As a long-time supporter, I’ve been following the community’s reactions to the changes taking place at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). The one thing I’ve noticed in the reactions is a lack of mention of the deep connection OSF has within the culture in our community. The people who come here, live and work here, are the creators of this culture. It’s a living thing, loved and nurtured over many years. It extends into the Rogue Valley, and far beyond. The quality is respected as world class theater.
The people who have supported OSF for years are part of the fabric of that culture. This community depends on them. The shops, restaurants, hotels, wineries and volunteers are part of the fabric that is OSF. Looking at seating charts, it’s obvious that something is not working. Yes, the pandemic has contributed to some degree to empty seats. However, talking with theater-going friends who have been supporting OSF for years, the reviews of plays, and friends who have come here from out of state in the past, the sentiment is far from friendly.
The culture here is not cutting-edge, like theater found in big cities that can draw those kinds of audiences. It’s as though we’re being forced to submit to something we neither need nor want. So what will it be like in Ashland five, 10 years from now? When I think of the OSF I’ve loved so well, there’s a deep sadness. We need management that will continue to create world class theater within the culture of this community, invite the world in, and allow OSF to thrive again.