While teaching drama at the University of California at Riverside, Douglas N. Cook learned of the fledgling Shakespearean theater in Cedar City, Utah, then in its second year. Cook joined the Utah Shakespeare Festival in 1964 as a scenic designer and eventually became producing artistic director, helped design the Festival's two theaters, and co-founded the Shakespeare Theatre Association.
Cook, holding the title of producing artistic director emeritus, died of stomach cancer on May 31 in San Diego, Calif. He was 84.
“He will be sorely missed; we have lost a giant,” Fred C. Adams, Festival founder, said in a press statement. The statement describes Cook as "a driving force for excellence at the Festival, dedicating over 37 years nurturing and caring for the individual artists and technicians as well as the Festival as a whole."
Cook was especially adept at designing scenery for Shakespeare productions, and under his guidance, the props department blossomed and the sets better reflected the periods that designers were trying to represent. As a talented and enthusiastic scenic designer, he instantly began to shape the artistic dream and creative integrity of the young company. He rose from the position of scenic designer, to design director, associate producer, and finally producing artistic director.
With the continued growth of the Festival, Cook became more integral to its day-to-day operations and its larger vision for the future. In 1970, he supplied the initial research and sketches for a long-dreamed-about permanent theatre. These sketches would ultimately evolve into the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre, which opened in 1977. It was a highlight in the long list of Cook’s contributions, equaled by his oversight of the design and construction of the Randall L. Jones Theatre in 1989.
Cook’s achievements in, and contributions to, the world of theatre have been many and varied. He has been president of or served on the board of every major theatrical association in the United States. He was the co-founder (with Sidney Berger) of the Shakespeare Theatre Association.
“When Doug joined the Festival family, it was the beginning of a remarkable team,” said Adams. “His design and technical theater skills added that necessary element that brought the Festival into a Tony Award–winning organization. It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye.”
“Doug was a friend to all," said Executive Director R. Scott Phillips in the press release. "He was always available with a listening ear or for a quiet conversation. He was a mentor to me personally and always stressed the importance of dignity and civility in our profession. I will miss him deeply.”
Cook is survived by his wife Joan, their son Stephen, and two grandchildren.
June 4, 2014