Utah Shakespeare Festival signs partnership with London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

(Karl Hugh | courtesy Utah Shakespeare Festival) Quinn Mattfeld, left, plays Hamlet and Jacqueline Antaramian plays Gertrude in Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2019 production of "Hamlet." The festival has signed a five-year partnership with London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which will bring students and graduates of the prestigious academy to perform in Cedar City.

More of the English accents at the Utah Shakespeare Festival will be authentically English, thanks to a new partnership between the Cedar City-based organization and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

The five-year partnership between the festival and RADA, announced Thursday by both groups, officially began at the first of the year and runs through Dec. 31, 2024.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for the festival, as far as the international reputation, and to also share in the dynamic artistic talents of those that are coming out of RADA,” said Brian Vaughn, the festival’s artistic director.

Under the deal, the festival commits to hire at least one RADA student or graduate for its acting company each year. Also, RADA will bring a touring production by its second-year students to Cedar City’s 200-seat Anes Theatre for a one-week run each July — the first time these touring productions will be staged in the United States.

Vaughn said it’s not confirmed who from RADA will be cast in the festival’s company — or which play the touring student production will perform.

The partnership also includes educational and artistic exchanges, with RADA faculty and staff coming to Utah and the festival’s faculty and staff teaching in London.

Partnering with RADA has been in the works for about 18 months, after conversations with an anonymous supporter of the festival, Vaughn said.

Frank Mack, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, said in a statement that the partnership is “an extraordinary opportunity for two organizations to combine their strengths in different aspects of classical theater performance.”

Edward Kemp, RADA’s director, said in a statement that he is “delighted about RADA’s collaboration with Utah Shakespeare Festival and the opportunity it presents for our students to enrich their learning.”

RADA, founded in 1904, is an industry-founded academy for young actors. Its famous alumni include such stars as Charles Laughton, Vivien Leigh, John Gielgud, Alan Rickman, Roger Moore, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, David Harewood, Tom Hiddleston, Cynthia Erivo, Taron Egerton, Jessie Buckley, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the academy’s current president, Kenneth Branagh.

The idea of having a RADA graduate who might someday be as famous as those alumni “would be remarkable and wonderful. That’s part of the thrill of the entire endeavor,” Vaughn said.

(He noted that Utah Shakespeare Festival often gets not-yet-famous actors in its company; a few seasons back, Ty Burrell — now one of TV’s most famous dads, on “Modern Family” — was trodding the boards in Cedar City.)

The Tony-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival will stage its 2020 season from June 1 to Oct. 10. This year, the festival will present productions of William Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline,” “Pericles,” “Richard III” and “The Comedy of Errors,” along with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” Richard Bean’s comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors,” George Brant’s comedy “Into the Breeches!,” Peter Kellogg’s musical “Desperate Measures” and Mike Reiss’ satire “Shakespeare’s Worst!”