Two southern Utah projects could have a far-reaching impact on tourism in the region during the next few years. One has been in the planning stages for the past three decades, and the other is on the fast track to being completed later this year despite some environmental slowdowns.
The first is the long-anticipated Utah Shakespearean Festival Center for the Performing Arts in Cedar City, and the other is the 80-acre Tuacahn Center for the Arts and Amphitheatre, now taking shape in spectacular Padre Canyon west of St. George.Both projects have their roots in the visions and dreams of two enthusiastic and creative artists - USF founder and Executive Producer Fred C. Adams and founder and Executive Director Doug Stewart of the Heritage Arts Foundation, the St. George-based organization that is constructing and operating the year-round Tuacahn Center for the Arts, a performing arts school and 1,800-seat amphitheater where an annual outdoor musical called "Utah!" is scheduled to premiere next summer.
While the planning and construction processes for both of these projects have differed greatly - slowly, one phase at a time for the Shakespearean Festival compared to barely two years from unveiling to near completion for Tuacahn - the end result is the same: clean, nonpolluting industries that are geared to drawing millions of tourist dollars into southern Utah over the next few years.
Both Adams and Stewart have done their homework.
The cornerstone of Stewart's Tuacahn complex is the huge, spectacularly situated amphitheater. Stewart spent months hiking throughout the southwest corner of the state, looking for the perfect site for an amphitheater and performing arts complex.
One site he literally stumbled onto was Padre Canyon, not far from the entrance to Snow Canyon about 10 miles northwest of St. George. The three-sided box canyon had a near-perfect slope for an amphitheater, with an awesome gorge to provide the natural backdrop for what he envisioned as a dramatic musical about how the region was settled.
He had visited a number of outdoor historical dramas across the country, and the figures he compiled look impressive. Nationwide, such dramas are not taken lightly. The Institute of Outdoor Drama, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., publishes an annual directory of more than 90 outdoor historical dramas produced in 32 states. These range from three dozen Shakespeare festivals to six religious dramas (the Hill Cummorah Pageant and the Mormon Miracle Pageant are among them).
One of the biggest outdoor dramas on Stewart's list of 10 typical such events is "The Shepherd of the Hills," which drew 155,386 paid admissions in 1990 with a total financial impact of slightly more than $38.9 million. This particular drama has a built-in tourist base. It's located in Branson, Mo., which has become one of the hottest tourist towns in the country.
The drama that most closely resembles what Stewart envisions for Tuacahn is "Texas!" - which annually brings some $25.7 million into the Texas panhandle community of Canyon, just south of Amarillo. Its setting in Palo Duro Canyon is not unlike that of Tuacahn - a Native American phrase that means "canyon of the gods."
Stewart and his creative team - artistic director Jerry Argetsinger, associate artistic director David Grapes, playwright Robert Paxton and composer Kurt Bestor - are developing a production that will make full use of the unique Padre Canyon setting.
In addition to the year-round performing arts school, which will include two indoor theaters (320 and 150 seats), recording and teaching studios and facilities for 1,200 students involved in dance, music and drama, there will be complete support facilities for the amphitheater as well - an outdoor plaza for nightly chuckwagon cook-outs, gift shop, box office and administrative offices.
The large parking area, with ample space for both tour buses and family cars, will be landscaped with trees and fountains. The 80-acre site will also include a system of hiking/walking trails where visitors will be able to learn more about the area's geography.
Deloy Haws, capital campaign director for the Tuacahn project, said Thursday that construction is about 70 percent completed. The Utah state fire marshal will visit the site this weekend, after which walls and ceilings where sprinkling systems are located can be finished.
Despite the loss of about two to three weeks of time due to recent environmental concerns (after two desert tortoises were killed along a milelong access road into the site), work on the project is back up to speed. Haws pointed out that the environmental issue related only to the access road, not the project site itself.
One "plus" during the recent delay was that electricians were able to get caught up on their part of the work while some of the other subcontractors were away on other projects.
The cement work for the amphitheater is nearly finished, and the seating will be installed in another month. Work is also progressing on the site's two major water features - the river at the rear of the stage and the waterfalls and fountains in the parking area.
Formal opening of the complex is scheduled for April 5-8, with a Utah Symphony performance and other events. The production of "Utah!" will open June 23.
