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OSF will 'Dare to Dream'

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival was born 85 years ago during the Great Depression, an inauspicious time to be launching a major community endeavor.

Since then, it has experienced unprecedented growth — all the while surviving a backstage fire in 1940 that destroyed all the costumes, a five-year closure during World War II, the AIDS crisis, the flood of 1997, the economic disruptions of 1958, 1973, 1987 and 2008, the breaking of the main beam in the Angus Bowmer Theatre in 2011, and wildfire smoke in 2017 and 2018.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and crowd-size restrictions through at least September, OSF has been forced to cancel the remainder of the season after having gone dark March 12, only two weeks into the 2020 season.

OSF is tackling the crisis head on. Part of the strategy is the launching of Dare to Dream, a comprehensive fundraising campaign designed to raise millions of dollars for a critical relief fund.

Dare to Dream is a peer-to-peer campaign focused primarily on crowdfunding and social media.

OSF is using the fundraising website, classy.org for the project. The easiest way to get to OSF’s page on the site is to go to osfashland.org and click on the Dare to Dream logo.

CJ Martinez, spokesman for the festival, says the site provides opportunities for individuals and groups to mount fundraising campaigns to benefit Dare to Dream.

“If you scroll down the Dare to Dream page, you’ll see fundraising ‘buckets’ that highlight where the funds are going,” Martinez said.

“There is even an opportunity for every individual or group to cover the service cost with each donation,” he said.

Artistic Director Nataki Garrett appealed to supporters to consider joining the campaign.

“No amount is too small,” she said. “And you can organize an online fundraiser of your own and inspire your own circle of friends, social media followers, and fellow theater fans to join you.”

Funds raised will help maintain operations, improve the digital infrastructure, and ensure the 2021 season and beyond.

Those who want to support the campaign can do so at the Dare to Dream website page. There are two ways to help: Start your own fundraiser among your friends and social media pals with your own page on the site, and contribute to one of the funds already hosted.

To date, the top fundraiser is Jonathan Luke Stevens, with The Butzstein Theatre Conspiracy, Annette Julien, Cheryl Goodman-Morris, and Margee Lopez not far behind.

Top team is Banks House Regulars, followed by OSF ASL Interpreters, The Butzstein Theatre Conspiracy, Friends and Family for OSF, and The A Team following closely.

The peer-to-peer campaign is a first for the organization.

“It’s an exciting step in the festival’s digital transformation,” Martinez said. “This initiative is an important milestone and is providing the ramp to other digital initiatives.”

He says Dare to Dream is about bringing together the OSF community, its audiences and supporters, from all over the world.

“It’s another way for people to support extraordinary art, taking place in and in support of extraordinary communities in the region,” Martinez said.

All current employed OSF staff continue to have their wages and benefits paid.

“There are no actors among the current employed company,” he said. “Dare to Dream funding will support staff employment moving forward, well beyond this summer.”

Holders of tickets for canceled performances will be contacted soon for their decisions on whether to donate the tickets, exchange for vouchers or ask for refunds.

“The process is fluid,” Martinez said, “and definitely in the works for early May. The box office is very actively preparing its planned ticket holder outreach.”

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

Oregon Shakespeare Festival's outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre seats 1,200 people. Featured in the photo is the 2012 set and ensemble in Henry V. Photo by T. Charles Erickson