I belong to a volunteer group that heard a presentation from David Schmitz, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s former executive director, where he talked about the COVID shutdown providing him with an opportunity to do a deep dive into the OSF’s financial history. He showed us a graph that showed OSF had been in the red since before 2012.
OSF’s former artistic director, Bill Rauch, was unchecked by the previous executive directors and even the board. This is an excerpt from a Facebook post from a former OSF company member this week:
“I am a former patron starting at a young age. Then I was part of the tech crew for 5 years 2011-15. In 2011 OSF was in the black (and) Libby Appel left a rainy-day fund. Bill Rauch made an announcement that year that he was going to dip into that fund. Ironically, three months later the (roof) beam in the Bowmer Theatre shut down that theater and most of the summer was in the park for those shows. OSF lost money. Then in 2012 his pet project MMC (Medea, the Scottish play, Cinderella) blew its budget. And was a total flop. No one reined him in. Designers overspent budgets all the time. Then the crew members who had enough after the smoke and lack of competitive compensation and unpaid overtime went union. He left OSF in shambles before COVID. Shame on the board and other leaders who let that happen.”
So the former artistic director and his management team left Garrett (and OSF and Ashland) with a financial mess. Add to that, 1) an international pandemic shutdown that has caused the financial ruin of many theaters across the U.S.; and 2) the Almeda fire, and 3) too many summer months of smoke from California and local fires, and you have a perfect storm.
Add to that: In an article on the Fox26 website this week with this headline, “How issues facing OSF have changed its financial model post-pandemic,” included this, citing an article in The Oregonian: “The organization’s leaders say they need to correct more than 15,000 incorrect entries in its financial ledger, the result of antiquated systems that were not properly maintained.”
Folks — that is 15 thousand accounting mistakes. Which means, all those IRS 990 forms and other important financial reports will most likely have to be revised and resubmitted — 15,000 mistakes… from years and years back.
Artistic Director Garrett and Chief Operating Officer Anyania Muse have a thankless job, trying to right the ship during this catastrophic perfect storm in our small town — while having to deal with death threats and vitriol from haters. I believe there is no one who is better suited to guide OSF through the financial storms. But OSF, Garrett, her management team, the OSF company, the board and OSF volunteers are in desperate need of Ashland’s support — not just financial support, but moral support too — it is free and it is a loving way to help the theater we all love.