The Utah Shakespeare Festival is one step closer to reaching Founder Fred C. Adams’ dream of building a Shakespeare center in Cedar City, Utah.
On Thursday, January 14 Southern Utah University President Michael T. Benson announced a $3 million grant to the Festival from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, earmarked as the “lead gift” for the campaign to construct a new Shakespearean Theatre.
“This is the largest single gift that the Festival has ever received,” said R. Scott Phillips, executive director. “We deeply appreciate this extraordinary commitment from the Eccles Foundation, which has supported the Festival generously for many years. I look forward to the day we open this brand new performance facility!”
The new theatre, along with the current Randall L. Jones Theatre, will anchor the Utah Shakespeare Festival Centre for the Performing Arts. To be built one block east of the current outdoor theatre, it will replace the aging Adams Theatre with a state-of-the-art facility designed to enhance the Festival experience for thousands of patrons in the years ahead. Patrons of the new theatre will enjoy the same unique experience that audiences found in the Adams Theatre, an intimate presentation of Shakespeare under the stars.
The Eccles Foundation grant – designed to “jumpstart” the campaign for the new Shakespearean Theatre – includes an outright gift of $1 million and an additional $2 million “last dollar challenge” grant to be contributed when the remaining campaign goals for the theatre have been reached. More than $16 million has been secured already toward the $33.7 million needed for the new facility.
Said Benson in announcing the gift, “Our hope is that this support from one of Utah’s largest and most generous charitable foundations will help us build momentum for the campaign and generate the additional dollars needed for the new theatre. With the Shakespearean Festival’s 50th anniversary on the horizon, the Eccles Foundation grant could not have come at a better time,” he added.
“Our Foundation hopes this grant will re-invigorate fundraising efforts and encourage many others to join us in supporting the project as generously as possible,” said Spencer F. Eccles, Chairman & CEO of the Eccles Foundation. “We have been proud to support Fred Adams and the Festival for more than 25 years, and it’s a thrill to be able to play a part in bringing this long-held dream of a new theatre to life,” he said.
According to Eccles Foundation President Lisa Eccles, “We are so pleased to join with others who are generously supporting the creation of this new theatre. Together, as part of our statewide mission, we hope our support will further strengthen the arts community of Cedar City and generate long-term benefits for area citizens and visitors alike.”
Festival founder Fred C. Adams said he was “honored and touched” by the gift, noting that the Eccles Foundation and family have “led the way with their generosity!” Added Festival Development Director Jyl Shuler, summing up the community-wide feelings of excitement and appreciation over the gift: “We are over the moon about it!”
Plans call for the new Shakespearean Theatre to provide much needed audience comforts for state-of-the-art Shakespeare productions including a retractable roof for inclement weather, sufficient restroom facilities, ADA required elevators and wheelchair spaces, HVAC improvements to enable the Festival to extend its season, accommodations for 890 audience members per performance, and three rehearsal/education training spaces and dressing room space for 32 artists. A two-level Tudor glass grand foyer will incorporate an elevator, public restrooms, concessions, a gift shop and service areas surrounding the performance space. Mature trees and foliage will create an outdoor environment in the indoor space.