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COVID-19 pandemic scuttles the entire 2020 season for Ashland repertory theater.

COURTESY: OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL - The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has canceled its Fall 2020 season.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Friday, May 8, it has canceled its fall 2020 season.

The season of Shakespeare and other plays was scheduled to begin Sept. 8, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But at a May 7 news conference, Gov. Kate Brown announced that "large gatherings," including live sporting events with audiences, concerts, festivals, and conventions will not be able to return until at least the end of September, and not until a "reliable treatment or prevention like a vaccine" is available.

"The health and safety of our entire Ashland community, including artists, staff, volunteers, patrons and festival partners, is our highest priority," said Nataki Garrett, OSF artistic director. "It is with great sadness that we are forced to cancel OSF's 2020 fall season. My primary goal is to protect the future of this celebrated 85-year-old organization and to bring great theater back to our stages in 2021.

"I'm thankful for the clear and sure-handed leadership of Gov. Brown, and thank our local community for all of their support. We are committed to remaining grounded in the expertise of scientists and health care professionals who have informed the governor's decision."

The news could be deadly for the southern Oregon tourist industry, which depends on busloads of Californians making Ashland their base before spreading out to wineries and scenic spots such as Crater Lake.

"The city of Ashland and the entire Rogue Valley have always been a premier tourist and lifestyle destination for arts, culture and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country and the world," said Paul Christy, OSF acting executive director. "Throughout these difficult circumstances, and for seasons and years to come, we are committed to working with all of our partners, community and member organizations to revive, grow and preserve the prominence of this region that is so dear to the OSF family."

The news release continued: "Canceling the 2020 season has very real financial consequences for OSF. Since suspending performances on March 12, OSF teams have been working to plan and schedule a 2021 season. All 2020 ticketholders are invited to donate tickets or consider a voucher for use in 2021."

In 2018, the season was interrupted by smoke from wildfires, particularly the outdoor theater fashioned after London's Globe Theatre. Cancellations cost the company around $2 million.

Like most arts organization, OSF has turned completely to private fundraising and government support. It also currently is running a $5 million critical relief fundraising campaign, Dare to Dream.

OSF's mission is: "Inspired by Shakespeare's work and the cultural richness of the United States, we reveal our collective humanity through illuminating interpretations of new and classic plays, deepened by the kaleidoscope of rotating repertory."

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