Theater Organizations Defend Director Of Oregon Shakespeare Following Death Threats

Following reports of death threats made against the creative director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, three theatrical associations are standing out in support of her.

Nataki Garrett has been the target of unspeakable harassment and death threats, according to a statement released on Monday by the Dramatists Guild, Theater Communications Group, and Shakespeare Theatre Association. This comes after a story in NPR in which Garrett, one of the few well-known Black women in the industry, described some of the resistance she has seen since taking on the position in 2019.

NPR reports that Garrett has come under fire for not only programming Shakespeare but also other more contemporary, diverse works. Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which features a diverse cast, King John, which features an all-female and nonbinary cast, and Confederates, a new piece by Dominque Morisseau on the oppression experienced in slavery and contemporary academics, are just a few of the current season’s offerings.

Garrett now travels with a security crew due to the criticism that has spread to the death threats.

The three theatre companies responded by issuing the following statements:

“OSF, one of the most well-known regional theatres in the nation, was guided by Nataki’s experience and vision to survive the epidemic and the tremendous financial strain brought on by industry in lockdown. The theatre not only survived but flourished as she produced a dynamic debut season that featured new plays by a broad collection of exceptional contemporary playwrights in addition to Shakespeare productions with varied casts.

Theater Organizations Defend Director Of Oregon
Theater Organizations Defend Director Of Oregon

The show delighted many subscribers and theatregoers alike. But as the first Black woman to run such a renowned performing arts institution and a strong voice for diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in American theatre, she received death threats, forcing her to travel in public with a security team.

This violent reaction to her artistic decisions pierces the very core of who we are as citizens, not simply as actors in the American theatre. What does it say about the unstable state our theatre industry is in if an artist like Nataki Garrett can receive death threats for producing authors from the global majority? How can there ever be systemic change when there is violence?

We call on the industry to treat writers properly and to eliminate gatekeeping practices that restrict the growth of the theatrical canon and have an impact on who gets to tell stories, how those stories are delivered, and by whom. The only way to bring about systemic change is for everyone with a clear conscience to unite in their opposition to hatred and their acceptance of empathy.

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