Local, national leaders congratulate former DCPA Theatre Company leader for her historic appointment
The news of Nataki Garrett’s appointment as just the sixth Artistic Director in the history of the venerated Oregon Shakespeare Festival was greeted by a loud ovation at a Denver Center companywide team meeting Tuesday.
“We stand in solidarity with her,” President and CEO Janice Sinden said of Garrett, who served as Associate Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company from November 2016 through the 2017-18 season. “We are so excited for her and sending her tons of love.”
Added DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman: “I’ve known Nataki since 1996, when she was first finding her way into the field. My first intro to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was the following year. That these two forces are coming together to find a future together feels both thrilling and deeply fascinating.”
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the oldest of its kind in the U.S. It is a Tony-winning nonprofit located in Ashland, Oregon, with a $44 million budget and an annual audience of 400,000. The company runs on a 10-month repertory season, employing more than 100 actors each season.
“OSF is a huge organization with great resources, ambition and reach, and Nataki is the kind of leader who will thrive leading them,” Coleman said.
Garrett is currently directing How to Catch Creation for the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which will move to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in June. She will begin her duties as Artistic Director in August, succeeding Bill Rauch, who is leaving to head the new Ronald O. Perelman Center for Performing Arts at the World Trade Center in New York.
“I have known Nataki Garrett for 17 years and have closely followed and admired her career,” said Rauch. “She is a rigorous and thrilling artist; a thoughtful, confident leader; and a big thinker. Nataki’s historic appointment, as an African American woman running one of the largest-budget theaters in the United States, is a direct expression of OSF’s decades-long commitment to helping create a more equitable field.”
Garrett said she was “absolutely thrilled” by her appointment. “It is an honor and privilege to inherit such a wonderfully rich and dynamic legacy of artistic excellence. … I am equally excited and inspired by OSF’s dedication to expanding our worldview and look forward to maintaining our commitment to the revolutionary spirit of Shakespeare and classical text, while continuing to explore and expand opportunities for new voices and narratives through new play development.”
According to a national survey conducted by two Bay Area directors, women have been named to 41 percent of the 85 artistic leadership vacancies in the American theatre since 2015, and people of color have been named to 26 percent. Here is a roundup of reaction to Garrett’s appointment from several women who have recently joined the ranks of artistic leaders in Colorado:
- Helen Murray, Executive Producer of the Aurora Fox: “I am over the moon at this decision. I think it is just the most phenomenal thing. It is such a dynamic choice for them and for her. I think this is the perfect home for Nataki because of what she will bring to the national cultural conversation. There, she will be able to have the conversation that she has been calling for all this time, and on a national level. She will do it through the titles she chooses and the way she chooses to produce and direct them. This is just the perfect choice for them and for her.”
- Caitlin Lowans, Artistic Director, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks: “The American theatre is richer for having Nataki’s clarity, vision, artistry, and confidence to speak the hard truths to power. I’m grateful that we’ll all get to learn from her from afar as she both holds on to history and moves conversations in the field into the future. What an amazing fit of visionary artist and forward-thinking organization.”
- Regan Linton, Artistic Director of Phamaly Theatre Company (and a former member of the OSF acting company): “I think this is a big move for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But nationwide and in Colorado, the work is not done yet. When these kind of hires happen in isolation, it is encouraging, but that’s not comprehensive. The more you add up these one-offs, the more it becomes a movement.”
In addition, Denver native and actor Jamie Ann Romero said she was “thrilled to see Nataki take up the Oregon Shakespeare Festival reigns from the wonderful Bill Rauch and deliver Ashland into a new and exciting chapter.” Romero, who just completed a Denver tour stop with The Play That Goes Wrong, starred in several plays at Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a company member in 2016 and ’17. “I love this connection between my two artistic homes.”
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.