Utah Shakespeare Festival’s artistic director abruptly steps down

Brian Vaughn had held the job since 2011, but left the job less than a month before the 2022 season starts.

Brian Vaughn, the longtime artistic director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, has stepped down from that post, effective immediately.

The announcement came Wednesday in a terse news release from the festival, which begins its 2022 season on June 20 — less than a month away.

No details were offered about why Vaughn is leaving the Tony-winning regional theater organization based in Cedar City. The release said: “The Festival cannot comment on the specifics of individual personnel matters.”

Vaughn’s involvement with the festival goes back three decades. He has been artistic director since May 2017, and shared the job with David Ivers from 2011 until then. During their time together, Vaughn and Ivers notably extended the festival’s run, adding a fall season to the traditional summer event, and saw the opening of the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre in 2016.

Beyond his work as artistic director, Vaughn also directed plays — last year, he directed the festival’s production of the musical “Ragtime” — and acted in some. In 2006, he played the indecisive title Dane in “Hamlet,” and in 2018 played The Poet, narrating the Trojan War in “An Iliad,” a modern take on Homer’s ancient Greek tale.

In April, the festival announced that Vaughn had been cast to play the murderous barber Sweeney Todd in the production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” No word yet on how the production will continue without Vaughn in the lead.

The festival’s 2022 season is scheduled to kick off on June 20. The plays on this year’s slate are “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Sweeney Todd,” “King Lear,” “The Sound of Music,” “Trouble in Mind,” “Clue,” “The Tempest,” “Thurgood” and “Words Cubed.”

The festival said in Wednesday’s statement that the organizers “remain committed” to the 2022 festival with hopes that it will “enrich, entertain and educate its regional and national audiences.”