Thursday, July 28, 2022

Utah's Tuacahn: Spectacular performing arts space in natural setting

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers marvel at the spectacular view from Utah's Tuacahn.

THEATER LOVING ROAD TRIPPERS DELIGHT IN DISCOVERY OF A SPLENDID AMPHITHEATER IN UTAH'S RED ROCKS 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

and courtesy Tuacahn Center for the Arts 


 "Mary Poppins" sets take a whimsical look at London.
This is one of several lovely designs. Also included are a park,
bank, children's bedroom and other places in the story. 


WE HAD no idea such a wondrous place existed in the remote canyonland near St. George, Utah. It's called Tuacahn.

Everyone has heard of Zion National Park, and most veteran road-trippers have visited St. George. But we were new to a marvelous discovery during this year's auto journey from San Diego to our place in rural Montana. 

Some say the name "Tuacahn" comes from a Mayan word meaning "Canyon of the Gods." It couldn't be more fitting. For located in the mouth of the Padre Canyon, adjacent to Snow Canyon State Park, in Ivins, Utah, it's a sight to behold.

Keller and Cookie
at intermission.
An artful display of photos from the current season
gives the full house options for future tickets.

TUACAHN IS part nature preserve, part performing arts center, and total magic. Several visionary people were instrumental in its founding, including  Utah playwright Douglas C. Stewart  and philanthropist Hyrum W. Smith. They and others planned the creation of a setting to showcase a play about the founding of the southern part of their state. 
Hyrum Smith, Tuacahn philanthropist, had a 
vision to merge nature with performing arts.

THE PARTNERS' VISION was to create a space the people of Utah could enjoy. The venue would showcase nature's beauty with the added  enticement of first-rate performance.
The patrons' love of nature and theater combine artfully in Tuacahn where we recently saw a delightful production of "Mary Poppins." It was Broadway quality -- from technical wizardry which floated Mary across the sky, to beautifully designed sets and costumes, spirited choreography and top talent including a well tuned orchestra.
THE PLACE was christened in 1995 when Tuacahn's debut performance. "Utah!" danced its way across the red rocks and into the hearts of the people.
Amphitheatre seats are comfortable and seating
is designed so there are no obstructed views.

But after four years telling the story of the area's ancient inhabitants and pioneer settlers, Tuacahn's board of directors shifted the strategy to a repertory season of popular shows.
The successful result is a showcase of several productions in a setting which itself is a natural amphitheater. 
WRITERS HAVE compared the evolution of this natural wonder to the physical building of Tuacahn Center for the Arts. Centuries of pounding heat and relentless desert rains created the canyon land. Wrote one reviewer, "Just as the land has been shaped, the center was molded by winds of change and the power of dreams."
In the play's final scene, Mary Poppins takes
to the sky, her mission accomplished (far right.)
  

Donors can remember
friends or family in
tasteful stones by
the lyrical waters.


In foreground: Neil Starkenberg as Bert, Gail Bennett
as Mary Poppins, sing "A Spoonful of Sugar." 
Real estate baron and state senator Orval Hafen was a major player, too.  The original owner of Padre Canyon enthusiastically endorsed the concept. Adding his own doseof drive and ambition was entrepreneur, arts promoter and producer  Doug Stewart who helped propel the mission. 
It was a daunting dream that many thought impossible, but with this quartet of creative force it blossomed into a flourishing orchestra of reality. 
Sold out shows, happy families, first-rate talents tell the tale of Tuacahn and confirm that an inspired vision can come true with the right combination of imaginative people, drive and money. Artistic director Scott S. Anderson carries on the mission of creative performance art against a naturally theatrical backdrop.
The season is in repertory with "Mary Poppins," "Wonderland," and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" playing into late October. "The Buddy Holly Story" runs in the mix until Aug. 13. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" promises family enjoyment Nov. 25-Dec. 22.  Tuacahn's venues include the 2,000-seat amphitheatre and a 328-seat indoor theater where the holiday show is staged, a black box theater, dance studio, costume and scene shops and the campus of Tuacahn High School for the Arts. The venue also  produces a spring and fall concert series, and Christmas in the Canyon featuring a live-action recreation of the nativity called the "Festival of Lights" with spectacular holiday lights and decorations.
ACTOR GAIL Bennett and other Actors Equity performers have garnered national attention, as has the venue itself.  Bennett won awards for her leading roles in "My Fair Lady," "Kiss Me Kate," "The Sound of Music" and many productions on Broadway, at Hollywood Bowl and in other major venues.
You may think you've gone down the rabbit hole as you explore this gorgeous venue -- truly a "wonderland" of its own.

More info or tickets:  tuacahn.org; box office 800 746-9882; 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins, Utah 84738

Christene "Cookie" Meyers rests and savors
during a visit to "Immersive Van Gogh."
UP NEXT
: Van Gogh Immersion.Another artfully done surprise presents itself on our road trip. The artfully done installation, "Immersive Van Gogh," is attracting viewers across the nation in several cities.  We check out the original exhibit in Las Vegas. It's a wondrous merging of technology, storytelling, animation and many of Vincent's paintings. We found it    captivating and will share in our next feature. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, family, nature and more. www.whereiscookie.com; VanGoghVegas.com





2 comments:

  1. Colorado RoadiesJuly 29, 2022 at 8:39 PM

    We never miss a season. Great story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Boston Play GoersJuly 30, 2022 at 5:37 AM

    Inspired mix of natural beauty and top talent on stage.

    ReplyDelete