On Oct. 4, Willamette Theatre posted on its Instagram account that they stood with the “artistic leadership of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in condemning hate and hateful acts in our state,” regarding recent death threats against the Artistic Director of the OSF, Nataki Garrett.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is located in Ashland, and is one of the largest and most influential theatres in the Pacific Northwest. Its new artistic director, Nataki Garrett, who is a person of color, has recently been making changes to the OSF’s repertory with the mission of performing more diverse and inclusive works, not limited to Shakespeare alone. This shift in artistic content at the OSF is further explained in the opinion article that Garrett wrote for The Oregonian.
Many viewers have shown their discontent with these changes. This has caused Garrett to receive racist and discriminatory death threats from far-right and white supremacy groups.
Ella Stringer (‘25), who grew up in Ashland, has worked at the OSF over the summer. Stringer once met Nataki Garrett personally, and stated that “she’s a very kind person who is wanting to bring very cool changes to the theatre world, and trying to motivate that change throughout the entire theatre community.”
Stringer also said that “people don’t like change,” and that Ashland and other parts of Oregon have “a big history of white supremacy,” which could be the main reason why these incidents have occurred. “[Nataki Garrett] is bringing new types of theatre that we haven’t seen before,” she said, “and patrons of theatre tend to typically be older, wealthy, white folks who are not really accepting of this change.”
On the Instagram post that Willamette University Theatre posted about the issue, they encourage students to support Nataki Garrett by leaving comments of support through the OSF webpage and posting statements about this issue on social media.
When asked about other ways to support Garrett, Stringer said that students should consider attending their shows and being supportive, which is “very important and is really what’s going to bring change.”
Theatre professors Stephen Alexander and Jonathan Cole declined to interview.