Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s artistic director, Nataki Garret, has resigned from the Festival. Announced earlier this month, Garrett plans her last day to be May 31.
The four-year-long artistic director, and recent interim artistic director, has been a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 2019 and has contributed to much of the company’s work through thick and thin. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Garrett worked to lower the company’s expenses, while raising money to support members of the company and maintain a connection with the community. Throughout the Almeda fire, Garrett, with the assistance of artistic director David Schmitz, worked to provide onsite donations centers and housing for those affected by the fires. Garrett is credited with conceiving the digital platform O! to give the company a way to put on shows and other media during the Pandemic, as well as the Dare to Dream emergency relief campaign which donated a portion of its proceeds to underserved communities affected by the Almeda fire. There are many more accomplishments Garrett has achieved during her time at OSF (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), including directing credits for last fall’s show Confederates and the upcoming Romeo and Juliet (2023), among others.
In January of this year, Garrett was appointed the Interim Artistic Director for OSF as a result of Schmitz’s abrupt departure from the company. Schmitz stepped down voluntarily, alongside Amanda Brandes, Director of Development, as a part of OSF’s restructuring strategy.
Since joining the company, Garrett has faced many attacks against her work and her person. Critics accuse Garrett of not understanding Shakespeare and that the company puts on too many modern shows. Alongside this, Garrett has received a slew of death threats and would only go out in Ashland while accompanied by security detail, or having informed security detail of the places she goes. Garrett is the first Black Woman Artistic Director in OSF history. Ashland is not unfamiliar with racism and bigotry in its history, but it is a shame to see it still in the modern day. Garrett shared her story with NPR on September 28, 2022, in greater detail.
With Garrett stepping down from her role as Interim Artistic Director, Playwright Octavio Solis will be taking the reins and search for the next Artistic Director.
While Garrett is stepping down, she only wishes the best for OSF, Ashland, and Theatre as a whole.
Looking back at the events leading up to and surrounding her resignation, Ashland and the Rogue Valley should take some time to think. Artists, non-artists, community members, government officials, teachers, anyone, and everyone in the Valley will need to rethink how we navigate our community and manage the issues within it. Should the Rogue Valley stay in the past, or should it evolve, grow, and flourish?
“The Rogue Valley has to make a decision about what it’s going to be.” -Nataki Garrett