Following more than a decade of dreaming, drawing and fundraising, officials of the Tony-award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, housed on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, have announced plans to begin construction of a new $26-million theater.
The new facility will follow the Elizabethan-era design cues of the festival’s current Adams Theater, which has staged classic productions since 1971. The Adams Theater itself is patterned after the Globe Theater in England, where many of the Bard’s works were performed during his lifetime.
Architect Bob Eaton, president of Salt Lake City-based Eaton Architecture, has been involved with the programming and design of the new facility since efforts to replace the Adams began in the early 1990s.
Eaton says the owners and operators of the festival wanted to keep much of the same look and feel of the old theater as well as maintain a similar performance space.
“The old theater was really well done as far as the relationships between the stage and the audience,” says Eaton. “In fact, much of the design was so well done we’ve had people festivals around the world come to see it and copy it.”
The Adams has the authentic feel of an Elizabethan theater, down to the open-air seating and stage, a detail that will be modified in the new theater.
“The new building will have a retractable roof so we can close it in case of bad weather,” says Eaton. “It will allow plays to go on regardless of the weather during the summer and let the festival operators extend the season (which usually runs through the middle of summer) into fall.”
In addition to the retractable roof, the new theater will have many of the facilities lacking in the current location, such as restrooms, modern dressing rooms, costume storage and a ticket office, among other things.
Eaton says the building will have an outer, fully enclosed atrium space for ticket sales, a gift shop and food concessions.
The festival’s executive director, R. Scott Phillips, says the new building will be ADA accessible and an extended season will bring more patrons.
The new theater will be located about a block-and-a-half east of the current theater site, moving it closer to Cedar City’s downtown and further from the main SUU campus.
“Moving it will create fewer conflicts with campus operations,” says Phillips. “It wasn’t a problem when the festival began because there were very few students in summer-school programs. But now, there are several hundred students on campus during the summer, and it can get crowded around the theater grounds.”
Phillips says festival organizers have raised $18 million so far and expect to have the rest of the funds secured in time to break ground in early 2013.
Salt Lake City-based Big-D Construction has been selected as the contractor for the project, but Eaton says a delivery method for the project has not yet been selected.