OSF begins restructuring strategy following staffing changes

ASHLAND, Ore — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is currently in the process of a years-long restructuring strategy, weeks after it announced major staffing changes.

On January 10th, NBC5 exclusively learned that former executive director David Schmitz resigned. The organization also announced that it laid off 12 workers, furloughed seven employees, and placed about 18 positions under a hiring freeze.

RELATED: OSF exec director resigns, several laid off as organization restructures

Theaters across the nation, including Broadway, are struggling roughly three years since the pandemic started.

The organization is shifting its focus to brining more people back to the Rogue Valley and into the theaters.

“The audiences are a bit slower in coming back than we had hoped and anticipated,” Diane Yu, board chair of OSF, told NBC5. “It’s a challenging time. The pandemic really did us a fair amount of damage in terms of cutting out our income for a year in a half.” 

Artistic director and now interim executive director, Nataki Garrett, testified before United States lawmakers last year. She joined other artistic organizations in an effort to replenish federal funding for theaters.

Over that timeframe, the non-profit was able to secure millions of dollars through grants and donations.

Yu noted that the money mainly went to staff and other building operations.

“It’s a labor intensive industry theater,” Yu said. “It is one where you have to spend the money ahead of time. Often before you have all the ticket sales before a particular show, so its a difficult financial model.” 

The changes and pledges from donors is part of OSF’s new “Restructure, Reframe, and Revitalize” strategy. Following the announcement of the departures, it launched a new $80 million dollar campaign to fund operations.

Ahead of the spring’s 2023 season, the organization is cutting its normal amount of shows, and lowering ticket prices.

We do intend to get back on our feet financially,” Yu said. “It’s going to take a few years to be in that financially stable level that we’d like to be in.” 

OSF will kick off its new season in April, with a Shakespearean classic, “Romeo and Juliet.”

Despite the current hardships, Yu is remaining confident in the theater’s return to normalcy.

“We have always benefited from, and love the fact that so many people are loyal returnees to [OSF],” Yu said. “We think that’s fantastic and we want to keep nurturing that.” 

Anthony Carter is a reporter for NBC5 News. He grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Elizabethtown College in 2019. Anthony started his career as a print journalist, covering New York sports and the NBA Draft. He then started his own sports podcast and website covering the Arena Football League. Anthony moved to the Rogue Valley in 2019 as a news producer before joining the NBC5 News family. Anthony likes to workout at the gym, play basketball, and root for his Atlanta Hawks and New York Jets. Want to connect with Anthony? send him an email: [email protected]
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