The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced late Friday that it won’t open its doors again in 2020.
At that time, OSF laid off 80% of its staff and scuttled about half its program of plays. The company planned to reopen with an abbreviated program on Sept. 8.
But that effort to salvage the season was put to rest by the governor’s order this week to continue prohibiting large gatherings until at least the end of September. OSF announced late Friday that it was throwing in the towel for the year.
OSF artistic director Nataki Garrett said in a press release, “The health and safety of our entire Ashland community, including artists, staff, volunteers, patrons, and Festival partners, is our highest priority … My primary goal is to protect the future of this celebrated 85-year-old organization and to bring great theater back to our stages in 2021.”
Theater officials said the cancellation of the entire 2020 season will have “very real financial consequences” for the festival. OSF has already been financially weakened by disruptions in recent years caused by wildfire smoke. The nonprofit is urging theatergoers to consider donating the cost of their tickets back to the festival, or accepting vouchers for performances next year, in lieu of refunds.
The financial impact on Ashland and the surrounding area of OSF losing an entire season will be substantial. The region’s economy leans heavily on tourism and outdoor recreation, and as local businesses that have been shuttered by the pandemic begin to cautiously re-open in the coming weeks and months, the closing of Ashland’s main tourist magnet will reverberate through the community.