R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, was recently named as the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Mark R. Sumner Award, granted yearly by the Institute of Outdoor Drama (IOD). The award will be presented at the National Conference on Outdoor Drama October 21 and 22 in Chillicothe, Ohio.                                      

According to the IOD, “the award recognizes significant contributions by an individual to a specific drama, or to the outdoor drama movement as a whole, including but not limited to playwriting, directing, acting, design, theater architecture, patronage, scholarship, musical composition, technology and innovation, producing and administration.”                      

A list of some of the previous awardees reads like the “Who’s Who of American Theatre”: Bill Patton, executive director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Tina Packer, founder of Shakespeare and Company in Massachusetts; and Josef Meier, founder of the Black Hills Passion Play in South Dakota; and many others.

The award is named for the late Mark R. Sumner who was instrumental in writing and creating many of the successful historical dramas that eventually formed to create a national organization to promote and support the nearly 100 outdoor dramas in existence today. According to its website, the IOD is “dedicated to the intrepid devotees of theatre who have gathered under the open sky for story, dance and song since the dawn of history.”

Phillips was instrumental in drastically expeanding the membership of the IOD by bringing many of America’s Shakespeare festivals into the organization.

He is also one of the founders of the highly effective Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA), an organization that now boasts 120 member theatres, including the London Globe, the Stratford (Ontario, Canada) Festival, the National Festival of Prague in the Czech Republic, and the New Zealand Festival of Shakespeare—along with festivals in Saudi Arabia, Poland, Egypt, and every state in the United States.

Phillips recently announced his intent to retire in March, after more than 40 years at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. He joined the Festival in 1977 as its first full-time employee. During his tenure, Phillips held positions of director of marketing and public relations (1977-1990), managing director (1990-2006), interim Festival director (2006-2007), and executive director (2007-2017). In his early years at the Festival, Phillips’ primary responsibility was to increase the numbers of Festival attendees. Audience size grew from 19,000 to 113,000 per season during his time as director of marketing.

As executive director, Phillips has been responsible for articulating and implementing the Festival’s values, vision and mission, as well as protecting its artistic image. Phillips contributed to some of the most important milestones for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, including the 1989 construction of the Randall L. Jones Theatre, wherein he worked on all aspects from fundraising, to design, to construction; the naming of the Festival as the 2000 Tony Award-winner for Outstanding Regional Theatre; and the 2016 completion of the $39 million Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, including the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, Greenshow stage, seminar grove, and production spaces.

In addition to the positions held at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Phillips has served many other organizations in Utah, the mountain west region, and nationally. He was the co-founder (1991) and past president, (1998-99) of the Shakespeare Theatre Association; past president, Rocky Mountain Theatre Association; current theatre panelist, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C.; regional adjudicator, Rocky Mountain Theatre Association, American College Theatre Festival, and University Resident Theatre Association; theatre consultant for the Institute of Outdoor Drama, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; member, board of advisors, New West Theatre, Las Vegas, Nevada; board of directors, Utah Arts Council, Salt Lake City, Utah; charter board member, South West Arts Network; past board member, Cedar City Area Chamber of Commerce and Cedar City Arts Council; past chair of Cedar City Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee; and director of over 55 university and professional theatre productions, including the 1989 world premiere production of Nothing Like the Sun.

Phillips is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Utah Theatre Association in 2001 and the Southern Utah University Outstanding Staff Member in 1990. He received his bachelor’s degree from Southern Utah University in 1975 and pursued graduate studies in theatre administration at Idaho State University.