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Shakespeare Theater to be built, but not with state money

SHARE Shakespeare Theater to be built, but not with state money

Utah Shakespearean Festival founder Fred Adams had high hopes that the Tony Award-winning festival would receive $5 million in state funding this year, instead of having to bond for the new theater and pay their debts from future donations and ticket sales.

The money would have supplemented private donations that are pledged for the construction of the $32 million theater.

"At the last minute, the $5 million was stripped from us," Adams said on Monday. "We're not going to get a dime of state money."

In lieu of state funding, the legislature approved a $5 million revenue bond to be issued through Southern Utah University and paid back by Shakespeare Festival ticket sales. While the approval to bond will be helpful in the future, Adams said he is disheartened that state legislators declined to support the festival with public funds.

"This looked like the perfect year for us," Adams said. "There was a legislative surplus and SUU was supporting us."

The Shakespeare Festival's outdoor wood theater structure, built in 1981, has deteriorated to the point that it must be replaced within the next few years, Adams said. A new theater, complete with a retractable roof and rehearsal halls, would allow the festival to produce shows year round.

Architectural plans for the theater are completed and were paid for through private funds, Adams said. An Elizabethan-themed village with shops and condos is also planned near the new theater on 7.5 acres to the east of the Randall Jones Theater. The current Adams Memorial Theater would eventually be torn down and the land returned to the university for campus use.

"We're in their way and very honestly, they're in our way," Adams said of SUU students and the current theatre site on campus. "We've got $18 million pledged at the moment and another $6 million in potential pledges. We've got Cedar City and Iron County supporting us, but not the state. I'm a mighty discouraged person right now."

Before starting his lobbying effort for the new theater, Adams said he knew it would be an uphill fight.

"Our biggest challenge is that we're so far away it's easy to forget us," he said. "We bring close to $50 million in economic impact to the state, with $40 million of that in new uncirculated dollars. I don't think northern Utah's art venues can say that."

The festival's 50th anniversary is in 2011 and Adams wants a new theater in place by then.

"The land is paid for and the architectural work is done. We have millions pledged and I don't want to go into debt," he said. "The building we have right now is deteriorating and we can only stretch that out for a couple more years. With a new building, we can lengthen the presentation period and double the economic impact to the state. How do you criticize a time-tested product like Shakespeare?"

More information about the Utah Shakespearean Festival and the proposed Center for the Performing Arts can be found on-line at bard.org

E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com