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Tempo notes: Herskowitz to retire from AIFF; ANPF Fall Festival will be virtual

Richard Herskowitz, AIFF Artistic Director, at the outdoor screening of "The Weight of Water" at Walkabout Brewing Company in 2019. Photo via Facebook.

The Ashland Independent Film Festival announces that at the end of October, Richard Herskowitz will retire from his position as artistic director in conjunction with his move back to the East Coast.

From there, he will continue to work with AIFF as curator of special programs, including organizing “live cinema” programs for AIFF 2022 (April 14-28) that bridge film with live music, theater, and visual arts.

“This move is the next stage of my semi-retirement, having given up last year the executive part of my former artistic and executive director role at AIFF,” Herskowitz noted in a press release. “My recent trip back to the East Coast persuaded my wife and me that we want to be closer to our families. But I’m thrilled that I’ll be remaining a part of the AIFF team and that the festival is offering me opportunities to present the unique ‘live cinema’ programs that are my greatest curatorial passion.”

AIFF’s new Executive Director Phil Busse adds, “Along with the multi-arts programs like the Schneider Museum media installations and live music and film shows that are so memorable, Richard’s legacy to AIFF includes a major expansion of its educational offerings, including Teen Press. Before he leaves, Richard will launch the next phase of AIFF’s educational expansion, hosting the first 4-week class in our monthly film appreciation series in the AIFF Film Center on Ashland’s East Main Street.”

Herskowitz also will program and host his seventh and final World Film Weeks, which this year will be hybrid — both live and virtual. World Film Weeks will kick off and run for one week at the Varsity Theater in Ashland Sept. 17-23 and continue for a second week on AIFF’s virtual festival channel at Eventive.com from Sept. 24-30. The program will be unveiled on Aug. 25 in a preview presentation conducted online by Herskowitz at ashlandfilm.org.

Herskowitz came to Ashland in 2015 as director of programming, and he programmed his first AIFF in 2016. He moved into the position of artistic and executive director in early 2017, shifting to artistic director in July of 2020. His film programming career began at Cornell Cinema, where he screened more than 500 films annually from 1982 to 1994. He moved from film societies to film festivals when he became director of the Virginia Film Festival (1994-2008), and then artistic director of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival (2008-18).

Herskowitz also maintained parallel careers as curator of media arts for the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, and as a film lecturer at Ithaca College, the University of Virginia and UO.

Ashland New Plays Fall Festival will be virtual once again

Ashland New Plays Festival will present its 29th annual Fall Festival virtually because of uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, officials announced this week.

The festival’s board of directors met recently to consider plans for its annual flagship event. While it is not scheduled to take place until Oct. 20-24, the board and staff have been monitoring the local rise of COVID-19 cases closely, according to a press release, which cited a Mail Tribune article on rising local infections. The board also stated, “Our county lags behind in vaccination rates and is classified as very high risk.”

“In matters of health and well-being, we have to be cautious,” says ANPF Board Secretary Kate Wolf-Pizor, “Looking at the COVID case graphs for Jackson County, we are in a major hot spot.”

While local cases may decline in the coming months, the board is not confident that ANPF will be able to present an in-person, indoor festival this fall, the release stated. With production planning and casting already underway, members said the organization is at a pivotal decision point.

“We believe ANPF needs to err on the side of caution,” says ANPF Board President Peggy Moore. “We have been planning a live festival for months, and so looking forward to welcoming our audiences back to the theatre, but given the history of this virus, the number of unvaccinated people in our county, and the impact of the Delta variant, we do not feel it is safe to bring people together.”

Last year’s virtual festival, pulled together in the midst of the industry’s pivot to “Zoom Theatre,” exceeded expectations, the board stated. Many patrons shared positive feedback about the medium’s intimacy as well as gratitude for the ongoing connection to the ANPF community of artists. “The board and artistic staff remain committed to planning a vibrant, interactive festival for 2021, providing the best theatrical viewing experience possible for our audiences,” the release said.

“There’s a real silver lining here,” says ANPF Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca. “With a virtual festival, we are able to bring together artists from all over the country and share these wonderful plays with a global audience. While I had really hoped to connect with everyone in person this year, I look forward to sharing our winning playwrights’ work far and wide.”

The Fall Festival will feature readings of new plays by winning playwrights Thomas Brandon, Meghan Brown, Andrew Lee Creech and Tylie Shider, to be held virtually over Zoom Oct. 20-24. Tickets will go on sale in September at ashlandnewplays.org/season.