Utah Shakespeare Festival names interim artistic director

Derek Charles Livingston, a director and actor, has worked with the festival since March 2021.

With only four days before the 2022 Utah Shakespeare Festival begins, the Cedar City-based arts group has named a new interim artistic director, after the abrupt departure of longtime artistic director Brian Vaughn.

Derek Charles Livingston, who has worked for USF since March 2021, will take on the interim role, the festival announced Thursday. Livingston was first hired as a director of new play development and an artistic associate, according to the festival’s announcement.

Livingston will fill the role while the festival conducts a nationwide search for a permanent artistic director, the festival said.

“It was never in my imaginings when I applied to work here, nor when I was hired, nor even a month ago, that I would be asked to step up and serve the Utah Shakespeare Festival as its interim artistic director,” Livingston said in a statement. “But having been asked, I accept it with humility and honor.”

Before Livingston joined the festival, he was a director, producer and new play developer. He worked at the Los Angeles Celebration Theatre as the managing artistic director, and produced or co-produced more than 40 shows at the San Diego Diversionary Theatre.

Livingston will also perform in the festival’s production of “Thurgood,” a one-man play that tells the story of the lawyer, civil rights activist and first African American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the release, Livingston also commended USF’s staff and organization.

“Any success that happens during this interim tenure will be because of our great staff, so many of whom have given decades — literally decades — to serving this organization and producing great theatre here,” Livingston said. “I would not agree to serve if I didn’t have utter confidence and faith in them and in their abilities, and I cannot serve without their support, guidance, feedback and critical observations.”

Vaughn had held the job since May 2017, and before that shared the job with David Ivers since 2011. He stepped down on May 25, and the festival gave no explanation why, citing “individual personnel matters.”

Vaughn also had been cast in the title role of USF’s production of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” The festival announced last week that J. Michael Bailey, a Utah-based actor who played Jean Valjean in USF’s 2012 production of “Les Misérables,” has been picked to portray the murderous barber this summer.

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

More information on this year’s USF season can be found on their website, bard.org.