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Tudor Guild has new role at OSF

Mail Tribune/file photo Actor Kate Hurster gives a backstage tour during the 2015 season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Members of the volunteer Tudor Guild will conduct the tours this season.
Volunteer group will lead tours of Ashland campus, while festival to run new store

While Tudor Guild members will no longer be running the Oregon Shakespeare Festival gift shop, they’ll be “making change.”

The change is a new collaboration with OSF in which Guild members will conduct tours of the institution’s campus, providing visitors behind-the-scenes access to the world-renowned theatrical destination.

“We are thrilled to kick off this new collaboration with the Tudor Guild,” said David Schmitz, executive director of OSF. “Their invaluable service to OSF dates back almost to the festival’s founding.”

Campus tours are known as the show behind the show, allowing visitors an intimate glimpse of the festival. Company members formerly conducted the popular walking tours. Their role in the program is yet to be determined.

Tours begin with a brief talk about the history of OSF and the intricacies of operating a theater in repertory. Tour stops may include theater spaces as well as backstage areas and green rooms. Tickets are $15 per person and can be reserved online at osfashland.org/tours.

“Tudor Guild members have an unparalleled connection to our theaters and our work,” Schmitz said. “We can’t wait for audiences to get a fresh look behind the scenes of OSF from this group of passionate ambassadors.”

Tudor Guild board member and former president Allan Anderson is hopeful that the Guild will continue to serve the festival in a meaningful way.

“I’m a little disappointed that we no longer have the store,” Anderson said. “I hope that turns out to be a good decision for OSF.

“In addition to conducting OSF tours, Tudor Guild members will also be volunteering in the new store and will help with hosting donor events,” he said. “Details of our services to the festival are still being worked out.”

Lola Egan, Guild president, says members are excited to have a new opportunity to become more closely involved in the life of OSF.

“We look forward to sharing our love and commitment to the festival with visitors,” she said.

Egan says losing the store was indeed a blow.

“My goal this year is to help Tudor Guild reimagine its role with OSF and to capitalize on the experience and dedication of our members to create something new and exciting,” she said.

The new gift shop will be located at the corner of Pioneer and East Main streets, formerly used by the OSF Welcome Center. The store also will be expanded into the space behind the Welcome Center. The name of the shop, opening date and hours are to be determined.

Egan has been working with the marketing department to develop volunteer opportunities for members.

“We’ll be supporting the pop-up gift shops in the theaters until the new store is ready,” she said. “In addition to leading tours, members also will co-host donor events that the development department sponsors each weekend.”

The Tudor Guild was formed nearly 70 years ago by a group of local volunteers who were determined to provide material assistance to the nascent festival. They offered food, furnishings and housing to actors who came to town in the years before the festival had sustaining financial support.

The Guild has raised more than $5 million for OSF and has served the organization’s artists, staff and audiences in a variety of ways.

When OSF announced its takeover of the gift shop and online store, Schmitz explained the action in a letter to Guild members. He said the change was not undertaken lightly and should not be construed as a criticism of the Guild’s stewardship.

“Rather, it is time for us to have full responsibility for our brand image, our patrons’ on-campus experience, and our trademarks,” he said. “This kind of control is exercised by most, if not all, of our peer cultural institutions across the world.”

By taking the store and website operations under its wing, OSF says it will achieve an efficiency that becomes available with singular accounting and a merger of activities such as human resources and information technology infrastructure.

Those interested in volunteering opportunities with Tudor Guild can email Egan at lola.egan1138@gmail.com.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.