William Shakespeare wrote, in "Julius Caesar," of "the most unkindest cut of all."
The Utah Shakespearean Festival's decision to make cuts and changes in this year's schedule may not be the unkindest of all, but it's close — at least to longtime fans of the Tony-winning festival in Cedar City, Utah.
Given the current economic climate — and the fact that the festival ended last season with a slight deficit — the decision comes as no surprise.
In an e-mail newsletter delivered Thursday, festival officials informed patrons that they were cutting one week from the summer schedule, changing the fall lineup and calendar, cutting some positions and making other money-saving switches.
"As we look ahead to the coming year and predictions of a furthering recession," said R. Scott Phillips, the festival's executive director, “we want to be pro-active and guarantee that the Festival (which was founded nearly 50 years ago) continues for at least another half-century.”
Accordingly, "we have taken a fine scalpel and carefully sliced away costs in ways that will not hurt our artistic product or the experience of our patrons,” Phillips continued.
This summer, the festival will close a week earlier — on Aug. 29. (It opens June 29 with Shakespeare’s "Comedy of Errors," "Henry V" and "As You Like It" in repertory with Noel Coward's "Private Lives," the family musical "The Secret Garden" and "Foxfire."
The fall season will now run Sept. 18-Oct. 17 (rather than the originally announced Sept. 25-Oct. 24). And two of the three announced plays are out. The thriller "The Woman in Black" is still on the schedule, but rather than Shakespeare's "Pericles" and the musical "Pump Boys and Dinettes," the fall season now includes an adaptation of the best-selling "Tuesdays With Morrie," about a teacher and his student, and the farcical "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," which the festival presented in need year!.
"These plays require fewer actors and other resources, yet still meet our mission of providing life-affirming classic and contemporary plays,” said Phillips, citing the fall's "something for everyone" lineup of a "comedy, mystery, and a heartfelt drama.”
Patrons with tickets for the canceled or altered performances can call the Festival Ticket Office at (800) 752-9849 to exchange their tickets for other dates or plays, exchange them for a certificate redeemable for future performances, or receive a refund. No fees will be charged for the transactions.
Other budget changes include the elimination of three year-round positions and a number of seasonal positions, in addition to across-the-board cuts in every festival department. The budget cuts total more than $700,000, according to festival officials.
"This is not a picture of doom and gloom,” said Phillips. “Instead we feel we are being pro-active to guarantee as best as possible the experience of our patrons and the continued viability of this great theater experience. We are still going to be here this season, and next season, and many more seasons in the future.”
More information on the Utah Shakespearean Festival is available online at www.bard.org.