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'Willy The Kid' Exhibit Documents Shakespeare In The American West


The 55th season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival has begun in Cedar City, but the works of the Bard in the American West did not begin with the vision of Fred Adams in 1962. A new exhibit at Southern Utah University’s Sherratt Library titled “Willy the Kid: Shakespeare in the American West” documents the prolific presence of the man from Stratford-upon-Avon in even the tiniest of American frontier towns.

Matt Nickerson, associate dean of the SUU library notes that opera houses and theaters were some of the first public buildings to rise in many western frontier towns.

“Entertainment is one of the things that’s natural to people," Nickerson said. "And so even on the Western Frontier, once the basic needs were being met and people started to have money to spend, and [had] free time on their hands after working pretty hard. One of the things they would want is entertainment. And after gambling and saloons, the theater was probably the third most important site of entertainment in the Old West.”

Why the appeal of Shakespeare in particular?

“He is a person who wrote for all time – that’s a quote that people say – and natural experience, and the human experience, and frankly the miners, especially in the early 1850s, love the tragedies, loved the histories, loved the sword fighting.”

The exhibit runs through October 31st and commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.