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Shakespeare actors by day, cabaret acts by night (videos)

Published August 6, 2013 9:16 pm

Performance • Coffeehouse events help Utah Shakespeare Festival actors find their next jobs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cedar City • Actor Zach Powell's day job playing Prince Henry at the Utah Shakespeare Festival gives him eternal lines such as "O vanity of sickness! Fierce extremes in their continuance will not feel themselves."

But on a recent evening, after doffing his chain mail and crown from "King John," Powell picked up an acoustic guitar and performed an eyebrow-wiggling rendition of Katy Perry's sugar-pop hit "Teenage Dream."

"I'm a get your heart racing in my skin-tight jeans/Be your teenage dream tonight," he sung to uproarious laughter from the crowd of about 130 people.

When Shakespeare Festival actors finish their turns on the lavish sets, once a week they come to The Grind Coffee House on Cedar City's main street. Sitting on a stool or standing in front of a microphone, perhaps with the accompaniment of a piano or drum, they turn in performances of a different sort in the loose, slightly bohemian atmosphere.

The performers are chosen through auditions and change every week. A recent lineup included Lana Del Rey's "Video Games," an original song in the Irish tradition, a multicolored electronic juggling performance titled The Chad Baker Experience and a spoken-word fantastical poem called "Galápagos."

It's all a fundraiser for REACH, or Really Eager Artists Crying Hire. The group flies in directors and casting agents from all over the country so festival performers, who usually live in cities ranging from New York to Los Angeles, can audition for their next gigs.

Actors have been cast in Disney cruise line performances, master's degree programs and more. Last year, actor Matt Zambrano got a job through REACH in the one-man show "Santaland Diaries," based on David Sedaris' story about his experience working as an elf at Macy's.

"We sort of live in perpetual poverty. We're always going from job to job," said Zambrano, this year's REACH co-chair. The festival runs from the end of June through October, so "a lot of us are out here for three to six months and we kind of have to put our careers on hold."

So they do what they do best: Put on a show.

"I like to perform, and this is a great way to try something I like," said Tommy Novak, a Chicago actor in town to play a Messenger in "King John" and Dull in "Love's Labour's Lost." For the cabaret, he performed an opera piece in Italian, with plenty of exaggerated gestures and scarf-flips.

"You can let loose and have fun," he said.

For Utah audiences, it's a chance to see another side of the performers.

Aaron Galligan-Stierle, for example, plays the stiff British Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in "Anything Goes" at this year's festival. But in the cabaret, he sang a fast-talking reluctant marriage proposal in a rendition of "I Want You to Be" from "Catch Me If I Fall."

"In plays, you only see the character," said Ellen Treanor of Cedar City. "Here, they can do anything they want."

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst —

The REACH Cabaret

When • Thursdays at 11 p.m. through Aug. 29.

Where • The Grind Coffee House, 19 N. Main St., Cedar City.

Tickets • $10 or $5 for company members.

Details • facebook.com/ReachPresentsTheCabaret