ASHLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) said on Friday that it will delay its 85th season until the beginning of September and will lay off 80 percent of its staff due to the ongoing impacts from the new coronavirus.
“It is with great sadness that we are making these announcements today. The resulting delay in the reopening of our 2020 season has very real financial consequences not only for this organization and our family of staff, artists, and volunteers, but for the city of Ashland, its restaurants, hotels, retail, and other businesses, and the entire Rogue Valley region,” said Nataki Garrett, OSF’s artistic director.
OSF announced on March 12 that it would cancel all shows through April 8. With the coronavirus and resulting precautions showing no immediate signs of abating, the theater organization pushed back its season until September 8.
Because of the financial impacts, OSF said, it will lay off about 80 percent of its full-time staff, artists, and seasonal workers "in order to mitigate additional losses." Laid-off company members who currently received OSF health benefits will continue to have them fully paid for two more months.
"It's tough. As an actor, all of us are out of work right now," Dan Lin, an actor in Peter and the Starcatcher, said.
“In unprecedented circumstances like this, when all communities are feeling the impact of a global pandemic, it is important to be grounded in our compassion for one another, Garrett continued. "I know that our community will see OSF through and help us return as soon as possible to the celebration of art we’re known for.”
The new OSF schedule will run from September 8 through November 1 with six productions: Bring Down the House, Parts I and II; The Copper Children; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Peter and the Starcatcher, with The Tempest set to open in the Festival’s outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre.
Almost half of the season's original programming will be canceled, in addition to the seasonal Green Shows. Original plays Confederates, Bernhardt/Hamlet, black odyssey, Everything That Never Happened, and Poor Yella Rednecks won't appear again on the OSF stage this year.
“We truly regret that so many amazing stories and artistic visions will not be shared with our audiences this year,” Garrett continued. “It is our sincere hope that some of these plays will be part of future seasons at OSF. And when we reopen our doors this Fall, we’ll sing out six exemplary works, six opportunities for our audiences to be renewed by and celebrate the art they love.”
On top of those efforts to tighten the organization's belt, OSF said it will mount a $5 million "Emergency Funding Campaign" in order to both make up for lost revenue and grow OSF's digital platform.
"OSF is committed to a better future for the arts by aligning the goals of theatrical art with innovation, engagement, and access for all. Unique partnerships and new initiatives are in the works, such as OSF Digital, that will explore a variety of platforms for continuing to deliver the transformative power of theatre," OSF said.