Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director, Nataki Garrett, Announces Resignation
ASHLAND, Ore. (May 5, 2023) – After four years serving as Artistic Director and stepping in as Interim Executive Artistic Director in January, Nataki Garrett is announcing her resignation from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Her last day will be May 31, 2023. Board member Octavio Solis will be stepping in to help oversee and support the artistic leadership team during this transitional phase.
Garrett, only the sixth artistic director for OSF, joined the company in August 2019. She played a critical role in guiding the organization through numerous transitions and crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the company to shut down shortly after the opening of the 2020 season, what would have been Garrett’s first full season. During the shutdown, she raised $19M after fundraising and successfully galvanizing a cohort of Oregon arts leaders to secure funding for the state’s performing arts organizations from the federal relief fund package. She started a nationwide advocacy coalition for non-profit theaters, the Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition (PNTC), in 2020 that provided access to $15B in SVOG (Shuttered Venues Operator Grants) relief funding. A champion for the arts, artists, and the industry, Garrett has testified twice before Congress on the need to support the creative economy.
Artistically, Garrett conceived and launched an interactive and immersive digital platform, O!, which became all the more vital in live theatre’s absence as a source of groundbreaking performance, art, and discussion. Among her OSF directing credits include: How to CatchCreation (2019) ; Confederates (2022); The Cymbeline Project, Episode 4 (2022); and Romeo & Juliet (2023). In addition, The Cymbeline Project, a multi-episode, digital production of Shakespeare’s play, was conceived by Garrett. She also served as executive producer for the Sundance award-winning short film, You Go Girl!, and made OSF the epicenter of the intersection between XR and theater through her conception of Quills Fest, a public platform that sits at the intersection of immersive technology and live performance.
“OSF has greatly benefitted from the incredible talent and passion that Nataki brought to her roles as Artistic Director and later, as Interim Executive Artistic Director,” says Board Chair Diane Yu. “She joined OSF in 2019, just seven months before the pandemic closures and the Almeda fire. Under her leadership, OSF survived the pandemic as she successfully brought people in the industry together to obtain public funding to carry us through. The board appreciates Nataki for her willingness and ability to apply her unique skills during these past 4 years, and for bringing her vision for American theatre.”
As the first Black female artistic director in OSF’s 88-year history, Garrett’s appointment was historic. Her work encompassed current and emerging technologies and media, reaching not only the stage, but digital and film.
Solis will be spearheading efforts to secure an interim Artistic Director.
“The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been profoundly affected by Nataki Garrett during her tenure as its 6th world-renowned Artistic Director to helm the organization,” says Solis. “Without her selfless commitment, we would not have weathered the brutal hits caused by the pandemic shutdown and the devastating fires of the last four years. During this time, she brought new faces, new blood and new perspectives, which served our company well and kept faith with its mission and core values. We are actively conducting a search for an interim Artistic Director to ferry the company through the season, to which we are unwaveringly committed. In the meantime, we, the board, along with the staff, artists, and audiences, offer our steadfast guidance and support to the company as the 2023 season opens.”
In addition to Solis, other members of the Board of Directors’ Executive Committee will provide support during the leadership transition, serving as special liaisons and advisors for various teams, including Development, Marketing and Community Relations, and Finance and Audit. Board member Tony Drummond, along with Yu, will serve as management transition co-leaders, meeting with senior team leaders on a regular basis and helping to oversee general transition matters. This is a temporary management structure that the board anticipates will last 3 to 4 months.
The board will also play an active role in helping the company throughout The Show Must Go On: Save Our Season, Save OSF fundraising campaign, with a $2.5M goal to launch the season. OSF will continue to fundraise to complete the season. Garrett was instrumental in helping to launch the campaign, inviting Kamilah Long, Director of Development, to OSF to launch the current grassroots campaign, which has raised $1M in one week. By honoring and building from Garrett’s work and carrying the legacy of Angus Bowmer and other past leaders of OSF, the Board will support staff in ensuring the Festival celebrates its 90-year anniversary and beyond.
“I am leaving with gratitude and great respect for the many talented people I have come to know and work with here at OSF, who work tirelessly to make sure the show must go on” says Garrett.
“I have always centered the work on our stages both live and digital, as cultural justice and I remain committed to ensuring the work of the theater expands our capacity for empathy and our world view. This season is a reflection of what I set out to do when I came to OSF: center the artists as thought leaders who transform culture. This version of OSF centers Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) work. We are a company of artists who know we are valued, are engaged with the work with ownership, and who value the company because they know the company values them. They deserve, and OSF deserves, the community’s ongoing support.
“I remain hopeful that, despite the challenges still ahead for OSF and our industry as a whole, that the Festival will become a container for the future so that generations who come can continue OSF’s legacy of groundbreaking art making.”
By Press Release