Oregon Shakespeare Fest Issues Open Letter After Actress Is Victim of Racist Verbal Assault

News   Oregon Shakespeare Fest Issues Open Letter After Actress Is Victim of Racist Verbal Assault The Tony Award-winning regional theatre sent an open letter to its staff and patrons in the wake of several verbal assaults directed at actors of color.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Earlier this week, Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director Bill Rauch and executive director Cynthia Rider sent a passionate open letter to the theatre’s staff and patrons, addressing recent assaults within the Ashland, OR, community and the country at large.

Actress Christiana Clark, who appears in the OSF productions of The Wiz and Hamlet, posted a public Facebook video June 24 after she was verbally threatened by a passing cyclist who told her, “It’s still an Oregon law. I could kill a black person and be out of jail in a day and a half. Look it up. The KKK is alive and well here.”

Another OSF actress of color received a death threat just days later.

The theatre’s leadership directly addressed the threats in its letter.

“As far too many people in our community have experienced, these are not isolated incidents—they are happening daily in Ashland, and all over our country,” it reads. “They are happening to our Box Office employees, who bear the brunt of racially-charged and homophobic complaints about our approach to casting and season selection. They are happening to our Education staff, who sometimes must weigh their own sense of safety and ability to do their job against their instinct to turn an ignorant comment into a teaching moment.

“Social justice is central to our mission. Doing whatever we can to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our company and our patrons is also a central priority. To both those ends, we will not tolerate hate speech or other acts of racism and prejudice on our campus, and we will not be silent when such acts are committed beyond our campus…”

Adding that, “We express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement not to say other lives matter less, but to acknowledge that our society does not treat Black lives as if they matter as much….

“We will continue to choose plays and cast them in ways that reflect the world we live in now, with pride and without apology. We will continue striving to bring greater diversity to our workforce and our audience. We will recognize that we have a long way to go to live up to our goals of equity, diversity, inclusion and justice, and that we don’t and won’t always get it right—but we will keep trying.”

The letter can be read in full here.

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