Roberta Bialek Elliott has given $4.5 million, to be used any way the Festival sees fit. Elliott is the sister of Berkshire Hathaway magnate Warren Buffett.
Paul Christy, acting executive director for the festival, said the gift was meant to ensure that OSF’s artistic work is matched by its operational capacity.
"We've grown extraordinarily over the last 10 years — by some measures we've doubled in size and budget," Christy said. "We haven't always matched that growth with structures underneath."
The festival said it plans to spend the money over three years, boosting marketing, technology and human resources.
Christy said OSF is meeting ticket goals, although patrons have let the festival know they’re waiting to buy tickets for August. In recent years, the festival has had to cancel several outdoor performances at the height of wildfire season. OSF’s repertory production schedule has been adjusted, with contingency plans at Ashland High School’s Mountain Theater, and a long-term strategy for structural changes at the Elizabethan Theatre to help on smoky days.
“We’re ready for anything this summer,” Christy said.
OSF is on the cusp of a major leadership transition, with Artistic Director Bill Rauch leaving this summer. Christy said Elliott enjoyed close ties with Rauch as he brought the company into new commissions and outreach programs.
Nataki Garrett, Rauch's successor, arrives in August.