CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival began a five-year artistic exchange program with London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in January. As the festival prepares for its 2020 performances, it is close to announcing contracts with academy students and graduates for this season.
Each year, at least one student or graduate of the academy will join the festival’s productions, according to a recent news release. The program includes training workshops for students and faculty in both Utah and London, as well as a one-hour version of a Shakespeare play performed by the Royal Academy’s second-year students.
These tour productions were once exclusive to Europe and are coming to the United States for the first time.
"I think our audiences will be eager to see it," Frank Mack, executive producer of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, told KSL.com.
The partnership will continue through Dec. 31, 2024, thanks to financial support from an anonymous donor, though Mack said the collaboration will likely extend beyond the initial end date.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it continued, because everybody is so pleased that we're able to do it," he said.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival has never done a collaboration like this before, Mack explained. Not only does the exchange program have more structure and funding than past collaborations, but Mack also said working with a prestigious international training academy for classical acting makes a huge difference.
"It adds a new dimension to our producing," Mack said. "And it's kind of exciting when we come and see a Shakespeare play or contemporary play, to look through the program and see ... one of the actors is from Great Britain and was trained at the Royal Academy and has this incredible resume."
For over a century, the Royal Academy has offered world-renowned training in the dramatic arts, according to the news release. Actors Alan Rickman and Anthony Hopkins are a couple of the Academy’s more famous alumni.
Mack shared with KSL.com that being able to synthesize what the Royal Academy does in training artists and what the Utah Shakespeare Festival does to produce a performance is a priority for the festival.
"We're always seeking new insights and new ways to approach the work that is inventive and unique and exciting and fun," Mack said. "This is a truly great opportunity for us to do that together with the Royal Academy."
Mack said they’re all doing the same work, discovering new things together "We're all investigating the works of William Shakespeare, " he said.
The Royal Academy's touring production will go from July 21-25 in the Utah festival's Anes Studio Theatre, in addition to its participation in the festival's performances.
Mack said he feels the preparations for this season are going well so far, and apparently so does Edward Kemp, director of the Royal Academy. In the news release, Kemp said, "I’m delighted about RADA’s (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) collaboration with the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the opportunity it presents for our students to enrich their learning. We look forward to exploring new ideas and common goals and are very grateful to be able to share our work with the audiences, artists and communities in Utah."