Utah Economic Outlook: Shakespeare’s Southern Utah Legacy

Although William Shakespeare’s writing dates back 400 years, a number of communities around the United States carry on his legacy at regional Shakespeare Festivals. In 1962, Southern Utah University performed three plays—The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and The Merchant of Venice—and gave birth to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival began with a budget of under $1,000 and an audience of 3,276 visitors. It now has a budget of over $7 million and draws an audience that exceeds 100,000 each year. Over 50 percent of the audience is from Utah, but large percentages of attendees also hail from Nevada, Arizona, and California, among other states.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival was initiated, in part, to bring increased economic activity to the Cedar City area. According to a 2012 study, it has grown to create an annual economic impact of approximately $35 million on Cedar City and the surrounding area. Despite grand-scale economic benefits, the flocks of returning patrons are evidence that the festival also has a more personal impact. Via the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Southern Utah University has shared Shakespeare plays with hundreds of students each year, helping to instill a lifetime appreciation for theater.