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Utah Shakespeare Festival Cancels 2020 Season

Stage Directions • Industry News • May 13, 2020

 The Utah Shakespeare Festival announced today it will cancel its 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Festival announced a revised season on April 13, there are simply too many obstacles to overcome. The safety and health of the Festival’s staff, artists, audiences and community guided this difficult but necessary decision.

“This is a direct result of the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on performing arts,” said Frank Mack, executive producer. “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.” The season had been planned for July 9 through Sept. 5 featuring five shows playing in rotating repertory and a free greenshow.

Among the myriad challenges facing the season, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers, will not be extending contracts to professional theatres until their new safety protocols are written and implemented, a decision the Festival fully supports. The Festival planned to start rehearsals June 15 and requested information from AEA on the availability of contracts last week. On May 8 the Festival received this statement from the director of the Western Region of AEA: “At this time in the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape is continuing to change in scientific knowledge regarding the contagion and avoidance of this disease. And as you are aware, we have very recently contracted Dr. David Michaels to assist our union—and our industry—in the establishment of appropriate safety protocols for actors, stage managers, and others in live theatre.”

The Festival explored numerous options to safely produce the season including quarantining, testing, and health monitoring for the seasonal staff and substantially limiting costuming and scenery, as well as measures for the audience such as seating six feet apart and extensive sanitizing.

Southern Utah University President Scott L Wyatt said, “We did everything in our power to keep the Festival open this summer. We know this news is difficult for the many individuals and small businesses in Cedar City who add so much to the Festival experience. They are our most important partners and we look forward to next summer when the streets, restaurants, shops and hotels of Cedar City are full of theatre-goers once again.”

Jeff Larsen, chairman of the Festival Board of Governors, said, “The management team and the amazing staff at the Festival have gone above and beyond all expectations to try and keep the 2020 season alive and bring professional live theater to Utah this summer, and the Board of Governors extends its appreciation for their efforts.”

Brian Vaughn, artistic director of the Festival, said “We look forward to safely gathering in 2021 for the Festival’s 60th anniversary season when we can join in unity to celebrate the history of magnificent artistry for which the Festival is known.”

The Festival is looking forward to staying in touch with its audiences through a variety of virtual programming which will be announced soon. Please stay tuned and follow the Festival online.

“There will be better days ahead, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival will once again be a source of joy, imagination and insights into the human condition. I’m heartbroken we can’t do that this season, but am enthused by the prospect of our 60th anniversary next year,” Mack said.

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