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OSF pulls plug on March, early April shows

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Thursday that all of its performances, events and programs scheduled through April 8 have been canceled in response to COVID-19 and is asking customers to consider transferring tickets to a donation or voucher.

The announcement came hours after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced during a Thursday morning address that all gatherings of 250 people or more are canceled statewide, effective immediately, in order to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Ashland’s other theater venue, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, announced plans to remain open.

According to a press release sent from Brown’s office, “Large gatherings subject to this order include but are not limited to community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based or sporting events, concerts, conventions, fundraisers and any similar events or activities, if a distance of at least three feet between individuals cannot be maintained.”

OSF responded by canceling its entire lineup for the next four weeks, including performances of “Bring Down the House, Parts I & II,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Copper Children” and “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Those who hold tickets for performances between March 12 and April 8 can contact the box office starting 9:30 a.m., Monday, March 16, via email (boxoffice@osfashland.org) or phone (800-219-8161) to “make other arrangements.”

“The resulting cancellation of various public events will have very real financial consequences for theaters and theater artists,” read OSF’s press release. “Nationwide, thousands of theater professionals’ jobs and health care are at stake. Transferring your ticket to a donation or voucher supports OSF during these uncertain times, and we appreciate your consideration.”

According to the OSF website, ticket holders have until April 1 to decide from one of four options: ticket voucher, exchange, donate or refund. Ticket vouchers are good for use in the 2020 and 2021 season, while exchanges can be made for another performance in the 2020 season but are based on the value of the original tickets.

Ticket holders can also donate the value of the ticket back to the festival, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, or request a full refund, not counting the $7 infrastructure fee if applied.

The cancellations likely represent a major financial hit for OSF less than two years after smoky skies from a particularly bad wildfire season forced canceling or moving 26 performances in 2018. According to a Mail Tribune report last August, that cost the festival nearly $2 million, a shortfall it managed to overcome by injecting 3.9% of OSF’s $40 million endowment fund, laying off some employees, reducing employee hours, deferring expenses and canceling nearly two months of the festival’s free outdoor Green Shows.

OCT, meanwhile, has a seating capacity of 136, under the threshold set by Brown. In a statement on its website signed by Managing Director Rick Robinson, the theater cited its strong record on health inspections and said it would “ramp up our cleaning and sanitizing.”

The Cabaret’s current production of “Steel Magnolias” runs through March 22.

Similarly, the Camelot Theatre in Talent remains open, although on its website it posted a statement saying it will monitor events.

“We are following the lead of our city, state and federal officials as we implement additional procedures recommended by public health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control in our theater, offices and back stage,” Camelot posted, “as all productions continue to play as scheduled.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.