Plays, art exhibitions, dedications, tours, and entertainment of all sorts are planned for the grand opening of the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts and the 2016 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, July 7 through 9.

The celebration kicks off on July 7 at 10 a.m. with the dedication of the new center. The public is invited to this historic occasion which will be on the Simmons Family Plaza. It will be followed by the dedication of the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) at 11:30 on the Sam and Diane Stewart Plaza and the dedication of the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre Dedication at 7:40 in the Engelstad Theatre. The dedication of the theatre immediately precedes the opening night of Henry V, so those who want to attend the dedication must have tickets to the play.

In between the dedication will be tours of the Festival facilities (including two new theatres, offices, and rehearsal and artistic studios) and of SUMA. The three days will also be full of parties, artist demos, concerts, and the Festival’s popular Greenshow, orientations, and play seminars, as well as much more. The complete calendar of events is at www.bard.org/news/schedule.

The center, which will officially open on July 7, will include not only the Engelstad Theatre, but the new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, the spectacular Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA), the existing Randall L. Jones Theatre, offices and rehearsal space, a new costume shop, and beautiful walkways, patios, and sculpture gardens. The center, with visual arts, live theatre, and dynamic arts education will dramatically enrich the cultural life of SUU, Cedar City, and the surrounding area. It will be a year-round destination for hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors.

“Visually, what guests to the new center will see will be a contrast to what they’ve been accustomed to if they have attended the festival the past 30 or 40 years,” said R. Scott Phillips, Festival executive director. “It is a planned center, something that was designed with the notion of the performing and visual arts, rather than an experience that was built onto an existing building.”

Phillips is quick to note that this will enhance, not diminish the experience visitors will have. For instance, the new Engelstad Theatre is physically much larger than the Adams Shakespearean Theatre that housed the Festival for over 40 years. But the acting space and seating is nearly identical to the Adams Theatre. The increased size is to accommodate a larger foyer, wider and more open entrances, and more public space. But the distance from the front of the new stage to the last row in the balcony is very nearly the same as in the beloved Adams Theatre.

“Guests will have a feeling of something they remember or are accustomed to,” said Phillips. “The experience should be something that is very reminiscent of what they recall.”

Festival Artistic Director David Ivers agrees, noting the Festival environment will be greatly enhanced by being in one location, allowing guests to be immersed in an artistic experience. He is excited about having two new theatres to house world classics. “Our audiences will be challenged in these new space,” he said. “They will see and hear plays, even plays they have seen in the past, in ways they haven’t before.”

Ivers is also looking forward to SUMA being on the center. “For me, because I think that any medium of art should go hand-in-hand with any other, the art on the walls of the galleries and the art on the stage will build on each other, giving context to the work we all do.”

SUMA will include four galleries, visible storage, and classroom spaces. It will also be the permanent home to the artwork of the late Cedar City artist, Jim Jones. In 2016, SUMA will focus on the National Park Service Centennial. “It is an ideal collaboration that will encourage our visitors to not only ‘Find Their Park’ but also to find their museum,” said Reece Summers, SUMA director. “The first thing visitors will see when they enter the museum will be 15 large paintings of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks by Jim Jones, who left his art, estate, and copyright to help build this new museum.”

“It’s quite phenomenal,” concluded Phillips. “When I first came as a student, the Adams Theatre was brand new. To go from that building then and watch the transformation to an entire complex, from a building that cost under one million dollars to this nearly forty million dollar project, is extraordinary.” 

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