CEDAR CITY – On May 4, more than 300 people from all over the world, united by a love of theater will come together in Cedar City to officially launch the 56th season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. This is artistic director David Ivers’ favorite day of the year and a moment he deeply cherishes. It’s also a memory he will carry with him as he begins a new chapter in his life.

Ivers announced Wednesday that he has accepted the artistic director position at another regional theater and will be stepping down from the festival later this month.

“For the sake of the company here, which I love so much and the fact that we’re starting rehearsal, I felt it was better to let everyone know before the season starts,” he said in an interview with the Deseret News.

Ivers has been involved with the festival as actor and director since 1992, taking part in more than 45 productions throughout 20 seasons, according to bard.org. He was hired as co-artistic director along with Brian Vaughn in January 2011. Ivers described his departure from the company as one that is “bittersweet” while he’s grateful for the knowledge, experiences and relationships he’s developed, he’s ready for a change.

“Of course, people know how much I love the festival, but the festival has also prepared me for this next chapter. And I’m really excited personally because I think it’s a really good fit for my family and our young boys…. and I think it’s a really good fit for me.”

Festival founder Fred C. Adams, who has worked closely with Ivers, expressed his appreciation for the director.

“David has been a much-loved talent here at the Utah Shakespeare Festival,” he stated in a news release. “Under his co-leadership with Brian Vaughn, the festival has accomplished remarkable things. Of course, we will miss him and hope to get him back to act or direct festival productions when his schedule allows. We will always consider him a valued member of the festival family.”

Ivers is planning on returning to Cedar City to direct the world premiere production of “How to Fight Loneliness” that opens Aug. 26, according to the release.

When he first stepped into the role of artistic director, one of Ivers’ main goals was for the company to complete the canon of all Shakespeare’s plays. This goal is well on its way to being achieved as about half of Shakespeare’s plays have been performed at the festival, he said.

In addition, Ivers has been able to witness what he called the “astonishing” growth and reach of the festival. He pointed to the festival’s significant recognition in 2000, when it received the Tony Award for outstanding regional theater as an example.

“I think (since that time), the community, the state, and the region that we serve have felt the impact of a destination theater,” he said. “I think the growth in the city mirrors the growth of the festival and the university.... And I think that the work on our stages is still some of the best in the country, and I’m really proud to have been a part of that and I hope to continue to be a part of it.”

Reflecting on his six years as artistic director, Ivers stated that it’s been a position filled with surprises — the good kind.

“I’m always surprised,” he said. “I’m surprised at how much virtuosity these staff members and actors and directors and scenic artists and technicians bring to the work. I’m surprised that people put their lives on hold to come be in Cedar City for three weeks to five months. I’m surprised that every day is kind of like a dream come true, and every day is also a challenge in the arts — to keep it funded and alive. And those things are humbling and exciting.”

Above all, what Ivers has most valued as director is the daily opportunity it has given him to advocate and fight for the arts.

“I care deeply about the theater, about our ability to tell stories,” he said. “To have been a part of that here has been a dream come true.”