• History: Oregon Shakespeare Festival (2017)

    By: Lisa Richardson, MFA '19

    Throughout the summer and early fall, on any given night before performances begin at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), you can see audience and community members seated on blankets or standing around the courtyard for the Green Show. It’s almost as if the town stops and takes part in a spectacle that unites local Ashland residents and festival visitors through one thing: great art. The Green Show provides a space to showcase the artistic prowess of a variety of groups from around the country. It can feature anything from dance to musical quartets to fire manipulation. Located on the Bricks, this show does not require a ticket and is a great way to end your night or get you excited for a night at the theater.

    The Bricks, the beloved outdoor courtyard of the Festival and central meeting place for staff and local patrons alike, has been through a lot in its storied history. Although great work has always been put on in the space, it had become an increasingly inaccessible location. Staff members and audiences, particularly older patrons and those with disabilities, were finding it more and more difficult to traverse the area on their way to the Angus Bowmer and Allen Elizabethan Theatres. Furthermore, the Bricks served as the only loading access for the Bowmer and the Elizabethan, putting additional stress on an area that is consistently exposed to the elements year-round.

    Discussions of an upgrade to the Bricks began in the 1990’s during construction of the Thomas Theatre (a flexible indoor stage) but were put off due to a lack of funds and urgency. The topic was brought up again in 2007, right at the beginning of Artistic Director Bill Rauch’s tenure, but when the 2008 recession hit, the staff was once again unsure of how and when they would be able to move forward. Updates to the Bricks would advance the festival’s mission and values, particularly in its dedication to inclusion and to company. It would improve sightlines for shows and make it a safer and more enjoyable meeting space. The chance to act finally arrived in 2013 with a major gift from Ashland residents and donors Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod. While it would be a year before any planning officially began, the festival was finally able to move forward with its plan to improve “Access for All.”

    The festival’s General Manager, Ted DeLong, was project manager for the construction portion of this campaign. He was able to get the work started and to facilitate two of the three phases needed to complete this project. With the last phase coming up, DeLong hoped that the festival could finally complete this project and improve access across the campus but was concerned about how to fund this project. Two recent construction projects, a rehearsal facility in Ashland and a production facility in Talent, Oregon, had been partially funded by donors and subsidized with a loan. The festival couldn’t afford to take on more debt so soon after completion of those structures. Moreover, a majority of festival visitors live outside of Ashland and are less motivated to support a project that has no discernable impact on what they see on stage. The campaign team, comprised of the Marketing and Development departments and led by Director of Development Torrie Allen, had to come up with a way to spark interest in the minds of many with varied opinions on the festival. In the months leading up to the completion of construction, the team was over $850,000 shy of their $5.1 million goal. As the 2017 season was just beginning, both DeLong and Allen were anxious to keep everything moving smoothly towards completion.

     

    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (2017) [HISTORY]

     

    Filed in: Diversity and Inclusion, Equity, Facilities, Histories
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    Added on: May 31, 2019