Utah Shakespeare Festival sees another top official resign

Frank Mack worked with the organization for five years.

(Utah Shakespeare Festival) Executive Producer Frank Mack worked with the festival for five years.

The executive producer of the Utah Shakespeare Festival announced his resignation Monday, the second top official to leave the organization this year.

Frank Mack has been the festival’s executive producer for five years. His resignation comes months after the abrupt departure of longtime artistic director Brian Vaughn, who left that position — and the lead role in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” — a month before this summer’s season began.

The festival said Monday in a news release that it and Southern Utah University “are making plans for an interim executive producer” to join interim artistic director Derek Charles Livingston, who was named in June. Education and scenery director positions also are open; longtime education director Michael Bahr left this summer to become a charter school principal after 23 years.

The Tony-winning regional theater organization, based in Cedar City, plans a national search for a new executive producer, it said. For now, Mack will stay on until the end of the festival’s season.

After that, Mack said, he will pursue unspecified new opportunities. In an interview, Mack said his resignation is a nod toward the festival’s need for a new phase of leadership, which can tackle “the next challenges that face the organization.”

Those challenges, he added, are “for the current staff, Board of Governors, and leadership of Southern Utah University to identify.”

Mack said his resignation isn’t tied to Vaughn’s, and fans shouldn’t be worried that the festival is falling apart. In fact, he said, the festival is in “extremely good shape.”

In its news release, the nonprofit said Mack grew the festival’s budget from $6.5 million in 2018 to $9.5 million in 2022. It also said the festival’s income has increased 188% over a four-year period.

The festival has received federal and state pandemic funds, along with financial support from Iron County and Cedar City. Mack said a lot of the financial recovery he steered had “nothing to do with COVID-19,” but came from “restoring our reserves to be back on solid financial footing.”

One of the festival’s challenges, moving forward, may be its work on EDIA issues: equity, diversity, inclusion and access. In his resignation letter, Mack noted there had been “some criticism of our diversity and equity choices” in 2021, without elaborating. In 2018, the festival faced a lawsuit from the Utah School of the Deaf and the Blind over accessibility issues; the case was later dismissed.

“I think every professional theater company in the United States is looking very carefully at equity, diversity, inclusion and access programs and initiatives,” Mack said. “I’m very proud of what the festival has accomplished with respect to [that].”

He noted the festival’s statement on EDIA, a land acknowledgment, forming a EDIA committee, and increased diversity on the board and in leadership and staff positions. Four out of 25 currently listed board members are people of color, according to the festival’s website. Mack’s favorite aspect, he said, was including youth performers from the Paiute Tribe in the festival’s “The Greenshow.”

“It’s fair to say that the commitment to EDIA at the festival is a deep commitment,” he said.

In the news release sent from the organization, Mack said it’s been a “privilege” to serve in his role.

What makes the festival special is different for each person, he told The Tribune. “For a lot of folks, it’s a tradition, coming here. Ten, 20, 30 ... even 60 years,” he explained.

Coming down to Cedar City, spending the day seeing plays and interacting with different aspects of the festival, he said, “for me, it’s tied to that. It’s the immersion experience.”