Utah Shakespeare Festival Vital to Utah’s Economy

"We know who we are, but know not what we may be." – Hamlet, Act 4 Scene 5.

In 2016, the Utah Shakespeare Festival will continue to define what it may be via new Festival facilities. Festival audiences will enjoy the Bard’s rich wisdom and wit from within the new, state-of-the-art Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, which is part of the $38 million Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts currently being constructed at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.

Construction began last August and is expected to be finished in March 2016. In addition to the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, the project includes the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, the Festival's Artistic and Production Facility, Festival administrative offices and the Southern Utah Museum of Art. Big D Construction is the general contractor.

Media and Public Relations Manager Nikki Koontz says the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre will have the same intimate actor/audience relationship and feeling that patrons have come to love in the renowned, open-air Adams Theatre, but with updated amenities and modern accessibilities. Meanwhile, the new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre will be an intimate theatre with seating for approximately 200 people and will offer a third, flexible option for Festival programming and the production of smaller plays to complement the offerings in the Festival's other two theatres. It will also be the home of the Festival's New American Playwrights Project.

She says the new Artistic and Production Facility will include rehearsal space, a costume shop and administration offices, while the Southern Utah Museum of Art will be the first accredited museum in the nation to be staffed and operated by graduate students. The museum will be the permanent home to the artwork of the late Cedar City artist, Jim Jones and will also feature four galleries, visible storage and classroom spaces.

Unfortunately, the building design and budget did not allow a retractable hard roof over the new Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre as planned. She also notes that construction will not inhibit the 2015 programming of eight shows and a free nightly Greenshow, as well the seminars, orientations and backstage tours that are offered as part of the Festival experience.

The Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival has grown to become one of the oldest and largest Shakespeare Festivals in North America, while the Adams Shakespearean Theatre has stood as the Festival icon. It is hailed as one of the world's most faithful recreations of an Elizabethan theatre and revered as the center of much of the cultural and economic life of the southern Utah region.

According to a 2012 economic impact study of the Utah Shakespeare Festival by Dr. Kelly Matthews and Neil Abercrombie, the Festival generates more than $35 million in annual economic impact for the region. In 2010, the direct economic impact totaled $16.9 million, while the indirect economic impact was $18.6 million. A large portion of the economic impact comes from nonresident spending.

To be sure, the Festival is a vital part of the regional economy and indispensable to the State of Utah. It has put the state on the map of the acclaimed Shakespeare festivals and adds significantly to Utah's cultural attractions, enhancing the quality of life and adding to the sophistication that can be found here. As the Matthews/Abercrombie study notes, the Festival also enhances Utah's strong tourism industry.

The new theatre is central to Southern Utah University's goal of contributing to the region's economic vitality while providing the best possible theatre experience for patrons and creating educational opportunities for artists, guests, students, scholars and educators.

Koontz says the improved facilities will allow the educational component of the Festival to reach even greater audiences. "With this new home for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, new generations of theatregoers will enjoy greater opportunities for edification and growth, and our society will benefit from a better-educated and more well-rounded citizenry. This is a return with innumerable benefits for our future," she adds.

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation provided the lead gift of $6 million for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, while the Englestad Family Foundation donated $5 million for the Englestad Shakespeare Theatre. Other major gifts were given from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Rocki Alice, the Ashton Family Foundation, Garth and Jerri Frehner, the Simmons Family Foundation, O.C. Tanner Company, Austin and Magda Jones, the estate of Jim Jones, the State of Utah, Iron County and Cedar City Corporation.