Festival Announces Michael Bahr to be Interim Managing Director
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is excited to announce that Michael Bahr will return to the Festival to serve as the interim managing director starting on November 1.
“I am so pleased Michael has accepted this important appointment," said Southern Utah University President Mindy Benson. “He has a long history of audience development, creative programming, and cultivating connections to art not only within the community and on campus but with patrons, donors, and those with whom he works daily. As a result, I have confidence and optimism about the future of the Festival.”
“I am humbled and grateful that President Benson reached out and asked me to serve in this critical role,” said Bahr. “The Festival has been a large part of my life, and I felt compelled to return and help during this transition.”
Bahr served as Education Director for the Festival for more than twenty years before retiring and becoming the Director at Gateway Preparatory Academy where he has served since July. He said it was a tough decision to leave the school.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my work at Gateway. It is a school of choice, and I still choose to support it. I will stay on in a partial capacity at the school until they can find the best replacement,” Bahr said.
“Of course, we are sorry to see Michael go,” said Brittany Jensen, chair of the Gateway Board of Directors. “As a strong educational advocate, Michael has played a big part in our school’s growth this fall and, to a large extent, the continual healing after the passing of Andy Burt, our previous director.”
During his years at the Festival, Bahr worked to establish the annual Shakespeare Competition, the Shakespeare in the Schools annual touring productions, the Playmakers youth theatre program, Wooden O Symposium, sensory-friendly performances, and juvenile justice outreach programs. As a community builder, he stresses that all Festival productions, orientations, seminars, and Greenshows are designed to bring artists and the community together and to expand perspectives.
“With his background in education, Michael is uniquely positioned to succeed in this new role due to his many years of experience building successful educational programs,” said Bryan Watabe, Utah Shakespeare Festival Board of Governors Chairperson. “His deep academic roots in understanding the importance of Shakespeare as a teaching tool and how to employ it to build future audiences are critical to the viability and growth of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.”
Bahr is thrilled to rejoin the Festival staff. “These hard-working and dedicated Festival employees are friends with whom I have had the honor to create during the past twenty years. In the shops, on the stages, and in the offices - they are the true heroes who work tirelessly around the clock to make the magic happen.”
Bahr was very close to late Festival Founder Fred C. Adams and has enjoyed sharing the origin story of the Festival in orientations and seminars.
“Fred’s vision has been passed to thousands of artists and patrons through the years,” said Bahr. “It has increased in breadth and scope, and I’m honored to continue that legacy. We are all part of building this dream and I’m thrilled to work side by side closely with the Festival’s Interim Artistic Director Derek Charles Livingston.”
Livingston moved to Utah to work at the Festival because of its stellar reputation, its commitment to great art, and its engagement with the community. “Michael Bahr spent more than twenty years contributing to that legacy, and he is a wonderful choice to carry it forward. Our partnership will propel the Festival forward on a solid footing. I welcome him home to USF as my friend, my brother, and my colleague.”
The children of Fred C. Adams are also elated with the news of Bahr’s appointment. “We are thrilled Michael has accepted this role! We couldn’t have chosen a better mentor and Shakespearean scholar to be in this position than Michael,” said Glynis Neves on behalf of her siblings. “Dad would be so happy and proud to have Michael continue his legacy and steer the Festival toward a bright and hopeful future. Michael is uniquely qualified to bring both continuity and unity to the entire company.”
“‘The play’s the thing,’” Bahr said, quoting Shakespeare. “Plays are tools that we can use to celebrate and elevate our humanity. The Festival tells universal and classic stories through authentic theatrical experiences. We are about personal connections with our audiences, amplified by the artists and administrators who design and create productions that connect in meaningful and innovative ways.”
Bahr will fill this role until a nationwide search is conducted.