Generous gift will support new work, education and “Bricks” redesign
ASHLAND, OREGON — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce a gift of $1 million from Ashland residents Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod. The generous gift will support new works ($250,000), education ($250,000), and the redesign of the Festival courtyard, also known as the Bricks ($500,000).
“OSF is humbled by the generosity of Judy and Joel,” Executive Director Cynthia Rider said. “We are grateful for the support of OSF’s education programs and the development of new work. The portion of the gift dedicated to the renovation of the brick courtyard will provide the seed money needed to re-open the design process. Judy and Joel’s gift came as a surprise, and we are thrilled to be able to breathe new life into this project.”
In 2006, OSF engaged a local landscape firm to evaluate how to redesign the bricks, taking into account the many different demands on that space and the challenge of its hillside location. Since that time, usage in that space has changed and a re-evaluation of the design will need to occur. The goals for that area would be to retain the Bricks as a gathering place for audiences and a performance area for the Green Show and other OSF and community productions, and to create a comfortable, accessible, safe environment for all OSF patrons.
“It is an honor to be part of the OSF family,” Judy Shih said. “From the first time we attended a production here we were so impressed. We are delighted to be able to make a difference like this in our community.”
Shih and Axelrod’s recognition and support of OSF’s education programs is deeply appreciated. Education has been integral to OSF’s mission since founder Angus Bowmer hired an academic advisor in 1949 to give lectures and classes about Shakespeare and Renaissance studies. Now the Festival’s Education Department is among the largest of any theatre in the country. More than 60,000 student tickets were sold in 2012; and 492 educational events were attended by more than 59,000 students. The department offered 26 programs and 1,900 events for both students and adults. In addition, each year the Festival sends out six actor-teacher teams to schools throughout the West Coast and Kansas.
Likewise, the gift affirms the value of the Festival’s commitment to developing a multi-faceted new play program. OSF made a commitment to staging new plays with the opening of the Black Swan in 1977, but during Bill Rauch’s tenure as Artistic Director, OSF has greatly expanded its development and production of new work. These new works have not only been produced at OSF, but at major theatres throughout the country. This is in large part due to the creation of American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle program in 2008. To date, OSF has commissioned 21 projects for American Revolutions, and also commissioned five new musicals and offered commissions through other programs.