Fundraising plea signals storm clouds for Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Santa Cruz Shakespeare flourished with a comeback season in 2022, but the effects of the pandemic and inflation that have rippled through other local organizations are being felt at the West Coast’s live-theater crown jewel. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival says it needs $1.5 million by June for its 2023 season to continue, and it’s put a hold on planning for 2024.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Weekender newsletter. Be first the first to hear about arts and entertainment news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Wallace’s email newsletter here and and text alerts here.

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare and live on the West Coast, you almost certainly know that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is the biggest, most beautiful fruit on the tree when it comes to live theater, at least west of the Mississippi.

It turns out all is not well at the OSF, as the festival announced last week that it is launching a fundraising campaign as an effort to save its current season. The company has set a goal to raise $2.5 million over the next four months. It also said that it must raise at least $1.5 million of that sum by June for the 2023 season to continue. OSF canceled its Christmas production and has suspended planning for 2024.

The announcement began with bracing honesty, “OSF is in crisis,” it read, “and we are not alone.” That’s a reference to widespread shortfalls in revenues and audiences across the live theater world, due largely to COVID and inflation. Indeed, Santa Cruz County organizations such as Actors’ Theatre, Jewel Theatre and Cabrillo Stage have been struggling with maintaining revenues since the pandemic shutdown, and Jewel has even announced its closing after the 2023-24 season.

The outlier? You guessed it. Santa Cruz Shakespeare reported a robust comeback season in 2022, and is gearing up for another big box-office summer at The Grove at DeLaveaga. Incoming artistic director Charles Pasternak is even talking about expansion.

Worried about theater? Get out and see something this year, at Jewel, Cabrillo Stage or Santa Cruz Shakespeare. And if you want to donate to keep all that great theater going up in Ashland, you can do that, too.


Be the first to know all the big, breaking news in Santa Cruz. Sign up to get Lookout alerts sent straight to your phone here or below.