The Utah Shakespeare Festival presents life-affirming classic and contemporary plays in repertory, with Shakespeare as our cornerstone. These plays are enhanced by interactive experiences which entertain, enrich, and educate.
The Festival was named the recipient of the coveted Tony Award for America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre on May 8, 2000. The Tony Award is the most prestigious and sought-after award in live theatre, the equivalent of the Academy Awards in film, and is presented by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers. The Festival was nominated for the award by the American Theatre Critics Association. The award for the Outstanding Regional Theatre was added to the Tony Awards in 1976 and honors a regional theatre company that has “displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally.”
In 2001 the National Governors Association honored the Utah Shakespeare Festival with the award for Distinguished Service in the Arts for Artistic Production at its ninety-third annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. The award recognizes outstanding service to the arts, focusing on contributions that improve the quality of life and bring distinction to the state or community.
The Festival’s fiftieth anniversary production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the subject of a regional Emmy Award-winning live broadcast by BYUtv, Provo, Utah. The award was for the best special event coverage, live or edited. This was the first live broadcast of a performance in the Festival’s history.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival has also been the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Best of State Award in arts and entertainment. In addition Festival Founder Fred C. Adams was named Utah’s 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year for Community Enrichment by Ernst & Young, and in 2010 received both the Utah Governor’s Award in the Humanities and the Burbage Award for a lifetime of service to the international Shakespearean theatre community.
The Festival was founded in 1961, presented its first season in 1962. In 2013, it presented its fifty-second season. It is one of the oldest and largest Shakespearean festivals in North America. The Festival is located in Cedar City, Utah, a community of approximately 28,000 people, and is within a day’s drive of seven national parks and numerous national and state forests, monuments, and recreation areas. Via Interstate-15, it is two and a half hours northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada and three and a half hours south of Salt Lake City, Utah. The Festival is located on and around the Southern Utah University campus.
The Summer Festival offers free nightly Greenshows featuring music, song, and tales on the green; the New American Playwrights Project, showcasing work of new playwrights; free literary seminars; props, actor, and costume seminars; backstage tours; Repertory Magic, allowing guests to watch and ask questions about the twice-a-day scene changes; and play orientations before shows.
The Fall Festival offers free literary seminars; free actor seminars; free props seminars; intimate and detailed backstage tours; Repertory Magic; and play orientations.
R. Scott Phillips was named executive director in October 2007, succeeding Founder Fred C. Adams at the helm of the Festival. Adams now functions as executive producer emeritus and executive director of the Festival Centre Project. David Ivers and Brian Vaughn were named artistic directors in 2011. A six-member executive council works with Phillips, Ivers, and Vaughn as the day-to-day leadership. A thirty-person volunteer regional board of governors oversees all long-range planning, marketing, and development of the Festival and is chaired by Mark Moench.
The Festival employs thirty-two people year-round. The production company consists of approximately 250 individuals. Approximately six non-acting positions are needed in areas such as production, marketing, management, and administration to support each performer seen on stage. Over 200 additional community members donate their time to support Festival activities.
The Adams Shakespearean Theatre, dedicated in 1977, was designed by Douglas N. Cook, Festival producing artistic director emeritus, along with Max Anderson of the Utah State Building Board, and is patterned after drawings and research of sixteenth century Tudor stages. Experts say it is one of a few theatres that come close to the design of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It is so authentic, in fact, that the British Broadcasting Company filmed part of its Shakespeare series there. It is named for Grace Adams Tanner, a major benefactor of the Festival, and her parents, Thomas D. and Luella R. Adams. It seats 887.
The Randall L. Jones Theatre, dedicated in 1989, was designed by the firm of Fowler, Ferguson, Kingston, and Ruben, with theatrical design by the California firm of Landry and Bogan, as well as Cameron Harvey, Festival producing artistic director. It was built to expand the Festival’s offerings, especially in the area of world classics, and was featured in the August 1990 edition of Architecture magazine. The theatre is named after a Cedar City native known as the father of tourism in southern Utah. It seats 777.
The Auditorium Theatre, completely renovated in 2004, is the venue for matinees of The Taming of the Shrew (ensuring that playgoers stay cool and in the shade on hot summer afternoons) and for performances "rained in" from the Adams Shakespearean Theatre (ensuring that the show goes on and patrons stay dry). The theatre seats 844.
The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts is an exciting new $35 million project that will include the Southern Utah Museum of Art, the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre (a new outdoor space to replace the aging Adams Shakespearean Theatre), the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, and new artistic and production facilities for the Festival, all on the same two-block area as the Randall L. Jones Theatre. Construction began in August 2014 and will be completed by January 2016. Big D Construction of Salt Lake City is the general contractor.
The Festival educational programs include a variety of classes, from week-long camps to two-day courses, and most are for university credit. In addition, the Festival each year tours an abbreviated version of a Shakespeare play to schools throughout the Southwest. The play for 2015 is Macbeth, and can also include workshops in acting, stage combat, character development, and design.
The Festival has grown from a budget of under $1,000 in 1961 to over $7 million today. Approximately 74 percent of the Festival’s budget is funded from ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, and education classes, with the remaining support coming from contributed income such as memberships, grants, and foundations. The Festival’s economic impact in Cedar City and the surrounding area is enormous. In a 2012 study by Neil Abercrombie and Dr. Kelly Matthews, the total economic impact was estimated at more than $35 million annually.
In 1962, the Festival attracted 3,276 visitors. Today, the audience is nearly 130,000. Approximately 60 percent of the audience comes from Utah; 24 percent from Nevada; 6 percent from Arizona; 6 percent from California; and 4 percent from other areas.