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Shakespeare actors take to stage, while construction begins on new arts center

CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival Fall season is in full swing, and so is construction of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts.

As William Shakespeare's words resound on stage at the Randall Jones Theatre in Cedar City, outside bulldozers are tearing down buildings and making way for the new open-air playhouse, coming soon to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

“It is kind of awe-inspiring. I know a lot of our staff has been out here sort of with jaws dropped as buildings have come down,” said Davis Ivers, artistic director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. “There has been a little sadness at some buildings and great happiness at other buildings coming down.”

Nine buildings, including administration offices, hair, makeup and costume shops and an apartment complex, were demolished to clear space.

“I have watched the demolition of buildings that we used, and used with great joy for years, and to see them come down, and then to realize what they are coming down for is something even more exciting and challenging for us,” said Fred C. Adams, founder of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

The $38.5 million Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts stretches over 8 acres, which will bring the festival a block and a half closer to Cedar City's Main Street.

"It's going to be an exciting new change for us,” said R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. “And I know people are concerned, but I guarantee you, we are working very carefully to make sure we keep the same kind of festival experience alive.”

The project will include an 890-seat theater, a youth education and rehearsal space, elevator and ADA access, dressing rooms and backstage space for artist.

The project also includes two new Utah Shakespeare Festival theaters, an artistic and production facility, and the Southern Utah Museum of Art.

The new Engelstad Theatre will replace the aging outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre.

“I’m constantly asked the question: Why are we taking the Adams down? Why did the lovely memorial Adams Theatre have to be removed?” Adams said. “It was right from the beginning, it was a temporary building in the sense it was all wood and bolted and put together in a manner that could be unbolted and removed.”

The new center will mean many things to many people, but to the founder of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, it’s a dream realized.

"I think it's going to serve a whole lot of people, not just the actor and festival family, but I think it is going to serve, in a genuine and generous way, patrons for generations to come,” Adams said.

The current season ends Oct. 18. Festival administrators say they will open the 2016 season with a flourish and that new theater.