The Utah Shakespeare Festival is half a million dollars closer to building its new $26.5 million theater in Cedar City, thanks to an allocation for the amount by Utah lawmakers announced early Friday.
Festival administration first requested $5 million for the new theater, citing a recent study that the festival generates more than $35 million in economic activity annually. The new allocation leaves the festival with $8 million more to raise for its planned new theater.
The festival had received small, one-time funding amounts from the Legislature before, but no amount this large, said R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
"We're grateful, believe me, but did have higher hopes," Phillips said. "We plan on regrouping for next session to argue that this theater will be good value, not just for the festival, but all taxpayers."
Phillips said he's positive the festival will meet its fundraising goals to close the gap. "We've got some private families, and a couple of larger corporations we're looking at in this state, and also outside Utah," he said. "Fundraising any time is difficult. I suspect it will mostly come from the private sector."
A festival news release announcing the allocation thanked Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, both lawmakers from Southern Utah, for their efforts in securing the allocation.
In the meantime, theater construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2013 and slated for completion early in 2015, bringing an estimated 300 construction jobs to Cedar City.
The new theater will add more than 80 seats over the 819 held in its current outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre, built in the style of London's Globe Theatre. Located two blocks east of the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, the new theater on 200 West between Center Street and College Avenue will replicate the design of its current theater.
Unlike the festival's old facility, however, the new theater will offer restrooms on all three floors, large backstage dressing rooms for the cast, plus heating and air conditioning, and a retractable roof that will extend the festival's performing season.
That means the festival's plays can run longer into the fall season, drawing another 30,000 patrons to the company's annual total of 150,000, festival administrators said in a news release last month announcing plans to build the new theater. They estimated that more theater capacity would bring $8 million more in patron spending and tax revenues.
A modern update of the theater has been a longtime goal of Fred C. Adams, who co-founded the festival in 1961 with his wife, Barbara. He took an emeritus title in 2005, stepping down from day-to-day operations to focus on raising $44 million for the new theater and a planned Shakespearean village in downtown Cedar City.
The economic downturn, plus urgency for the new theater, resulted in a scaled-down timeline for those plans, Phillips said. The festival still hopes to eventually build a Shakespearean village as part of a private-public partnership.
'Do you hear the people sing?'
The Utah Shakespeare Festival's 51 season will run June 21 through Oct. 20. Plays include: "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Mary Stuart," "Titus Andronicus," "Scapin," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Les MisÃ©rables," with "Hamlet" and "Stones in His Pockets" to run Sept. 20-Oct. 20. For information or tickets, visit bard.org or call 800-PLAYTIX or 435-586-7878.