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It’s disappointing that OSF is not producing new material

I am writing this in response to the last couple of articles published in the Tidings regarding the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I am writing to express my profound disappointment in the product that OsF is producing, or, to be more accurate, not producing.

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During the pandemic I have had the pleasure of watching many “live” readings (via Zoom) of new plays, reunion readings of old plays, high-quality filmed plays, experimental plays and magic shows, all being given by theater companies all over the country and the world. OsF has given the Ashland community re-runs of plays most of us have seen in person, lectures on racism, short films about racism and fundraising efforts. They have co-sponsored plays produced at other theater companies.

Where is the creativity? Where is theater? Where is Shakespeare? Why aren’t the actors being hired to do readings of new plays or Shakespeare that can be Zoomed?

It appears that OsF is planning a complete web presence. Funny, all the other theater companies that I am zooming into use their web to enhance the theater piece I am watching, not replace the “live” Zoom experience of seeing theater.

Luckily, I live in a town where creative folk are trying to produce and present theater — I thank Cabaret Theater, Sage Productions, the Barnstormers, The Collaborative Theatre Project, the New Plays Festival, Randall Theater and, wait for it — Ashland High School — that managed to produce something live (the AHS production of “Clue” — fun!). Where is OsF?

I have gone to outdoor, social distanced, in-person staged readings, some of which were held as benefits for OsF actors! But nothing from OsF. Where are play readings of the plays that OsF was going to produce in 2020? Some plays were already in rehearsal — why not do a Zoom reading of those plays?

It saddens me to read in the Tempo published every Friday, on the “live and streamed” page, the very tiny squib given to OsF at the bottom of the page describing the portal to view archived plays — and this is the sad part — “the promise of new online content,” a promise that is unfulfilled for over a year. I remember when OsF would be the headline on that page.

It is not an accident that I am using a lower-case “s” when describing OsF. Shakespeare has been minimized by this current leadership team and board of directors. It seems that they are pointing us to the PlayOn productions of Shakespeare.

Putting on live theater also seems secondary — to what, I don’t know, since it is part of their mission to produce plays. The latest hires appear to be directly tied to increasing the digital presence and measuring digital watchers. Live theater seems to be an afterthought. OsF is becoming a website.

OsF has a dream outdoor theater space. I understand that it is hard to plan around the pandemic, but it is tiresome to hear the leadership blame Kate Brown for their own lack of creativity or imagination. Other theater companies would love to have the space that OsF has and would plan theater for 100 people or 50 people. Sage Productions is putting on outside theater in a wonderful setting. OsF already has that and is choosing to not use it. Gov. Brown has nothing to do with that decision.

I know that I am not the only Ashland resident feeling the loss of OsF. OsF, please prove me wrong.

MaryAnn Gernegliaro lives in Ashland.