Haws said fund-raising efforts "took a little bit of a hit because of the tortoise thing. Some people were wary of contributing to a project that might not be completed, but nearly $11 million of the project's $18 million has been raised, and we hope to have this accomplished in the next six months."
The fact that southern Utah is home to a one-of-a-kind collection of national parks - colorful and internationally known gorges that lure millions of tourists along the busy I-15 corridor throughout the year - is not lost on either Stewart or Adams.
Much of the Utah Shakespearean Festival's growth, which draws a large percentage of its audience from the Southwest, is due to the fact that it's within a relatively short drive of some of the West's most spectacular scenery.
In the past 33 years, the festival has grown from being presented just two or three weekends on a makeshift, portable stage with folding chairs to one of the top-ranked Shakespearean festivals in North America.
The festival's outdoor stage, according to the British Broadcasting Co., is the most authentic of any Tudor-style theater in the world.
While Tuacahn, with its eight buildings (all designed to blend into the Padre Canyon landscape), will encompass some 80 acres, the plans for the Utah Shakespearean Festival for the Performing Arts will fit nicely into one and two-thirds Cedar City blocks.
The plans have evolved over the past few years.
Jyl L. Shuler, the festival's development director, said the latest preliminary figures for the entire project are $36 million.
"That's the `high end' estimate," Shuler said this week.
The estimated cost for the previously proposed one-block complex was between $20 million and $22 million, so the additional $12 million to $14 million is not out of line.
The architects have indicated that, if everything was in place - including detailed plans and funding - a realistic time frame for breaking ground would be late 1996 or 1997. The designers also have suggested a three-phase construction project. The College Avenue side (the scenery and costumes studios, moving of the Adams Theatre and construction of a heating/cooling facility) is the first and most expensive phase.
Shuler noted that Adams wants the completed complex to have an Old World look - not necessarily Tudor English or one particular style, but capturing the atmosphere of a small village in any English or European country.
Shuler said the festival will be wooing major donors but realizes those kind of contributions won't start coming in until the project itself is off the ground.
For the festival's first 27 years, the USF productions were centered on the campus of Southern Utah State College (now Southern Utah University) - first on the makeshift, temporary stage and later in the acclaimed Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre - not named for Fred Adams but in honor of the parents of Grace Adams Tanner, widow of O.C. Tanner, long one of the festival's major benefactors. In 1989, the first phase of the future Utah Shakespearean Festival Center for the Performing Arts was completed with the debut of the state-of-the-art Randall L. Jones Theatre, which anchors the southwest corner of the complex's site.
Hopefully, by the year 2,000, this entire project will fall into place - including moving of the Adams Theatre (designed to be dismantled and upgraded) to a new location just east of the Jones. The accompanying map shows the theater straddling what is now 200 West.
Just a couple of years ago, an architectural rendering of the proposed USF project showed it taking up one full block. But, according to Shuler, one summer evening several hundred people gathered outside the Jones Theatre for a party - and it was immediately apparent that one city block would not be big enough.
So it was back to the drawing boards and, with approval from Cedar City's leaders, an even larger complex was conceived.
The map on today's cover shows that roughly half of the project falls under the direction of the Utah Shakespearean Festival and the remainder - east to Main Street - would be developed privately, including a variety of retail, dining and lodging facilities. The entire three-block site would be designed around a series of bricked walkways, courtyards, fountains and gardens, giving the area a pleasant, pedestrian-oriented environment.
The Jones Theatre and the transformed Adams (which may be retrofitted with a retractable rain roof) will be connected by a large scene studio. A new costume studio will be situated on the east side of the Adams. These and other buildings on the square - box office, food court, rest rooms and a variety of shops and boutiques - will all have an Old World motif. The northeast corner of the Shakespearean Festival section of the plaza will be the site of an intimate, new experimental theater - a stage where the festival can nurture the works of new playwrights . . . the Shakespeares of tomorrow.
A three-level parking terrace structure is also part of the plans, which should take some of the impact off the community's streets.
MAP: Utah Shakespearean Festival
1. Food court/restrooms
2. Box office
3. Clock tower
4. Experimental theatre
5. 3 level parking structure
6. Randall Jones Theatre
7. Adams Memorial Theatre
8. Costume studio
10. U.S. West
14. Scene studio