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Oregon Shakespeare Festival Cancels A Month Of Performances

Photo by Jenny Graham of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Thursday that it’s cancelling all performances until April 8.

The company made the decision following Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order banning all events with 250 or more people due to the coronavirus.

“We’re in the process of letting everybody know — everybody who was planning on being here in the next four weeks — and looking after the safety and health of everyone on the staff,” spokesman CJ Martinez says.

Martinez says the virus has been on the company’s mind for weeks, since its actors tend to work closely together and many of its subcontractors are from different states or countries. He says recent travel bans have yet to affect its workers.

OSF has gotten used to disruptions in recent years, but usually because of wildfire smoke creating unhealthy air, leading to the cancellation of its outdoor performances.

“If someone had told me that this would be the case, which is a global pandemic that has to be addressed on the local level, I would have not believed that, but we are in that state right now,” Martinez says.

OSF opened its season in late February with packed houses. The company recently adjusted its nine-month schedule to get a head start before wildfire season.

“In a way, the wildfire experience and the history of that, and it working in a sense to OSF’s advantage is dedicated patrons and supporters are used to changes,” Martinez says. “And they’re used to understanding what it means to do an exchange or to take a voucher.”

OSF is a big driver of tourism to southern Oregon, and it’s not the only one impacted by the coronavirus. The Ashland Independent Film Festival has postponed its April shows.

The Britt Music and Arts Festival in Jacksonville says so far, its June performances are still on schedule.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.