Hopes for a summer of music and drama in Utah were dashed Tuesday, as several cultural festivals — the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Deer Valley Concert series, the Salt Lake Greek Festival and more — announced they would cancel their 2020 seasons because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Cedar City, organizers of the Utah Shakespeare Festival — which three weeks earlier had announced optimistic plans for a shortened season starting July 9 — said even that was not to be this year.
“This is a direct result of the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on performing arts,” Frank Mack, the festival’s executive producer, said in a statement issued Tuesday. “When we announced our revised season, we indicated that we would cancel our season if we had to, and sadly it has come to that.”
In Salt Lake City, the Greek Orthodox Church of Salt Lake City said it would cancel the Greek Festival, one of the state’s longest-running and most popular cultural events, set for early September.
“We regret that we will not be able to welcome the community to our church this fall to share and experience Greek culture and food with our friends and neighbors,” Mary Royal, the parish administrator, wrote in an email.
The Greek Festival would have marked the 45th year of the three-day event, which celebrates Greek culture with food, folk dancing and tours of the Holy Trinity Cathedral at 279 S. 300 West. Members of the parish — which also includes Prophet Elias in Holladay — work all summer preparing food and pastries for the event, typically held the weekend after Labor Day.
In Park City, the Deer Valley ski resort announced that its Snow Park Amphitheater would not be holding concerts this summer. That announcement affected three concert series: The Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival, the Deer Valley Concert series and the homegrown Mountain Town Music shows on Wednesday nights.
“Although it was a difficult decision to not offer any of the highly anticipated annual concerts, we all agree that pausing these events this year is in the best interest of the health and safety of our community, our guests and our staff members,” Todd Shallan, president and COO of Deer Valley, said in a statement.
“Our first priority is the health and safety of our musicians, staff and the public,” Patricia A. Richards, interim president/CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, said in a statement.
The Utah Symphony was scheduled to play as back-up band at Deer Valley to The Beach Boys, Ben Folds, Kool & the Gang, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Little River Band. The festival’s lineup also included chamber-music performances at St. Mary’s Church in Park City, and small ensembles of symphony musicians in Main Street art galleries.
The State Room Presents, the agency that programs the Deer Valley Concert series, had not announced any acts for 2020. In the series’ first two seasons, such acts as Jason Mraz, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have headlined.
“We truly believe that taking the year off to protect our community is the right thing to do, and we will be back with more mountainside celebrations in the future,” said Chris Mautz, co-owner of The State Room Presents.
Organizers of Mountain Town Music say they will schedule small, intimate concerts around Park City over the summer.
“We’re rolling out our Door to Door Tour 2020, where we can bring the music to your street, driveway, backyard or wherever your small groups are planning to responsibly gather,” said Brian Richards, the series’ executive director.
The Great Salt Lake Fringe, a summer extravaganza of offbeat theater performances, will also take the summer off from in-person entertainment. Instead, organizers are telling fans to keep the festival’s dates, July 30 to August 9, open as they “intend to create something in the spirit of Fringe for our community to share in,” said co-director Shianne Gray.
Also Tuesday, Craft Lake City announced that its 12th annual do-it-yourself festival, which had been set for August 7-9 at the Utah State Fairpark, will instead be a virtual event held online.
“All local makers, DIY engineers and performers will still have the opportunity to participate in the annual event, as it is redesigned in a virtual format,” Jacqueline Whitmore, a Craft Lake City advisory board member and owner of Copperhive Vintage, said in a statement.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival was originally set to begin on June 1, a date that was pushed back to June 10 when the scope of the coronavirus pandemic was first being realized. In mid-April, organizers announced a plan for a stripped-down festival to launch on July 9 with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” in the indoor Randall L. Jones Theatre, followed by outdoor productions of “Richard III,” “Pericles” and “The Comedy of Errors” opening between July 20 and 22.
One reason for the cancellation, according to the Shakespeare festival’s announcement, is that Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, will not extend contracts to professional theaters until new safety protocols are written and implemented. The festival had planned to start rehearsals on June 15, but could not finalize contracts with Actors’ Equity in time.
The box office in Cedar City will contact ticket buyers to offer full refunds. Ticket holders can, if they choose, roll their tickets over to the 2021 season — the festival’s 60th anniversary — or donate the value of their tickets to the festival.
The Utah Symphony labels the cancellation of the Deer Valley Music Festival a “postponement” of shows until summer 2021, and says it is working to reschedule shows for then. Ticket buyers can opt to hold on to their tickets for next year, donate the value of their tickets to the symphony, or receive gift certificates for future concerts.
The events canceled Tuesday join a long list of Utah cultural events that won’t be happening as usual this summer. Other events previously canceled for 2020 include the Utah Arts Festival in June, the Stadium of Fire concert in Provo on July 4th (though the fireworks will go on), the Days of ’47 parade and rodeo and the Park City Institute’s summer concert series.