The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland announced on Tuesday, 11 April 2023, that it needs $2.5 million to “Save Our Season, Save OSF.” The festival is in the middle of a financial crisis. OSF will also stop making plans for the season of 2024.
The grassroots campaign, called “The Show Must Go On,” aims to raise funds in order to prevent layoffs and complete the 2023 season, which is set to begin on April 18. According to a press release sent out Tuesday, 11 April 2023, there is “a gap in OSF’s funding between May and July of this year.”
“We know it is a heavy lift and a big ask of our supporters, but we have seen what we can do when we all come together in times of need,” the campaign’s webpage reads. “Whatever you can afford to give, we need you to give now.”
The board of directors of OSF has also taken Nataki Garrett’s job as executive director away from her. Garrett took over that job in January after David Schmitz left. The board will be in charge of running things.
The festival will also not put on “It’s Christmas, Carol!” this year.
According to the press release, if the 2023 season is to continue, the fundraising campaign must raise $1.5 million by June. In May, we’ll decide what to do next.
According to the news release, the Mellon Foundation has given $2 million. Individuals have also pledged $5 million, and the OSF Board of Directors has pledged $170,000, including a gift of $50,000 from the board chair.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, OSF was hit hard and never fully recovered. The 89-year-old theater is Southern Oregon’s main cultural attraction. When the reality of the pandemic became clear in March 2020, the company stopped putting on shows and fired 400 people or about 80% of its total staff.
Then, in January, the theater company announced more staff changes, including their executive director and director of development departures. They called this a “restructuring strategy” meant to “align its business model with its vision and the realities of the post-pandemic market.”
OSF also fired 19 staff members, stopped hiring for 20 open positions, and announced the start of an $80 million fundraising campaign to help pay for long-term operations.
OSF tried to compensate for the losses caused by the pandemic by reducing the number of shows it puts on each season, shortening the time between shows, and offering a wider range of shows.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival also shared this news from their Twitter handle-
A group of cultural organizations in Oregon, including the theater company, are asking the state legislature for $70 million in funding in 2023.
Through House Bill 2459, OSF wants grants worth more than $5 million. During the pandemic, the Shakespeare company got a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program for more than $5 million. Almost all of the loan was forgiven.
In November, The Hitz Foundation gave it a $10 million grant, and in December, the OSF Board decided to take $4.25 million from its endowment to help pay for operating costs.
According to tax documents obtained by ProPublica, the OSF Association’s total income fell from about $45 million in fiscal year 2019 to about $25 million in fiscal year 2020.