Dramatists Guild, TCG, Shakespeare Theatre Association Stand With Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Nataki Garrett | Playbill

Regional News Dramatists Guild, TCG, Shakespeare Theatre Association Stand With Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Nataki Garrett

Garrett has received racist death threats and other harassment in response to her artistic decisions.

Nataki Garrett
Nataki Garrett Kim Budd

The Dramatists Guild, Theatre Communications Group, and The Shakespeare Theatre Association have released a joint statement standing behind Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Nataki Garrett, who has been the recipient of racist death threats and other harassment in response to her progressive artistic decisions.

"This violent response to her artistic choices strikes right at the heart of who we are, not just as members of the American theatre, but as citizens," reads the statement in part. "If, by producing writers of the global majority, an artist like Nataki Garrett can be subjected to death threats, what does that say about the precarious situation our theater industry is in? In the face of violence, how will systemic change ever occur? We urge the industry to treat writers fairly, and to dismantle gatekeeping systems that stifle the expansion of the theatrical canon, impacting whose stories get told, how they get told, and by whom. Everyone of good conscience must stand together to reject hate and to embrace empathy; it is the only path towards systemic change."

The attacks have followed Garrett's decision to program more diverse and contemporary plays instead of the company's usual norm of presenting mostly Shakespeare plays. Negative response to Garrett's direction of the company has ranged from a pair of local op-eds by OSF subscriber and local columnist Herbert Rothschild to violent threats, the latter forcing Garrett to hire a security team according to reporting from NPR.

Read the complete statement below:

"The Dramatists Guild, Theater Communications Group and the Shakespeare Theatre Association are joining together to stand with Nataki Garrett and condemn in every possible way the unconscionable harassment and death threats that she has received as Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"Nataki’s expertise and vision steered OSF, one of the most prominent regional theatres in the country, through the pandemic, surviving under unprecedented financial pressure caused by an industry in lock down. The theatre not only survived; it thrived as she presented a vibrant first season, which included productions of Shakespeare that employed diverse casts as well as new plays by a diverse group of brilliant contemporary writers. Many subscribers and theatergoers were thrilled with what they saw. But, as a leading advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in the American theatre, and the first Black woman to direct such a celebrated performing arts organization, she became the target of death threats, which have forced her to travel with a security team in public.

"This violent response to her artistic choices strikes right at the heart of who we are, not just as members of the American theatre, but as citizens. If, by producing writers of the global majority, an artist like Nataki Garrett can be subjected to death threats, what does that say about the precarious situation our theater industry is in? In the face of violence, how will systemic change ever occur? We urge the industry to treat writers fairly, and to dismantle gatekeeping systems that stifle the expansion of the theatrical canon, impacting whose stories get told, how they get told, and by whom. Everyone of good conscience must stand together to reject hate and to embrace empathy; it is the only path towards systemic change."

The statement closes with four calls to action for those wishing to support Garrett, including leaving a supportive comment via OSF's website, posting a statement of support and tagging OSF's Twitter or Facebook channels, writing to Ashland.news editor Bert Etling to express displeasure with Rothschild's articles (which were published by the outlet), and by emailing or tweeting Oregon's largest paper, The Oregonian.

 
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