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Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks accessibility focus as it emerges from the pandemic

The Cast of Revenge Song rehearsing, one of the show premiering at OSF this year
Ken Savage
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Cast of Revenge Song rehearsing, one of the show premiering at OSF this year

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is back in full this season, with a new focus centered around greater access for patrons.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival returns for its first full season after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But patrons may see things have changed under leadership from the festival's artistic director, Nataki Garrett.

"I took this sort of pandemic stoppage as a kind of reset," Garrett says. "To really reassess what OSF is and why it’s important, and what it really can do and what we really need to be focused on as an organization.”

Garrett says she spent the past couple years learning what makes OSF important to its patrons and the community.

This year, the organization is focused on putting its artists first, and creating a new approach to their theater’s experience.

“I feel like for a long time OSF has been resting on its laurels," she says. "And I think sometimes you have to sort of reinvent yourself and remember; what did Angus Bowmer, why did he create this?"

Those changes include a bigger focus on accessibility across the festival.

OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett
Christopher Briscoe
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett

OSF has done away with its dynamic pricing model and lowered overall ticket costs. Garrett says she learned the old model wasn’t benefiting patrons in the way it intended.

Previously, OSF would adjust ticket prices throughout the season, relating to scarcity and popularity; the model was similar to how tickets are priced for airlines.

Now, the highest priced tickets, previously $132, have been lowered to $75. Overall prices will vary between $35-$75, depending on the seats, day & time as well as special circumstances, such as holiday weekends.

Garrett says she's also working on ways to make the festival more accessible to folks with physical disabilities. She says the group's Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility has been working with local disability organizations to improve their programming.

She says some improvements include ensuring more shows provide sign language interpretation.

Show previews begin this week, with eight total openings through the rest of the year.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.