Whether you’re a drama nerd, a lover of the classics or you just enjoy a good show, Cedar City is a hub for fans of the theater. For Sean Militscher, Cedar City has provided the perfect opportunity for him to live out Neil Simon’s legacy.
Neil Simon was a playwright and screenwriter who produced over 60 plays and screenplays over the course of his career. He holds the distinction of receiving more Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 91.
In 2003, local Cedar City director Richard Bugg founded the Neil Simon Festival with the hopes to honor Simon and because, as Bugg said, “Mr. Simon had written more successful plays than Shakespeare.”
Following Simon’s death, the festival was forced to change its name by attorneys representing he Simon estate, and the festival was promptly renamed the SimonFest Theater Company.
The goal of the SimonFest Theater Company is to, “preserve and honor the works of American playwrights and their contemporaries as well as foster the development of new American plays that follow the tradition of character-driven plots and comic introspection into the American experience.”
Sean Militscher, an SUU student studying theater, first auditioned with SimonFest in 2016 following his sophomore year. He was cast in the SimonFest production of “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” with the role of Leon, the bassist in Hank Willliams’ band. He acted in the show and also played the bass and mandolin.
In 2017, Militscher had the opportunity to be an assistant director in the SimonFest production of “The Dinner Party,” under SUU alum Henry Ballesteros.
With a plan to someday become a professional director, this was just the job Militscher was looking for. This opportunity allowed Militscher a chance to get a taste of “what it’s like to direct in a professional setting and work as the leader of a team.”
Militscher currently serves as the bassist for all SimonFest Theater Company musical productions. He recently completed his fourth season with the festival, participating as a musician in all of them.
With a love for playing in orchestra pits, Militscher was able to play music by, “some of the greatest musical theater composers,” such as Stephen Sondheim and Alan Menken.
“I admire Neil Simon greatly. His talent is incomparable. The characters, stories, and legacy his plays are matched by only a small handful of playwrights. His works truly embody the spirit of American theatre,” Militscher said. “Having been a part of the Neil Simon Festival and the SimonFest Theater Company has been wonderful because I very much believe in keeping his works alive for generations to come.”
By participating in the SimonFest Theater Company, Militscher was not only able to play music he truly enjoyed, but to put on productions in the name of Neil Simon, honoring him and the legacy Simon left behind. He was also able to get hands-on experience and see behind the scenes while working on plays such as “I Hate Hamlet” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The next offering by the Simonfest Theater Company will be “A Christmas Carol on the Air,” a reading of the classic Charles Dickens Christmas story in the style of an old-time radio show, written and performed by SUU professor of Theater Arts, Peter Sham.
For more information about the SimonFest Theater Company, including how to audition and where to buy tickets, click here.
Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Sean Militscher