Portland, OR. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced that David Schmitz will become its fourth executive director in fall 2020. Schmitz succeeds Cynthia Rider, who held the position from 2013 through 2018, and Paul Christy, who became acting executive director in January 2019 and has been leading the Festival’s transition throughout the executive search period. Schmitz has worked at Steppenwolf Theatre for the past 15 years, serving in the role of Director of Finance and Administration, General Manager, Managing Director, and currently as Executive Director.
He takes over at a critical time for the organization, which just canceled its 2020 season. Since suspending performances on March 12th, OSF teams have been working to plan and schedule a 2021 season. OSF is also currently running a $5 million dollar critical relief fundraising campaign, Dare to Dream.
“The OSF Board of Directors is enormously pleased that David Schmitz will join us in September as our new executive director,” said Diane Yu, OSF board chair and chairperson of the executive search committee. “He is a consummate professional who has impressive breadth and depth of experience in all phases of theatre management—from finance to marketing to development to operations to community relations to theatre building.”
“David’s reputation and accomplishments working with theatre makers, artists, patrons, and partners in the arts, combined with an extraordinary sense for community building, precede him,” said Nataki Garrett, OSF artistic director. “I’m grateful for the breadth of experience he brings to OSF through a variety of pivotal leadership roles critical to ensuring the future of this organization for many years to come, including our current top priority to return transformative theatre to our stages in 2021.”
In the executive director role at Steppenwolf, Schmitz has led strategy and execution for all fundraising, marketing, and business-related activities. His work includes securing the necessary resources and institutional support for the world-famous ensemble to achieve their creative ambitions in the present and the future.
“I am thrilled to be named incoming executive director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and to begin this extraordinary partnership with Nataki Garrett, the OSF Board, its artists, staff, volunteers, and the entire community of Ashland, the Rogue Valley, and Southern Oregon,” said David Schmitz. “I’m equally inspired by the legacy and dedication of OSF’s audience, patrons, and supporters to become their partner at this unprecedented time in the world of live theatre.”
Schmitz’s stellar track record has won him widespread national acclaim for what he has accomplished at Steppenwolf. Under Schmitz’s leadership, Steppenwolf enjoyed significant growth in annual
fundraising, including a total increase in annual giving of 25% over his tenure as executive director, and forged significant partnerships with national foundations including the Wallace Foundation, Roy
Cockrum Foundation, and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
“David is well known for his strategic thinking and interpersonal and communication skills, and is committed to OSF’s core values, including inclusion and diversity,” added Yu.
Schmitz’s experience as an actor, designer, and director gives him a unique perspective into the artistic world and informs his approach to administration. During his tenure, Steppenwolf produced over 115 plays, which included the transfer of more than 20 productions to Broadway, regionally, and internationally, and was recognized as a Top Small Workplace by the Wall Street Journal. Schmitz is a founding member of Enrich Chicago (an organization working to end racism in the arts in Chicago) and was an initial participant in the Theatre Communications Group’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Institute.
Founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has grown from a three day festival of two plays to a nationally renowned theatre arts organization that presents an eight-month season of up to 11 plays including works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals, and world-premiere plays and musicals. OSF’s play-commissioning programs, which include American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, have generated works that have been produced on Broadway, internationally, and at regional, community, and high school theatres across the country. The Festival draws attendance of upwards of 400,000 to more than 800 performances annually and employs 400 to 600 theatre professionals.
OSF invites and welcomes everyone, and believes the inclusion of diverse people, ideas, cultures, and traditions enriches both our insights into the work we present onstage and our relationships with each other. OSF is committed to equity and diversity in all areas of our work and in our audiences.
OSF’s mission statement: “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.”
Support for OSF during COVID-19
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. Ticket donations and vouchers represent an investment in the future of OSF, the communities of Ashland and the Rogue Valley, and the importance of art and storytelling in a post-pandemic world. OSF is also currently running a $5 million dollar critical relief fundraising campaign, Dare to Dream.
While OSF can’t currently receive visitors on the campus, they welcome patrons to visit O!, a new interactive and immersive digital platform that extends the artistry and creativity of OSF to patrons, supporters, fans, and virtual communities everywhere. O! will be the world’s connection to OSF’s work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic closure, and will continue delivering the transformative power of theatre into the future.