Lawsuit against Utah Shakespeare Festival dismissed less than 24 hours after filing

ST. GEORGE — After a lawsuit was filed late last week, a federal judge has reviewed a case against the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.

The case was reviewed and dismissed less than 24 hours after it was filed, according to a statement on behalf of the festival from Nikki Koontz, executive director of marketing communication at Southern Utah University.

The suit, filed by Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind on Thursday, alleged that the festival was not fulfilling its responsibilities to disabled patrons under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Utah Shakespeare Festival, the suit said, declined to offer American Sign Language interpreters for deaf students, opting to provide closed captioning instead.

The following day, the school submitted for a dismissal without prejudice, adding that it still planned to pursue legal action. Not long after, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups dismissed the case.

“We are grateful for the swift review of this case,” Frank Mack, the festival’s executive producer, said in a statement released Friday evening. “Now we can refocus on the 3,700 high school students that are participating in our annual Shakespeare Competition. … As an organization, we want to provide an outlet for students to share their artistic passions and help cultivate the future generation of artists.”

Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Nikki Koontz, St. George News / Cedar City News

The festival provides live captioning and audio descriptions for the visually impaired during its performances. Beginning this year, the festival also hosted a “sensory-friendly performance” of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Now, the festival’s production of “Every Brilliant Thing” is scheduled to perform at every public high school and university at no cost to the schools.

“All of the Festival’s work is intended to entertain, educate and enrich audience members and students,” Koontz said. “The vision of the Utah Shakespeare Festival is to create impactful theatre that reflects and celebrates the emotional complexity of our collective humanity.”

The annual Utah Shakespeare Festival began in late June and is scheduled to continue until Oct. 12 at SUU.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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