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OSF adopts new leadership model with three associate artistic directors

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Evren Odcikin
Scarlett Kim
Mei Ann Teo
Plan designed to place artists at the center

A reimagined artistic leadership structure, designed to place the artist at the center of how theater is accessed and developed, will lead the Oregon Shakespeare Festival into its post-pandemic future.

A new troika of associate artistic directors will work with OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett to help achieve her vision for a transformed American theater.

Scarlett Kim and Mei Ann Teo join Evren Odcikin to serve as a nonhierarchical team working to transcend traditional text-centric models and give priority, resources and space to theater artists across media and professions.

Although they’ll collaborate with Garrett generally, each brings an area of expertise — Kim in innovation and strategy, Teo in new work, and Odcikin in artistic programming.

The two new hires were made possible with a grant from the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle, an initiative created to bridge gaps for women in the American theater. Odcikin has been with OSF for two years.

“I want to be able to provide support for the artists from their point of entry,” Garrett said, “as opposed to having the artist fit into OSF’s historical, traditional and often-mechanistic processes.”

The new structure will serve as a conduit for how OSF engages and develops new work as well as how it interprets the classics — in both live and digital spaces.

Garrett says the process involves breaking down and rebuilding structures “within predominantly white institutions that hierarchize the artists while grinding them down.”

“I believe that by uplifting the people who are creating the work, you will invariably uplift and hopefully evolve the worldviews of people who are witnessing it,” she said.

While traditional theater on the OSF campus remains front and center, the organization also is reimagining not only what it wants to be now, but also into the future. That future will include hybrid forms that can reach global audiences, as platformed by OSF’s interactive digital space, O!. There also will be a place for artistic experimentalism, both rigorous and playful.

Kim had already been engaged by OSF to direct the upcoming episodic digital Shakespeare adaptation “The Cymbeline Project.” A director, artist and producer, Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, and used the artistic landscape of Los Angeles as her laboratory.

“I feel so energized to enter into OSF,” she said. “The work in the digital realm isn’t meant to betray our roots in liveness. Rather, it expands our notion of liveness.” She is excited about technology enabling OSF to bring its work into people’s living rooms globally.

Kim co-founded and served as artistic director of The Mortuary in L.A., a performance lab for unusual collaborations and unclassifiable practices in life and art. At CultureHub, a global art and technology company, she oversaw artistic programming for its L.A. studio.

Teo, a Singaporean immigrant who has lived on both U.S. coasts, is a maker of theater and film internationally, having come to OSF following a tenure as artistic director of Musical Theater Factory in New York City.

“I’m thrilled to helm new work at OSF alongside this team,” Teo said. “As my work has spanned the gamut of reimagined classics, new plays and musicals, I am invigorated by the possibilities at OSF.”

As a director and dramaturg, Teo creates across genres, including music theater, classics and documentary theater.

Odcikin, who was born and raised in Turkey and built his U.S. career in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a director, writer and arts administrator.

“I’m inspired to be working with two formidable artists like Scarlett and Mei Ann,” he said. “Their global perspective gives them a lived understanding of the nuances of layered identity and a wide range of storytelling traditions.”

Before joining OSF, Odcikin worked at Guthrie, A.R.T., Woolly Mammoth, Berkeley Rep, Kennedy Center and other theaters.

Garrett considers all three associate artistic directors as experimental artists and rigorous “deconstructors” of systems.

“They know how a conventional system works and also where it breaks apart,” she said. “They know how to lay everything out, figure out how it works, and evolve it into something new.”

OSF is expected to announce its 2022 season in late September. For more information and updates, see osfashland.org

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