ashland.news
July 23, 2024

OSF weathering smoky skies, COVID-19 cases as it heads into September

Elizabethan Theatre OSF
A full house at Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Kim Budd photo
August 19, 2023

Interim executive director estimates more than five plays in 2024; new AD to come aboard Sept. 15

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news  

The smoke that rolled into Ashland heavily on Thursday canceled one Oregon Shakespeare Festival play that night, according to Tyler Hokama, interim executive director of OSF, in an interview with Ashland.news on Friday afternoon.

Hokama and the organization will continue to monitor the smoke in coming days and weeks. He hopes the impacts are small and short-lived.

“There’s always a question on should we not depend on August as a prime month for us, given that a lot of audiences have already decided not to come to Ashland during that month,” Hokama said.

Hokama said OSF has been pretty lucky to avoid smoke until this week, he told Ashland.news.

“It appears that we will once again have to monitor our wildfire smoke situation and, based on forecasts, decide on whether we can have our outdoor theater open or not,” Hokama said. “It’s just such an unpredictable challenge for a theater like the Elizabethan (theater) when you have to deal with wildfire smoke that could come from any direction.”

Hokama said, until recently, the organization has been dealing more with a COVID-19 outbreak among its actors and understudies than smoke issues.

“Sometimes these outbreaks go in cycles,” he said. “Knock on wood that things are improving there, but all it takes is one or two more COVID-19 positive results and you have to test people that were around that person. 

“This is theater, so you tend to rehearse and you tend to perform with people in a very close proximity of one another and there lies our challenge.”

Saturday’s Green Show, “Romeo and Juliet” in the Angus Bowmer Theatre and “The Three Musketeers” in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre were all canceled “due to poor air quality conditions and forecasted lightning storms,” according to the OSF website.

Besides addressing smoke, OSF is also preparing to welcome Tim Bond on Sept. 1. Bond, who has visited the local area since his appointment to the role, will start officially as artistic director Sept. 15.

Hokama anticipates the 2024 season will have more than five plays, which would be a change from recent, COVID-19 influenced, years.

“We’re not going to announce the (2024) season before we announce the season, I think directionally we want to move forward, not backward, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Reach Ashland.news staff reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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