Long-Time Festival Leader Announces Retirement
CEDAR CITY, UT — R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, has announced his plan to retire at the end of the Festival’s 2016 season. He will continue with the Festival through March 1, 2017 to ensure a smooth and successful transition for his successor.
Phillips’ decision to retire will bring to a close a career spanning forty years of continuous service to the company and its patrons. He has served as executive director since 2007 and was previously the Festival’s managing director for 15 years, and prior to that, the marketing director for 13 years.
Phillips is a 1975 graduate of Southern Utah University and was the Festival’s first full-time employee.
“I feel blessed for the opportunity to spend my professional life with an organization I care deeply about,” he said.
“For over 40 years, Scott Phillips has been a guiding light and engine of the Utah Shakespeare Festival,” said Fred C. Adams, Festival founder. “He has literally dedicated his life to the Festival and held the year-round staff together against all kinds of adversities. No goal was too high, no job too menial—as was evidenced with the opening of the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. He purchased trees, placed them in strategic spots, planted dozens of flower pots, ordered equipment, and trained additional staff to create an environment for our guests, all while he continued to seek additional funding to cover a hundred needed changes and niceties.”
Festival Artistic Directors David Ivers and Brian Vaughn also lauded Phillips’ dedication and leadership. Ivers said, “I join the Festival staff in celebrating the long legacy of R. Scott Phillips at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Scott has been instrumental in every growth period in the last four decades of the Festival. He has served admirably as the face and heart of this theatre for our audiences and in the theatre community.”
“Scott has been crucial to the Festival’s forward trajectory in the last decades,” added Vaughn. “He has made an immeasurable impact on the Festival that will be felt for generations to come.
I am personally indebted to him for bestowing his trust in me to join the leadership team. He will be greatly missed.”
Jeffery R. Nelson, chair of the Festival board of governors, said, “I will always be grateful to Scott Phillips for his many sacrifices on behalf of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. For 40 years, he has served with a sincere love for theater and dedication to this organization that is beyond compare.”
Nelson pointed out Phillips’ dedication to every facet of the organization: “He has continually obsessed over every detail to ensure that the shows, the grounds, and the overall Festival experience remain uniquely distinguished and consummately professional,” he said. “Scott will always be a legend at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and I am a better person for having had the chance to work and learn from him.”
“Scott Phillips has a dedication that is rare in the world today,” said Southern Utah University President Scott L Wyatt. “He has consistently worked well beyond the minimum—and did it year in and year out. The Utah Shakespeare Festival has reached the national and world prominence it enjoys in large measure because of his personal effort. I can’t thank him enough. And we all wish him the very best as he looks forward to the next chapter in his life.”
Under Phillips’ leadership, the Festival has grown from three shows per year and a budget of $329,000 to nine plays in repertory and a $7 million operating budget. The Festival attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually. The opening of the new $39 million Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts in July of this year was the capstone of his career. With this crowning achievement complete, Phillips said he felt it was the right time to step down and turn the reins over to someone else.
Phillips’ 40 years at the Utah Shakespeare Festival began in 1977, when he joined the Festival 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.
Although he is impossible to replace, a nationwide search for Phillips’ successor will be conducted. A job announcement will be released later this month.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts at Southern Utah University, which also includes the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA).
*Update March 1, 2017: Zachary Murray, the Festivals’s general manager since 2014, is serving as interim executive director until the position of executive director is filled. For more information on the open position, click here.