ashland.news
February 24, 2024

Letter: ‘OSF crisis is a matter of competence’

April 13, 2023

The letters posted April 12 miss the point on the current Oregon Shakespeare Festival crisis. This is not about artistic choices, political rhetoric or whether OSF supporters are too set in their ways or not open to change. It’s about simple competence.

The current OSF leadership was handed a golden goose, and through a bewildering series of missteps has almost killed it. Jettisoning the 17,000 OSF members, rejecting their deep connection to OSF, viewing them only as cash cows. Eliminating the education department, only to belatedly realize how essential that program was and is. Shuttering the Tudor Guild. Shifting away from a repertory season with the old “stay three days, see four plays” philosophy that made OSF a viable vacation destination.

Experienced production staff were let go, replaced by new hires with no institutional memory of how this theater actually worked. Production values suffered. Administrative salaries are bloated with new six-figure positions that may reflect the political priorities of the new OSF leadership but have little to do with the actual process of making plays.

The result has been chaos. The turnover on the board of directors and the endowment board is stunning. Employees are voting with their feet. The only people with actual fiscal competence have left, to be replaced with people with no expertise in managing a multimillion-dollar organization. This is no way to run a railroad, much less a major theatrical institution.

There remains a great reservoir of good will for OSF in this community and beyond, but until the current leadership is gone, I doubt the “Save Our Season” effort will bear much fruit. Throwing money at this right now is just an exercise in futility.

Malcolm Hillgartner

Ashland

Jim

Jim

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