CEDAR CITY – It turns out that Utah’s last surviving major theatrical attraction didn’t survive after all.
The managers of the Utah Shakespeare Festival announced May 12 that their 2020 theater season has been cancelled.
“This is a direct result of the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on performing arts,” said Frank Mack, the festival’s executive producer. “When we announced our revised season (in April), we indicated that we would cancel the festival if we had to. Sadly, it has come to that.”
The USF is a nationally recognized, multi-million dollar cultural event based on the campus of Southern Utah University. The festival’s annual impact on Utah’s economy is estimated at $35 million through job creation, tax revenue generation and promotion of tourism.
Since mid-March, the festival’s organizers and SUU officials have been steadfastly insisting that their shows would go on despite the coronavirus outbreak. Their modified plans for the festival would have included a limited number of productions, fewer performances, health monitoring of festival staff and performers, reduced costuming and scenery efforts and limitations on ticket sales to facilitate social distancing for audience members.
But stalled contract negotiations finally became an obstacle that could not be overcome, when the Actors Equity Association (the labor union of professional actors and stage managers) could not develop national safety protocols for its own members to follow in the midst of the current pandemic.
“We are now looking forward to safely gathering in 2021 for the festival’s 60th anniversary season,” explains Brian Vaughn, the USF artistic director.
Mack added that the festival plans to stay in touch with its loyal audience through a variety of virtual events that will be announced in coming weeks.