Nataki Garrett to Step Down at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Nataki Garrett, the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, has stepped down after a turbulent period that ended with a very severe financial crisis, and warned that it was unclear whether the nonprofit theater would be able to finish this year’s season.

Garrett, one of the most prominent women of color leading American theater, began her tenure in August 2019. She plans to resign on her May 31st.the decision was American Theater Magazine reported on Fridaythen announced in theaters.

Garrett encountered a series of crises while at the helm of one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious non-profit theater organizations. Based in the southern Oregon town of Ashland, the theater is a destination theater, most of the audience travels to get there and puts on many productions during the summer. Before the pandemic, it attracted 400,000 regular customers a year.

Garrett, like most other theaters, faced not only the coronavirus pandemic that forced the theater to close in 2020, but also the effects of climate change. The effects of climate change have particularly affected the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Wildfires have made air quality worse.

She has also received backlash for her programming, which longtime theater goers objected to as being overly left-leaning, and after receiving death threats, she hired security guards.

The organization has experienced significant turnover during her tenure — some of the leaders she brought in to help run the festival have since left — and in January Garrett was hired as executive director. After David Schmitz, she assumed the title of Interim Executive Artistic Director. She resigned amidst a leadership revamp. Last month, the company released the dire tagline, “Save Our Season. Save OSF.”

Garrett declined an interview through a publicist, but said in a statement: But these challenges are reframed in ways that reflect where we are now and where we want to be in the future, with actors, staff, audiences and artistic leaders who reflect the richness of our country’s diversity. It also presents a great opportunity to do. This is the job I came to do. “

In a statement, the company said director and playwright Octavio Solis “will step in to oversee and support the artistic leadership team during this transitional phase.”

The theater is currently hosting two shows of Garrett’s Romeo and Juliet. stated in the company manual A website exploring the ‘contemporary finance and class sector’ and the production of ‘Rent’.

Diane Yu, chairman of the theater’s board, said in an interview that the fundraising campaign is progressing well and she is optimistic about other shows this season, including “Twelfth Night” and “The Three Musketeers.” I said yes. The theater has canceled shows for the holiday season, and Yu said it’s still unclear what will happen next year, but “the board’s focus is on keeping this theater alive. It’s important to us, and it’s important to American theater.”

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