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OSF 'elated' following $4.7 million grant

Though it won’t come close to covering the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s $40 million annual operating budget, a $4.7 million grant OSF was awarded Tuesday still qualifies as a huge win for the organization, says OSF Director of Communications CJ Martinez.

The festival was awarded the largest share of a $50 million federal relief fund package that Oregon legislators directed to arts and cultural organizations. The Joint Emergency Board of the Oregon State Legislature approved the bill Tuesday in a 19-1 vote.

“There’s this dichotomy between an understanding of what it takes to run a repertory theater of our scale and also continue to raise the money that we need, but we are absolutely elated. Absolutely,” Martinez said of the grant, which dips into Oregon’s estimated $2.45 billion share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. “This is such a huge uplift for the organization, but also a recognition at the state level of just arts in general. There’s a large group of us.”

Closed since the first week of March, less than two weeks into its 2020 season, OSF laid off 80% of its staff and canceled its entire lineup following Oregon’s economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. Martinez said the grant represents a win for arts and cultural organizations throughout the state. The festival was one of only two organizations to be awarded more than $2 million — Metro, which runs the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and other venues, received $4.1 million.

“We’re happy to be included in that company. ... This is not something that could have been accomplished without the coming together and the coalition of arts organizations around the state,” Martinez said. “The responsibility and the relevance and the inherent connection between the Ashland community and OSF, and the responsibility for not just that community but the economics of the whole southern region of Oregon, I think, also played a role in the consideration that OSF was given.

“We’ve got to be successful. We’ve got to continue to drive the type of economic impact that we have and plan to in the future to get us through this extraordinary time.”

OSF’s entire staff is still working from home via Zoom, Martinez said, but the shockwaves from the grant reverberated through laptops and smartphones. He added that OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett deserves much of the credit for seeking out the aid and advocating for the festival.

“This is really Nataki’s baby,” Martinez said. “This was something she really had both arms around and shepherded through ... in addition to all the other duties and responsibilities.”

OSF continues to fundraise through its Dare to Dream campaign, and is attempting to tap into a relatively new market by offering shows on a pay-to-stream basis. The fundraiser had secured $2.36 million toward its $5 million goal as of Thursday morning, and Martinez said “The Copper Children” stream, originally set to run from July 2 to July 15, has been extended another week to July 22 to meet “such a strong response.” The play, written by Karen Zacarias, recently received a favorable review by The New York Times.

OSF’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is also available to stream at www.osfashland.org. Tickets for the performance, which was filmed from up close to replicate a front-row seat, cost $15 and are good for 48 hours.

“We still have a lot of fundraising to do to reopen, and we still have a lot of fundraising to do to mount whatever season may be ahead of us, hopefully in the 2021 calendar year,” Martinez said, “whether that would be late spring, early summer or maybe even fall. New York Broadway closed until January officially and everybody collectively in the industry is standing by to learn when the next opportunities may present themselves.”

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

Henry V, Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012Ashland, 2012Open to the sky, the 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.File Properties? T Charles Ericksonhttp://pa.photoshelter.com/c/tcharlesericksontcepix@comcast.net