Utah Shakespeare Festival cancels play, citing ‘culturally insensitive’ communications by director

In this 2016 file photo, a casting of William Shakespeare sits outside the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, Cedar City, Utah, July 7, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News / Cedar City News

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.

This 2016 file photo shows the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, home to indoor theater productions during the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Utah, July 7, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News/Cedar City News

“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.

Pearl Bailey performs on The Ed Sullivan Show, circa 1968 | Public domain photo, St. George News

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.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • IPFreely June 23, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    This is getting ridiculous. When did simple words become so powerful and people become so frickin sensitive? This world is full of delicate snowflakes.

    • Real Life June 23, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      You are correct. The very word “racist”, has lost it’s true, ugly meaning thanks to the extreme left, screaming the word every time they don’t agree with you. Easily offended people need to get over themselves already.

    • bikeandfish June 23, 2018 at 10:12 pm

      Ugh, if there are any “snowflakes” in this situation, and I don’t see any, then its likely the people online, who don’t have all the information, having a meltdown over a private organization making a value-based decision.

      • IPFreely June 24, 2018 at 7:37 am

        Drip.. drip..

        • bikeandfish June 24, 2018 at 8:36 am

          Just gonna give up? No substance?

          Tell me, do you believe a business should be able to have “values” and a “mission”? If so, do you believe they should make value-based management decisions consistent with those business goals?

          Just curious because that is the substance of the issue.

          But I’m sure all I will ironically get is some “triggered” retort that lacks originality and wit.

          • IPFreely June 24, 2018 at 11:04 am


          • bikeandfish June 24, 2018 at 12:41 pm

            Good to know you lack any and all rational basis for your resentment.

          • IPFreely June 24, 2018 at 2:29 pm

            Hahahaha.. nope. You’re just not worth it.

        • bikeandfish June 24, 2018 at 3:53 pm

          Its always interesting to me that the first ones to lob insults are often the first ones to quit when asked to justify their public statements.

          • IPFreely June 24, 2018 at 8:47 pm

            Drip drip drop little melting snowflake…

  • jaltair June 23, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Why didn’t they just get another director?

    • mesaman June 23, 2018 at 9:04 pm

      It’s way past time for these delicate, oversensitive humans to begin to create an atlas of PC lines in the sand, including the consequences, so people like my self will know when to tread lightly and carefully to not cause extensive ego damage to these individuals. Not that I plan to be careful, but there might be a socialist in the WH in our future and I would be exiled to some third world country for my insensitivity.

    • bikeandfish June 24, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Director is the creator of the play. Its only been work shopped until now so this was going to be the play’s first full production. There are only three actors and one recently left. I’m guessing there are larger legal issues at play given the playwright is the director, ie the alleged one who made the comments. Not sure a production can move forward without him, ie potential licensing/ownership issues. Not to mention the larger issue of producing a play about Pearl’s civil rights history by someone who made such remarks.

      • IPFreely June 24, 2018 at 6:20 pm

        Man you are longwinded…

        • bikeandfish June 24, 2018 at 6:46 pm

          Maybe. I actually have something to contribute beyond juvenile insults and regurgitated talking points.

          • IPFreely June 24, 2018 at 7:01 pm

            Hahahaha… nope just longwinded

          • jaybird June 25, 2018 at 9:43 am

            So true. These are the same people crying about their constitutional rights being stripped from them but dont have the balls to actually do anything to protect them and watch them be whittled away. Remember the true hero was Jesus who remained silent while the Romans beat the hell out of Him. He knew He was the son of God. These are obviously people who stand by a government that mocks American rights. Who is the true snowflake here? Dumb comments dont matter.

  • Kilroywashere June 23, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Theater folks are theatrical. A private email interchange is blown up and published in all the Utah newspapers. Why not get the two parties together and work it out behind closed doors. Nope, in our left braincentric brave new world we make mountains out of molehills. As You Like It – Jaques – the words are the stage, and we are dominated by them to the point our right brain no longer functions and acting loses its spirit. What Bozos.

  • ilovestgeorge June 24, 2018 at 12:24 am

    Waaa waaa waaa!! Get a back bone and fire the cry baby liberal and get a new Director! One sensitive snowflake and you have to inconvenience how many people?! Ridiculous!!

  • Carpe Diem June 24, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    So the show got Roseanne’d?

  • Chuck June 25, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Snowflakes wanting their New Idol director, Peter Fonda.

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