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Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Festival Education Director Michael Bahr Announces Retirement

Michael Bahr

By Liz Armstrong 

After more than twenty-three years with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Education Director Michael Bahr has announced his retirement, effective July 31. Beginning July 1, Bahr started the next act in his life as the director/principal at Gateway Preparatory Academy in Enoch, Utah.

“I am so happy to see Michael step into this exciting new chapter of his life after his amazing and transformative years at the Festival,” said Executive Producer Frank Mack. “Michael has led the education department brilliantly. His innovative curricula and devoted teaching has changed the lives of countless students, while the insights he has shared with our audience members in the Seminar Grove has deepened their experience at the Festival.” 

For the next few weeks, Bahr will stay tied to the Festival, continuing his work until July 31 as he assists the education department during this transitional period. He will also be visible at the Festival in the future conducting seminars and orientations, while his wife, Kris Bahr, assistant guest services manager and volunteer coordinator, continues as a full-time member of the Festival staff.

Called “Peter Pan, the Pied Piper and the Energizer Bunny, all rolled into one,” Bahr has served as the education director for over two decades.

In making the announcement, Bahr made it clear that, although he wasn’t looking for a new position, he is “excited for the challenge that waits at Gateway.”

“I am filled with a sentimental, melancholic sadness upon leaving this position,” Bahr said. “But I am also filled with joy because of what lies ahead for the Festival.” 

Bahr was hired in December 1998 as the education director when he joked he was “dragged kicking and screaming out of the classroom.” He noted that “when Festival Founder Fred C. Adams first made the job offer to me back then, Adams said ‘I need someone who speaks the language of teachers, professional theatre and actors, and students.’”

Bahr spoke those three languages and was hired, but his journey with the Festival began years before this.

“In 1982, I acted in the Shakespeare Competition and was awarded a scholarship to Southern Utah University, which was then Southern Utah State College,” Bahr said. During his time as an undergraduate, Bahr worked at the box office in the Festival. After graduating, he took a job as a teacher in Bakersfield, California, and brought his students back to Cedar City to participate in the Shakespeare Competition. He then moved to northern Utah for another teaching job and continued to bring his students to the competition. 

As Education Director, Bahr was able to spend time teaching at Cedar City and Canyon View High Schools and as an adjunct professor for theater methods at SUU beginning in 2001. 

He has built an incredible legacy in his time at the Festival, implementing monumental changes that have made theatre more accessible to students and teachers. During this time, he solidified summer programs and dramatically amplified the Shakespeare Competition which grew from 45 to over 120 schools. 

Bahr collaboratively created Bard’s Birthday Bash, Playmakers, the Wooden O Symposium, and Shakespeare-in-the-Schools—which consists of an annual touring production for over 20,000 students across the Intermountain West.

“The play—that is central to everything we do. I hope to have left a legacy of access and engagement to plays,” Bahr said. “My legacy is the acknowledgment of the power of the dream and the power in the play to cultivate civil discourse and education.”

© Utah Shakespeare Festival 2023 www.bard.org