.
Mr. Simon, I have
dedicated a large part of my existence to this project. I am not
excessive in my admiration (there are other things more important in
my life), but I strongly believe that you are one of the most
important writers of the last century and that your plays need to be
produced and conserved for generations to come.