Trip to Utah

At the end of August, I went on a road trip to Cedar City, Utah with Isabelle, Olivier, and another grad student from our department and his partner. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Isabelle is a big fan of playwright Mary Zimmerman, and her Treasure Island was one of the plays being performed this season.

This was my first trip with friends (as opposed to family) in a very long time, and I also never drive on the West Coast, so it was a grand adventure! We left on a Friday morning and drove northeast out of Los Angeles, through Las Vegas (I drove this part), through a little corner of Arizona, and into Utah. Luckily, Cedar City is in the part of Utah closest to Los Angeles. We just had time to settle into our Airbnb, a bunker-like but otherwise extremely nice basement apartment on a quiet street, before heading off to Friday evening’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I had neither read nor seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream before, though I roughly knew the story. The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s production was Jazz Age-themed, and the sets and costumes were beautiful. We had great seats in the middle of the front row of the balcony. Although the plot is ridiculous, on the face of it, the (human) drama was at times affecting (I particularly liked the parts about Hermia and Helena’s friendship). And the play was quite funny. I thought the dragging play-within-a-play in the last act was an example of horrible pacing on Shakespeare’s part, but the actors managed to milk as much humor out of it as possible (and I caught what I was 99.9% sure was a jab at Trump’s wall during an earlier rehearsal scene). Also, in her last speech to the audience, Puck interrupted herself to say “bless you” when an audience member sneezed, and the entire theatre laughed. Puck nearly cracked up herself, and it was a moment before she resumed her speech.

On Saturday, after a lazy morning singing with ukuleles, we explored Cedar City. We walked through the campus of Southern Utah University, home of the Shakespeare Festival, and had sandwiches and crêpes for lunch in town. Then we visited an art supplies shop and a stringed instrument store.

The luthier told us a local girl had built the instrument on the left for a Science Olympiad event and had won state! The instrument has no frets, and she bowed it.

Then we headed north on Main Street till we reached the public library. Out front, there was a sculpture that reproduced some of the petroglyphs of nearby Parowan Gap. And inside, guess whose books they had in the YA section?

Petroglyph reproductions outside the public library

Found them!

From the library, we went to a bead/comic book/trading card store, and then to a lovely (mostly used?) bookstore. After lingering there a while, we checked out a couple of art galleries and then headed to the Southern Utah Museum of Art. They had an exhibit of local artist Jimmie Jones’s paintings of the southern Utah landscape and an exhibit of quilts (broadly construed) that were part of a competition on the theme of Pathfinders. The quilts were really cool; some of them were absolutely gorgeous. Several, inspired by the theme, depicted refugees or displaced people.

We went back to the Airbnb to rest a little before the next play, and Isabelle, Olivier, and I checked out the back garden, where there were chickens and raspberry brambles from which we plucked ripe berries.

Saturday evening’s show was Mary Zimmerman’s Treasure Island, which was also excellent. The sets were splendid, and I was delighted to recognize among the incidental music the fiddle tune “Drowsy Maggie” (for the fight in the Admiral Benbow Inn) and that famous Boccherini minuet.

On Sunday, we visited Zion National Park. I drove us to the entrance to the northwest part of the park (i.e. the closest part), the Kolob Canyons area. We set out on the La Verkin Creek Trail. Our original destination was Kolob Arch, which would have made for a 14-mile round trip hike, but we actually turned back after we’d gone about halfway to the arch.

The trail led us around these majestic red cliffs, through occasional woods and alongside wildflowers and over many dry streambeds. There were junipers, pines, and cottonwoods, mainly. The earth was red and sometimes reduced to soft sand. We glimpsed small birds, including the blue Steller’s jay, and saw some very large birds wheeling in the distance (I’m not sure I believe they were condors). There were also (rock?) squirrels; at one point we observed one chirping at us and another party of hikers quite insistently, and we realized some of the chirping we’d heard earlier might not have been birds but squirrels. I’d forgotten how much they could sound like birds.

We spent a lovely evening eating crêpes and singing with ukulele, and then Isabelle and I went out to look at the stars once more. You can see a thousand times more stars on a suburban street in Cedar City, UT than you can on the Westside of Los Angeles. The Summer Triangle, Cygnus, the Big and Little Dippers, Polaris, Cassiopeia… The Milky Way, even.

On Monday, we roadtripped back to Los Angeles to a soundtrack of French Canadian music, Scottish songs, and French musicals.

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