Oregon Shakespeare Festival Closes 09 Season With Record Attendance And Revenues

In what the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Artistic Director Bill Rauch and Executive Director Paul Nicholson can only describe as amazing, OSF's 2009 season results have exceeded all expectations. Initially anticipating a slump in the 2009 season attendance and revenue, the Festival closed with record attendance of 410,034 (89% of capacity), and record revenues of $17,098,115.

Last October at the end of the 2008 season, faced with a grim financial climate, OSF trimmed $1 million from the Board-approved September budget. In December, after lagging presale numbers and projecting attendance at 81% of capacity and the sale of 375,000 tickets, a further $650,000 was cut. By the season's end, however, ticket sales and revenues exceeded even the original estimates.

"To have a record season in this economic environment is astonishing," said Nicholson, "and was made possible for three reasons-the quality of the work on stage, the quality of the relationships and connections with our audiences, and the quality of our marketing. I see this as payback for 74 years of extraordinary passion and commitment by everyone who has ever worked here."

Rauch echoes Nicholson's sentiments. "I am deeply proud of all that we have achieved together this season. I continue to be inspired by this company's amazing commitment to its work, and by the intelligence, passion and loyalty of our audience. In this year of difficult finances, the company and our audiences have enabled us to experience one of our best seasons ever."

Rauch's second season as artistic director featured OSF's strikingly-different production of the classic American musical, The Music Man, which closed at 96% of capacity, and the critically-acclaimed world premiere of Bill Cain's Equivocation (92%), which travels to Seattle Repertory Theatre for a run from November 18 to December 13. Octavio Solis's new adaptation of Don Quixote, featuring actors interacting with 34 puppets, closed at 90% of capacity, and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman and Clifford Odets's Paradise Lost closed at 71% and 81% respectively.

In the New Theatre, Sarah Ruhl's quirky Dead Man's Cell Phone was a hit with audiences (95%) as was Oded Gross and TraCy Young's adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters (98%).

As expected, Shakespeare's plays did very well. Macbeth closed at 87% of capacity, All's Well That Ends Well at 98%, Much Ado about Nothing at 89% and the rarely produced Henry VIII at 79%.

"We also could not have had the success this season without the support of our corporate and foundation sponsors," Nicholson said. "Without their continued support during this uncertain financial climate we would not have been able to plan confidently for such a powerful and exciting season."

The Meyer Memorial Trust awarded a two year grant of $150,000 for OSF to sustain its diversity and inclusion work in reaching out to new audiences. 2009 Season Sponsor U.S. Bank recently announced that it will continue as Season Sponsor for three more years. Harry & David will continue as a Production Sponsor; the Shubert Foundation provided the largest foundation gift for general operating support; and the James F. and Marion L Miller Foundation significantly funded teacher training programs. While overall contributed income was down slightly, more than 15,000 membership households supported the Festival.

In addition to supporting the work on stage, audience development and operations, many grantors have enabled OSF to continue its work in developing new plays and related work. The Edgerton Foundation provided a grant for the development of new American musicals; the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has also funded development of new work over three years; the Collins Foundation awarded a three year grant for American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle; the Doris Duke Foundation and EmcArts gave a grant to develop Collaborative Workspaces; a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation supports OSF's Mixing Texts work (hip hop and spoken word), and OSF received its first grant from the Rockefeller Multi-Arts Production Fund (MAP) to develop Throne of Blood for the 2010 season.

Also of note this season was the launch of the Black Swan Lab to develop and workshop new work, and the announcement of the second round of commissions for the U.S. History Cycle. The 37-play, 10-year History Cycle is the largest commissioning and production project in the Festival's 74-year history. Commissions to date are Culture Clash (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza), David Henry Hwang, Young Jean Lee, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Robert Schenkkan, Naomi Wallace, the collaborative team of Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone, Universes and Rhiana Yazzi (co-commission with The Public Theater).

In conjunction with the Oregon 150 Sesquicentennial Celebration, Alison Carey, Director of the U.S. History Cycle, organized three days of events (April 25, August 12, October 24) to celebrate OSF's roots in the Chautauqua movement. The topics included Oregon and the Environment, Oregon and Beyond, Oregon Communities. New York Times columnist and Oregon native Nicholas Kristof was the featured speaker on August 12.

OSF celebrates its 75th year in 2010, and in a nod to the productions in Ashland's "First Annual Shakespearean Festival," next year's season will present both Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice on the Elizabethan Stage, as well as Henry IV, Part One. Anchoring the season in the Angus Bowmer Theatre are Shakespeare's Hamlet and a new adaptation for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Opening in April is She Loves Me (book by Joe Masteroff, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick), the musical that inspired the film You've Got Mail. Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof returns to the Bowmer stage after 26 years, opening at the top of the season. After Cat closes in early July, Throne of Blood (co-commissioned by Brooklyn Academy Of Music [BAM] for the 2010 Next Wave Festival), an adaptation by Ping Chong based on the film directed by Akira Kurosawa, will open and run until October 31.

Running in the New Theatre are new plays Well, by Lisa Kron, Ruined, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, by Lynn Nottage, and Culture Clash's American Night, the inaugural production of OSF's U.S History Cycle.

Previews begin on February 19 and run through October 31.

Presale for membership begins November 5, and general ticket sales begin November 23. Visit the web site www.osfashland.org to learn about membership presale. The 2010 website will be available for viewing late November 2. For further information, call the Box Office at (800) 219-8161 or (541) 482-4331, or visit www.osfashland.org.

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