ST. GEORGE — Production of a play in the 2018 Utah Shakespeare Festival has been cancelled after festival officials say its director sent “culturally insensitive” emails.
“Pearl’s in the House,” which had been scheduled for professional production Aug. 25-Oct. 20, has been removed from this year’s roster of plays.
The insensitive emails were issued by the play’s creator/guest director, Art Manke, according to a news release issued by the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
No specifics about the subject matter of the emails were provided, but the festival issued the following statement:
These communications, which were brought to our attention after the fact, were not in harmony with the values and mission of the Festival which includes a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Festival regrets the harm this incident caused a potential member of our company and artists who were planning to work on the show, and any inconveniences it may cause our guests.
The musical play was workshopped during last year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival and focuses on Pearl Bailey, who was a performer and special delegate to the United Nations in a racially charged mid-20th century America.
Bailey, who died in 1990, was a trailblazer for African-American women. She received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1976 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988.
“Our 2018 season is thematically based on ideas of the adverse effects of intolerance in our culture,” Frank Mack, the festival’s executive producer, said in the news release. “The offensive communications that led us to cancel this production are completely contrary to these values and the artistic objectives we are pursuing this season.”
Beyond the news release, all mention of the play and Manke has been removed from the Utah Shakespeare Festival website and ticket sales for the play have ceased.
“It is an unfortunate set of circumstances for all the artists who have put so much work into the process, but our organizational culture and values take precedence always,” festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn said in the news release. “This was an incredibly difficult decision because of the impact this would have on so many parties; however, continuing the production would not add to our mission and our values but would detract from them.”
The festival said it will be reaching out to guests who have already purchased tickets to the play to help them with exchanges or refunds.
Additional performances of “An Iliad” will run in some time slots previously reserved for “Pearl’s in the House.”
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