Oregon Shakespeare Festival director opens up about receiving death threats

ASHLAND, Ore — One of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s leaders is speaking out about death threats she’s received in recent months.

Artistic director Nataki Garrett, first opened up about the situation to National Public Radio in late September.

The article caught the attention of theatre organizations based in New York, who openly condemned the threats. Because of the apparent severity, Garrett said she now has security detail.

“This is something that I’ve been dealing with for a couple of months now,” Garrett told NBC5. “It’s not something that I’ve ever wanted, or thought that I would ever have as an artistic director of a theatre company.”

“None of my colleagues in the field are experiencing this.” 

The Dramatists Guild of America shared its response in a Facebook post last Friday.

“This violent response to her artistic choices strikes right at the heart of who we are, not just as members of the American theatre, but as citizens. If, by producing writers of the global majority, an artist like Nataki Garrett can be subjected to death threats, what does that say about the precarious situation our theater industry is in? In the face of violence, how will systemic change ever occur?”

Ashland Police Department said late Tuesday it’s aware of the situation, and are in contact with OSF.

Garrett joined the organization in 2019, and has been credited with evolving shows. She said some people in the community have been objecting to OSF’s more inclusive and modern programming within recent years.

But Garrett emphasizes that her purpose is to be inclusive and not divisive.

“What I’m trying to do is create a space where everyone can come to OSF and rub elbows with other people,” Garrett said. “That is what OSF has always been and that’s what it should always be. It should never just be a place for one group of people.”

It’s been an unprecedented couple of years for the theater, from dealing with COVID-19 related shutdowns, revenue loss, layoffs, and the impact of the 2020 Almeda fire.

Theater’s across the nation, including OSF, reported a 60% drop in regular audiences. The Ashland-based organization made adjustments to its 2023 schedule as a result.

On Monday, OSF shared that it surpassed its fundraising goal, following last week’s gala.

“My vision for the future is about recovery, sustainability, and then getting [OSF] to a place of thriving.” said Garrett.

Despite the negativity from some against her, Garrett said she and her colleagues remain focused on building the future of the theater.

“They’re threatening me so that I will stop and stifle the voices of writers,” Garrett said. “I‘m trying to save OSF so that I can save Ashland. I’m trying to save Ashland because I think it’s important.”

“I like the Rogue Valley and I want to live here, and I want to be safe here. I want other people to be safe here as well.” 

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