"So singular in each particular."
—The Winter's Tale
The Utah Shakespeare Festival presents life-affirming classic and contemporary plays in repertory, with Shakespeare as our cornerstone. These plays are enhanced by interactive festival experiences which entertain, enrich, and educate.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is part of Southern Utah University, a relationship that has helped foster the growth and viability of the Festival for over fifty years.
Southern Utah University’s more than 150 undergraduate and nine graduate programs across six academic colleges are fully accredited, but the university is much more than classrooms and textbooks. SUU is the only university in Utah to guarantee every one of our 8,000 students will graduate with a diploma and field experience, through internships, undergraduate research, or study abroad. The philosophy at the university is that four years of tuition should get you a job you love, not just a fancy piece of paper.
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 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.
Adams Shakespearean Theatre
The Adams Shakespearean Theatre, dedicated in 1977, was designed by Douglas N. Cook, Festival producing artistic director, 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 probably comes close to the design of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare's plays were originally produced. 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 819, plus 66 gallery-bench or standing-room seats.
Randall L. Jones Theatre
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 at a cost of $5.5 million, 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 769.
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 Utah Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1961 and presented its first season in 1962. It was started in response to two influences: summer tourists desiring more evening activities after visiting the area’s six national parks, and a young actor’s desire to produce great theatre. Festival Founder Fred C. Adams, having just come to Cedar City after trying out the New York theatre scene for a few years, was new to the College of Southern Utah (now Southern Utah University) in 1959. However, seeing 150,000 annual summer tourists to the area, he knew he had a great potential audience for a theatre festival. Excited by the idea, he packed up his notes and ideas and visited Ashland, Oregon, the site of the granddaddy of all Shakespeare festivals, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. While there, he closely observed operations and was befriended by Angus Bowmer, the OSF founder, whom Adams interviewed extensively. On the long ride back to Cedar City, the Utah Shakespeare Festival was born.
Shakespeare was a natural choice for Cedar City. Historically, the people of southern Utah have a love for drama and especially the works of Shakespeare. Adams proceeded with his new company and presented The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and The Merchant of Venice that first season (1962). A small company of college students and townspeople produced the plays on an outdoor platform backed by a partial replica of an Elizabethan stagehouse. Between rehearsals, volunteer actors wielded hammers and scissors, building their own stage, props and costumes.
The initial two-week season attracted an excited 3,276 spectators, yielded a much needed $2,000 on which to build a second season, and demonstrated the cooperative relationship between college and community which still flourishes today. This partnership is one of the reasons for the Festival’s consistent growth. In 2003, nearly 150,000 ticket-holders viewed 246 performances in three theatres during the sixteen-week season. The Festival is now a year-round operation with a full-time staff of twenty-six and a budget of over $5 million dollars, as well as an ongoing educational outreach program, including workshops and a touring version of one of Shakespeare’s popular plays.
The Festival’s well-known outdoor theatre materialized in stages. The Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre, located on the campus of Southern Utah University and one of the most authentic Elizabethan theatres in the world, began as a stagehouse; but in five years’ time was gradually surrounded by its permanent orchestra and gallery seating. The Adams Theatre was dedicated in 1977.
The construction of the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre begins. The replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was completed in 1977.
The theatre so closely resembles Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London that in 1981 the British Broadcasting Company chose it as the location for some of its filming of its Shakespeare series. The Adams Theatre features three plays each season (usually Shakespearean), mounted by professional directors, designers, and actors from around the world, along with graduate students from top professional graduate schools.
The indoor, modern Randall L. Jones Theatre opened its first season June 23, 1989, offering classics of world drama. Its repertoire has spanned more than three centuries of playwrights and has included the classics of France, England, Norway, and the United States.
In 1992 the Festival started an annual series of staged readings called the New American Playwrights Project, allowing Festival guests an opportunity to view the current work of some of today’s best playwrights.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival remains a total “experience” for its patrons, many of whom have been coming to every season for over forty years and now bring their children and grandchildren to the Festival. This feeling of partnership with the audience (which extends so far that the Festival even offers child care during the plays) is a trademark, inspiring patrons to speak of it as “their Festival.” Striving to satisfy our modern audience’s desires, the Festival works hard to remain accessible and to keep alive that bright and shining view first envisioned by Fred C. Adams over five decades ago.
In 2005, Fred C. Adams was named founder and executive producer emeritus and moved his full-time efforts to fulfilling a dream of a art center to house the Festival, adding the title of executive director of the Festival Centre Project.
That dream is now becoming a reality. In 2014 ground was broken and construction is moving along quickly on the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. The center will include the current Randall L. Jones Theatre; the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, which will replace the aging Adams Shakespearean Theatre; the new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre; the Southern Utah Museum of Art, a space for galleries, storage, care, and research surrounding Southern Utah University's art collection; Festival offices and artistic work spaces; and gardens, walkways, statuary, etc. The new center is scheduled to open in time for the 2016 Festival season.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a charter member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) and a constituent of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre.
The Festival operates under an agreement between the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. It also employs stage directors and choreographers through the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC) an independent national labor union. Designers for the Utah Shakespeare Festival are represented by United Scenic Artists (USA) local #829.
The programs and activities of the Utah Shakespeare Festival are sponsored in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C.