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 to 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. Established in 1980, the National Governors Association Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts is given in two categories: artistic production and arts support. 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 Utah Shakespeare Festival has also been the recipient of numerous other awards. Most recently the Festival was honored with the Best of State Award in arts and entertainment. The Best of State program “is dedicated to promoting higher visibility and public awareness for outstanding individuals, businesses, and organizations throughout Utah.” 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 2011, it will celebrated its 50th Anniversary 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 two outdoor stages; the New American Playwrights Project, showcasing work of new playwrights; free literary seminars, Tuesday–Sunday, discussing the season’s plays; bi-weekly props, actor, and costume seminars; backstage tours; and play orientations before all shows.
The Fall Festival offers free literary seminars, Wednesday–Sunday, discussing the season’s shows; free actor seminars every Wednesday and Friday; free props seminars every Thursday and Saturday; intimate and detailed backstage tours Thursdays and Saturdays; and play orientations before all shows.
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 as 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 Nancy Slitz.
The Festival employs thirty people year-round. The summer and fall 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 Comedy of Errors (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 educational programs for the Utah Shakespeare Festival include a variety of classes that vary from week-long camps to two-day courses, and most are for university credit. Classes that are part of the Festival’s educational offerings include Shakespeare for Junior Actors, Actor Training; Theatre Methods for the Classroom, Acting for Directors; Camp Shakespeare and Camp Shakespeare for Seniors; Tech Camp; Shakespeare’s Plays and Forums, and others.
The Festival Education Department each year tours an abbreviated version of a Shakespearean play to schools throughout the Southwest. The play chosen for 2012, Romeo and Juliet, will bring this famous story of love and sorry to thousands of students. To fully enhance the participants’ experience, the tour also includes workshops in acting, stage combat, character development, and design.
The Festival has grown from a budget of under $1,000 in 1961 to over $6 million today. Nearly 65 percent of the Festival’s budget is funded from ticket sales and concessions, 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 2007 alone, direct and indirect expenditures by the Festival and its patrons were estimated at $23 million.
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.