Nataki Garrett Resigns as Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Following Tenure Marked by Racially-Charged Controversy | Playbill

Regional News Nataki Garrett Resigns as Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Following Tenure Marked by Racially-Charged Controversy

Garrett received racist death threats and other harassment in response to her artistic decisions, which looked to diversify the kinds of theatre the Festival produced.

Nataki Garrett Kim Budd

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Nataki Garrett has resigned, with her last day set for May 31. The move ends a four-year tenure in the role that was marked with efforts to expand the Festival's offerings, decisions that proved to be controversial with some members of the community.

Garrett's work to program more diverse and contemporary plays in place of the company's predominately Shakespeare-exclusive seasons resulted in death threats and other harassment, along with critical op-eds in local papers. Garrett was forced to hire a security team, after which several theatrical organizations—including Dramatists Guild, Theatre Communications Group, and the Shakespeare Theatre Association—released a joint statement of solidarity supporting Garrett.

Garrett had technically been the interim executive artistic director since January 2022, when Executive Director David Schmitz abruptly resigned along with Director of Development Amanda Brandes. Only the company's sixth-ever artistic director, Garrett was also the Festival's first Black female leader.

"When I was first appointed I was very clear that I came for the opportunity to do the real work and to impact the change necessary to evolve the theatre and help it build towards a more inclusive future. My focus has always been and will always be THE WORK," says Garrett in a statement. "In that spirit, I am leaving with an eye on the future of the field. We all know that while our doors have reopened, the world is not the same. We are at an inflection point in our industry, where outdated business models must evolve in order for our theatres to survive. But these challenges also pose great opportunities—to rebuild in a way that reflects where we are today and where we want to be in the future—with actors, staff, audiences, and artistic leaders who reflect the richness of our country’s diversity. This is what excites me. This is the work I came to do. This has been my mandate and will continue to be my mandate as I work in the industry. I look forward to following your continued success and working in partnership with you to forge a better future for American Theatre."

OSF Board Chair Diane Yu adds: "The Board is grateful for the contributions Nataki has made to the advancement of theatre and for extending OSF’s leadership within the theatre community around the nation. Examples include her consummate artistic excellence as seen in the productions she curated and directed at OSF; her bold and fearless ambition to create new work and new pathways for the future growth of the theatre industry; her significant role in forming coalitions that collectively advocated for government funding for nonprofit performance venues following the pandemic; and her unwavering commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access. She has made a mark on her profession and OSF’s reputation for quality and superlative art has been elevated and benefited from her service with us."

Board member Octavio Solis will oversee and support the artistic leadership team as the Festival seeks interim and permanent new leadership.

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