ASHLAND, Ore. *UPDATE* — Things will be quiet this summer in Ashland as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival puts its season on hold.
The announcement was made Friday morning that along with the delay, hundreds of employees would be laid off.
“It’s been a really emotional and heartbreaking time at OSF,” said CJ Martinez, spokesperson for the festival.
On Friday, OSF announced it would be delaying its season to September 9, skipping the rest of the spring performances and the entire summer.
The company will be dropping nearly half of its production. Along with the postponement, the company also made the tough decision to lay off 80 percent of its nearly 500 employees.
“All of it had to do with cash flow and understanding how long the organization could sustain itself until it could reopen again,” said Martinez.
The company says while the festival is stalled it’s focusing on helping its employees first. Those initiatives include continuing to provide health benefits to laid-off staff for two additional months.
“So that was a really important thing especially in a global pandemic to do the best the organization could in providing extended health benefits,” said Martinez.
Festival administration will continue running what it can in preparation for reopening in the fall. It also plans to start an emergency funding campaign to reach $5 million to provide immediate relief due to the loss in revenue. The money would go to address immediate cash flows and help the sustainability of the festival for the short and long term.
As the company waits for September, it plans on moving forward with other initiatives like OSF Digital which will test new ways to deliver theatre to people. More information and content is expected to roll out in the coming months.
“Exploring new ways and new platforms to engage new audiences and in the case of the global pandemic, obviously being able to reach our existing audiences and new audiences and share in the transformation of theatre,” said Martinez.
The company acknowledges things will be difficult, especially in Ashland. But it’s hoping these decisions will help keep things running until the return in the fall.
OSF says anyone with already purchased tickets has several options. They can donate the tickets to the festival, exchange them for a ticket to any of the productions in the fall season or the next season, or receive a reimbursement.
ASHLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced a layoff of most of its staff members. In addition, the 2020 season is being delayed until September.
On March 27, OSF said the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial consequences have forced the layoff of 80% of full-time staff and seasonal workers.
“All laid-off company members with current OSF health benefits will have them fully paid for two additional months, with many expected to return to OSF when programming resumes,” OSF said in a news release.
“It is with great sadness that we are making these announcements today. The resulting delay in the reopening of our 2020 season has very real financial consequences not only for this organization and our family of staff, artists, and volunteers, but for the city of Ashland, its restaurants, hotels, retail, and other businesses, and the entire Rogue Valley region,” said Nataki Garrett, OSF’s artistic director. “In unprecedented circumstances like this, when all communities are feeling the impact of a global pandemic, it is important to be grounded in our compassion for one another. I know that our community will see OSF through and help us return as soon as possible to the celebration of art we’re known for.”
Nearly half of the 2020 lineup has been canceled, along with the Green Show.
OSF plans on starting the season on September 8.