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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Neil Simon Festival Runs Through Aug 9 In Cedar City

Cedar City is home to the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, 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.

Festival Mission
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 experience.

2014 Season
  • Laughter on the 23rd Floor
  • The Star-Spangled Girl
  • You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  • Nunsense
  • 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.


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