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Oregon Shakespeare Festival Calls It Quits For The Year

Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Allen Elizabethan Theatre, during a 2019 performance of Alice in Wonderland.
Photo by Kim Budd via OSF
Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Allen Elizabethan Theatre, during a 2019 performance of Alice in Wonderland.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced late Friday that it won’t open its doors again in 2020.

The regional theater’s season was first cut short in mid-March by Governor Kate Brown’s decision to ban large gatherings in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

At that time, OSF laid off 80 percent of its staff and scuttled about half its program of plays. The company planned to re-open with an abbreviated program on September 8th.

But that effort to salvage the season was put to rest by the Governor’s order this week to continue prohibiting large gatherings until at least the end of September. OSF announced late Friday that it was throwing in the towel for the year.

OSF artistic director Nataki Garrett said in a press release that “The health and safety of our entire Ashland community, including artists, staff, volunteers, patrons, and Festival partners, is our highest priority … My primary goal is to protect the future of this celebrated 85-year-old organization and to bring great theater back to our stages in 2021.”

Theater officials said the cancellation of the entire 2020 season will have “very real financial consequences” for the festival. OSF has already been financially weakened by disruptions in recent years caused by wildfire smoke. The non-profit is urging theatergoers to consider donating the cost of their tickets back to the festival, or accepting vouchers for performances next year, in lieu of refunds.

The financial impact on Ashland and the surrounding area of OSF losing an entire season will be substantial. The region’s economy leans heavily on tourism and outdoor recreation, and as local businesses that have been shuttered by the pandemic begin to cautiously re-open in the coming weeks and months, the closing of Ashland’s main tourist magnet will reverberate through the community.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.