The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently announced the largest gift in the theatre company’s history. The Engelstad Family Foundation of Las Vegas contributed $5 million to the building of a new state-of-the-art Shakespeare theatre, moving the capital fundraising project significantly closer toward a groundbreaking in Cedar City by the end of 2013.
Several years ago the Festival’s Board of Governors determined that the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre, an outdoor replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, no longer provided the proper ambiance and access for patrons and artists and began an earnest campaign to raise money to replace the beloved building. This gift from the Engelstad family is a significant step toward building a new theatre with more modernized facilities and accommodations for the Festival’s more than 125,000 patrons and 390 artists, which visit and work in the facility annually.
With fundraising nearly complete, the Festival, in cooperation with its host institution, Southern Utah University, hopes to break ground on this state-of-the-art theatre within the next year.
According to the Festival’s Executive Director, R. Scott Phillips, "A gift of this magnitude is so important to our regional theatre as fundraising moves forward. It demonstrates tremendous faith in the Utah Shakespeare Festival by this respected Nevada foundation.”
Moving ever closer toward their ultimate goal, according to Phillips, “The Festival hopes that our valued supporters will help us match this generous gift awarded by the Engelstad Family Foundation. We are forever grateful to the foundation and the enthusiasm it has sparked in helping us to achieve our dream."
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is among the largest and most highly acclaimed regional theatres in the West. The Festival serves a wide geographic patronage from Tucson, Arizona to Sun Valley, Idaho and western Colorado to Southern California. The Festival is the only regional theatre between Denver and Los Angeles to have won a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
Annually, an average of 25,000 guests from southern Nevada attend the Festival. This Nevada connection has been strengthened over the past 18 years through the Festival’s education programs, which now annually serve more than 9,000 high school, middle school and elementary school students from Las Vegas to Pahrump and Eureka to Logandale.
Indeed, the Festival is much more than just plays. A wide variety of educational activities surrounding the productions make the Festival a truly unique entertainment and educational experience for adults and youth alike.
According to Phillips, “Educational outreach and cultivating the next generation of theatre-goers is of utmost importance to the Festival.”
This gift, and the subsequent new theatre, will help the Festival significantly expand its educational programs to serve even more students in Nevada and across the Intermountain West. These programs currently reach over 9,000 Nevada students through the Festival’s Shakespeare-in-the-Schools Tour program, with about 18,000 more seeing the tour in other western states. The tour brings a troupe of professional actors performing Shakespeare’s plays into 230 elementary, middle and high schools in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Another 3,000 middle and high school students attend the Shakespeare Competition in Cedar City each year, 40 percent of whom are from Nevada.
The Engelstad Family Foundation is the realized dream of Ralph Engelstad, former owner of Las Vegas’ Imperial Palace casino and hotel, who created a foundation that would draw upon his family’s considerable assets to support the communities they call home, with education being a driving, founding goal of this foundation.
In the five decades since its inception, the Tony Award- and Emmy Award-winning Festival has established itself as a top theatre company and as a leader of business and cultural opportunities in the region. A recent economic impact study revealed the Festival generates more than $35 million annually in patron spending and tax revenues. The average nonresident audience member spent $106 per event above the cost of their admission for such things as lodging, transportation, restaurants, and souvenirs.
“The entire Southern Utah University community is proud of the Festival and its five decades of enriching the cultural life of our campus,” said President Michael T. Benson. “We are well on our way to ensuring that the Festival's next fifty years will have a facility to match the quality of its productions.”