CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently announced the largest gift in the theater company’s history.

The Engelstad Family Foundation of Las Vegas has contributed $5 million toward the proposed building of a new theater, moving the project closer to a groundbreaking by the end of 2013.

"A gift of this magnitude is so important to our regional theater as fundraising moves forward," said festival executive director R. Scott Phillips. "It demonstrates tremendous faith in the Utah Shakespeare Festival by this respected Nevada foundation.” 

The donation and new theater are expected to help the festival significantly expand its educational programs to serve more students across the Intermountain West, according to a press release from the festival.

The programs reach more than 27,000 students through a tour that brings a troupe of professional actors performing Shakespeare’s plays into 230 elementary, middle and high schools in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Another 3,000 middle and high school students attend the Shakespeare Competition in Cedar City each year.

The Engelstad Family Foundation was created by the late Ralph Engelstad, former owner of Las Vegas’ Imperial Palace casino and hotel, with the aim of supporting community and educational programs.