CEDAR CITY — Almost 2,000 children gathered on campus at Southern Utah University on Thursday to celebrate William Shakespeare's birthday.
The managers of the Utah Shakespeare Festival are savvy enough to know that to capture the next generation of audience members, they need to teach them as children that this is exciting to learn about. And besides, who doesn't like a birthday party?
A group of second graders took to the stage in honor of William Shakespeare, who was born at the end of April.
"In the play, there's Beatrice and I'm like getting married to her. But luckily, I'm not doing the part where I get married to her…yuck."
They are performing scenes from "Much Ado About Nothing", but at this age, romance is so not appealing.
"In the play, there's Beatrice and I'm like getting married to her," said Jack Mullins, who plays Benedick. "But luckily, I'm not doing the part where I get married to her yuck."
They are also performing scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and the acting can be nerve-wracking for some students.
"It's that connection to Shakespeare's words and stories that make this last their lifetimes."
"My teacher said just pretend you're in class doing it and I did it and I wasn't afraid," said Aurora Van Arv, who plays Titania.
Actors who perform Shakespeare's plays needed other skills too as there was a jousting tournament. There was also dancing around the maypole on the lawns at SUU. Eighteen hundred elementary students caught the vision.
"It's that connection to Shakespeare's words and stories that make this last their lifetimes," said Michael Bahr, the education director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
And to cap it off, the students had cake with "Queen Elizabeth."
The celebration continues through Friday and this all leads up to the opening of the Utah Shakespeare Festival at the end of June.