Utah Shakespeare Festival Pushes Toward Next 50 Years

Published: November 07, 2012 | Read Time: 4 minutes

The Utah Shakespeare Festival just finished its largest and most successful season to date for the summer and fall of 2012. The unofficial tagline of this season was, “the only thing bigger than 50 is 51” and the cast, crew, directors, designers, and management certainly lived up to the challenge. Ben Fulton from the Salt Lake Tribune said it best, “No relaxing. No easy breaks. Just more innovative programming, risk-taking and tight scheduling that will carry William Shakespeare's torch into more rigorous years for the Tony Award-winning theater company.”

At the close of the 51st season on October 27, box office reports showed an attendance of over 141,000 guests. According to Marketing Director Kami Terry Paul, “attendance was up 17% from 2011 and exceeds all Festival attendance records for its 51-year history.” 256 performances were presented in the Festival’s three theatres over 19 weeks of performance.

Nearly 87% of guests drive over 80 miles to reach the theatre in Cedar City. “There is no doubt that audiences were very enthusiastic about the great lineup of plays presented this year and this certainly had a significant impact on tourism economy,” said Maria Twitchell, executive director of the Cedar City~Brian Head Tourism and Convention Bureau. “To date, our Transient Room Tax revenues are up 14% over last year; Restaurant Tax is up 4.5 % and hotel occupancies increased by 3% for the months of August and September. I believe we can attribute most of these increases to the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The overall feeling in the community is that 2012 was one of the best seasons ever!”

"Guests come for the Festival and eat at our restaurants, buy gasoline and stay in our hotels, with an impact on the local economy of more than $35 million annually,” said Scott Jolley, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. “It also raises awareness and increases the profile within the state, the country and beyond." 

Continuing to push the envelope for the 51st season, the Festival opened six productions and three Greenshows over the course of three days. The decision to change the calendar to this one-of-a-kind schedule was to make it easier on visiting guests and reviewers to see the Festival's entire summer lineup in a timely fashion.

Festival Executive Director, R. Scott Phillips said, "The quality of the productions presented by the Festival organization continue to improve.  Good theatre should always engage audiences to think and leave with a renewed since of their place in the universe.  I believe the eight productions that were staged this season provided our audiences that opportunity.  Theatre should entertain, enrich and educate."

The popularity and blockbuster success of Les Misérables attracted many first-time visitors who were eager to experience the other shows and Festival offerings. This incredible show boosted attendance at all six summer shows and raised ticket sales to all three fall shows to record levels. “Utah Shakespeare is more than ready to take its place as one of the best regional theatres in America and champion of Shakespeare in production worldwide”, said Jim Volz, editor of the Shakespeare Theatre Association’s quarto.

Guests were able to experience more at the Festival by attending the free outdoor Greenshows, the New American Playwrights Project, Bardway Baby, production and literary seminars, orientations before every show, backstage tours, educational classes, and Repertory Magic.

Another reflection of excellence is the recent Emmy awarded to BYU Broadcasting for the best Special Event Coverage Live or Edited with their live broadcast of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “As both companies continue to grow and as technology evolves, I think you will see many more exciting things to come from both organizations. We hope we can build upon this collaboration for future projects between television and live theatre,” said Phillips.

Other season highlights include the many community outreach programs that the Festival participated in. These include Military Appreciation Night, Free Night of Theatre, the Iron County Care and Share Fall Food Drive and Relay for Life.

"The Festival organization has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the community during our remarkable 51st season,” said Phillips. “From the moment the season was announced in the summer of 2011 through the closing night on October 27, our community has attended and responded to the incredible performances presented by a strong artistic and performing company assembled by co-artistic directors, David Ivers, and Brian Vaughn.  Both David and Brian had a strong vision for the productions that they wanted to present to our guests in 2012 and they made that vision a reality.  We have big shoes to fill in the coming seasons, but are excited by the challenge."

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is located on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Tickets for the Festival’s 52nd season in 2013 are now available by calling 1-800-PLAYTIX or by visiting the Festival website at bard.org.

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