OSF Receives $7,000 OAC Grant for New Audiences

Oregon Arts Commission 2014 Arts Build Communities grant will support development of Community Conversations project to increase Latino engagement

News Release
January 15, 2014

Ashland, Ore.— The Oregon Arts Commission (OAC) has awarded a $7,000 grant to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) Cultural Connections program to support the development of Community Conversations, part of OSF’s new engagement model with Latino communities in Portland and the Rogue Valley. Community Conversations is one of 26 arts-based projects in Oregon to receive a 2014 Arts Build Communities grant from the OAC.

“Community Conversations is rooted in OSF’s rich history as a community-oriented arts organization,” said Audience Development Manager Freda Casillas. “Our long-term emphasis on relationship-building through the Cultural Connections program has resulted in lasting and effective partnerships with Latino organizations in Southern Oregon, and this generous Oregon Arts Commission grant will allow us to strengthen our relationship with Latino communities outside the Rogue Valley.”

Through the Community Conversations project, OSF will offer improved Spanish open-captioning technology to increase the number of accessible performances, establish baseline metrics for program evaluation, and offer community dialogue with artist and activist Luis Alfaro, OSF’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence and Community Conversations facilitator in partnership with Casillas.

Community Conversations is just one example of OSF’s over-arching mission to be a place of meaningful engagement for all communities. Through extensive and ongoing outreach to new audiences, OSF seeks to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the value of theatre. OSF has reached a broad cross-section of individuals, professionals and families diverse in age and socioeconomic background thanks to relationship-building that started in the late 1990s and has intensified since 2008 under Artistic Director Bill Rauch’s leadership. Year-round Cultural Connections programming targets diverse communities, including Latino audiences, through playwright discussions, bilingual advertising and social media, free and discounted tickets, public play readings in Spanish, Spanish open-captioning of selected performances, community presentations and events hosted by Latino actors and artists, partnerships with 15 community agencies, and through CultureFest and the Latino/a Playwrights Project, which alternate every other year.

Since its founding by Angus Bowmer in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has grown from a three-day festival of two plays to the largest rotating repertory theatre in the country, presenting an eight-month season consisting of four plays by William Shakespeare and seven that represent a mix of classics, musicals, and new works. The Festival also draws attendance of more than 400,000 to almost 800 performances every year and employs approximately 575 theatre professionals. In 2008, OSF launched American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, a 10-year cycle of commissioning new plays that has already resulted in several OSF commissions finding success nationwide, including the Broadway-bound All The Way, which won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History in 2013.

Luis Alfaro

Pictured: Luis Alfaro, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence. Photo by Jenny Graham.