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OSF outdoor shows to stay put in 2020

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival this week announced that all productions scheduled for the Allen Elizabethan Theatre in 2020 will preview, open and reside in the theater for the entire outdoor season. No canceled Elizabethan performance will be moved to another venue, as in previous seasons.

OSF also announced that it is donating infrastructure fees from a full week of ticket orders placed Sept. 17-22 this season to Lomakatsi Restoration Project, an Ashland-based nonprofit focused on reducing wildfire risks and negative impacts from wildfires.

After the disastrous wildfire summer of 2018, when smoky skies forced OSF to cancel or move 22 Elizabethan shows, the theater company scheduled about six weeks of 2019 Elizabethan productions in the smaller Ashland High School Mountain Theatre. Leadership wanted to be prepared for another smoky season.

Ashland was lucky, however, and there were only about five days with air-quality issues this summer. OSF was hesitant to move the shows back and forth between the alternate venue and the Elizabethan for a variety of reasons: confusion among patrons, extra expense associated with multiple moves, and the effect on playgoers and actors with a house half full. The Mountain Avenue Theatre, with 400 seats, has a third of the capacity of the Elizabethan. It would be difficult to sell another 800 tickets at the last minute in a shift to the Elizabethan.

The result was that Elizabethan shows played matinees and evening performances in the smaller venue for most of August, even though there were no smoke issues after those five days in mid-summer. OSF finally moved the shows back to the Elizabethan after Aug. 25, and ticket sales were good for the rest of the season.

There is hope that 2018 was an aberration, and that future summers won’t be quite so smoky. Building sets and designing sound and lights for two venues is expensive, and the loss of revenue due to limited sales in a smaller venue is considerable, despite added matinees.

Meanwhile, OSF continues to look at possible changes for the Elizabethan, such as whether to add a roof or rebuild, and has engaged nationally recognized consultants to develop options.

In 2020, “The Tempest,” “Black Odyssey” and “Bernhardt/Hamlet” will be performed outdoors.

Since 1995, Lomakatsi has worked in low-income, forest-based communities throughout Oregon and Northern California to create social equity, economic opportunities and restore damaged ecosystems.

OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said the festival stands with its community, patrons, volunteers and company members in the decision to support Lomakatsi’s work.

“We are committed to serving and collaborating with experienced environmental stewards,” she said, “including those who do the work of preventing wildfires.”

In another gesture of support, OSF will extend 15% discounts on theater ticket orders to all Red Card firefighters and their immediate families for all performances. The discount already exists for active duty U.S. military or National Guard members and their immediate families, and veterans of the armed services.

For information and tickets to OSF plays, see osfashland.org or call 800-219-8161.

Jim Flint is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Courtesy photoAll outdoor productions in 2020 will preview, open and remain in the Elizabethan Theatre until closing. No canceled show will be moved to an alternate venue.
Courtesy photoAll outdoor productions in 2020 will preview, open and remain in the Elizabethan Theatre until closing. No canceled show will be moved to an alternate venue.