SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival just got a little more British.
The Cedar City-based organization recently announced a five-year partnership with London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) — a prestigious school that has produced actors like Anthony Hopkins, Alan Rickman, Cynthia Erivo and Kenneth Branagh.
Getting that caliber of talent in Utah is “part of the thrill of the partnership,” said Brian Vaughn, the festival’s artistic director.
“One never knows who’s going to really hit and become the next knight,” Vaughn said with a laugh. “We hire actors from some really incredible training programs here in the U.S. To add students or recent grads from RADA just helps the level of talent that we’re bringing onto the stage.”
Throughout the partnership, which is effective immediately, the Utah Shakespeare Festival will go to London each year to conduct auditions with RADA students. The festival has committed to hire at least one RADA student or graduate in its acting company for each year of the partnership, which extends through Dec. 31, 2024.
The festival will announce in the next couple of weeks who from RADA will be cast in the upcoming season, which runs June 1-Oct. 10.
As part of the partnership, for one week in July, the second-year students at RADA will bring their annual touring Shakespeare production to Cedar City — the first time their production will be presented in the United States.
Additionally, RADA faculty and staff, and the festival’s staff, will exchange training workshops with students in both Utah and London.
Partnering with RADA has been in the works for 18 months, following conversations with an anonymous supporter of the festival, said Frank Mack, the festival’s executive producer.
Mack said he hopes the partnership will draw more people to the Tony-winning festival that each year brings more than 100,000 people to Cedar City.
“I think it’s appealing and exciting for lots of our audience to know that we’re working with the Royal Academy and we’ve got one of their grads in the cast of our main season show,” Mack said. ‘But it’s also sort of an internal thing for the two organizations to work together to make new discoveries about classical theater and Shakespeare production, and Shakespeare and classical theater education.”
The big announcement comes about a month after festival founder Fred Adams’ death. The partnership exemplifies Adams, who in the 1960s began transforming a tiny Utah town into a major arts destination.
“This is a continuation of Fred’s vision, for sure,” Mack said.
“RADA is the premiere actor training program in the world,” Vaughn said in a statement. “To have the opportunity for their actors to collaborate with the incredible talent on display at the festival is a gift beyond measure.”