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Another shakeup at OSF

Cynthia Rider, the executive director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 2013, will soon leave that job after an interim director is named, OSF announced Friday. The announcement comes as the theater searches for a replacement for its artistic director, Bill Rauch, who’s leaving for New York next year.

In a statement, OSF said Rider “opted not to renew her contract” beyond its present term. She is quoted as saying it’s “time for fresh leadership” to work with the new artistic director who will replace Rauch after he leaves in August 2019.

The Tony Award-winning theater suffered $2 million in losses over the summer due to wildfire smoke-caused refunds, lost ticket sales and extra expenses, and laid off 16 people last week.

Rider, in an interview, said her departure was not prompted by the board and that, in fact, it just offered a contract renewal. Her partnership with Rauch is optimal and “we’re wonderful colleagues and friends,” she added.

“I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and I realized the time was right,” Rider said, adding that the near-simultaneous departure with Rauch will give the festival “new eyes, with lots of momentum” for upcoming challenges, especially around financial loss from wildfire smoke.

“I’m going to take time with my family before deciding my next professional adventure,” she said, adding it may not be in theater, but could be.

“We have faced many challenges together over the last six years, and I have always relished the passion and creativity Cynthia brought to help elevate OSF to new heights,” Rauch said in the release. “I join the Board of Directors, Trustees and our entire company in thanking her for her incredible contributions and wishing her well in her next endeavors.”

The board is expected to name an interim executive director by the end of November, said Ted DeLong of OSF Media Relations. Rider will be available into next year to help OSF in an advisory capacity, she said.

DeLong said the board hopes to name a new artistic director by the end of 2018, maybe even by Thanksgiving, and that person will be here long before Rauch leaves, “so the new (artistic director) will be able to have ample input about the new (executive director).”

The new executive director will be dealing with the impact of smoke, he said, “and financial problems will not be contained to 2018, though we’re hoping we’re going to turn the corner on that impact and the realignment of our workforce, so all those things will combine to set us on a revised and healthy path more closely realigning our resources with our ambitions realigning the scale and scope of our organization to what we have available to carry out our mission.”

Highlights of Rider’s six seasons at OSF include the completion of a new Long Range Plan; the Access for All campaign, which renovated the Bricks and added an elevator and wheelchair seating to the Angus Bowmer Theatre; and the opening of the new Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center.

Rider, a native of Kansas City, replaced Paul Nicholson in that post. Nicholson spent 33 years at OSF, retiring in December 2012. He succeeded Bill Patton, who led the company from 1953 to 1995.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Cynthia Rider
OSF Executive Director Cynthia Rider (Photo by Jenny Graham)