It was a time of transition for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the nation’s largest and oldest resident company theater organizations. Libby Appel, the Artistic Director since 1995 had retired at the end of the 2007 season. The new Artistic Director, Bill Rauch, had new ideas for OSF. Rauch wanted to lead the company in producing more new work, and more diverse work in addition to Shakespeare. He was committed to including one musical a year and one classic from the world cannon and hoped to gently challenge the audience, as he felt they may have gotten too comfortable (see Exhibit A). Rauch wanted to attract a younger and more diverse audience. He welcomed the opinions of all of those who work with the company and places extraordinary value on how the festival interacts with its patrons and with Ashland. But Rauch’s changes would be in the context of a well established organization.
In an American Theater magazine article (October 2006), Appel said, “There is little ego but lots of vision with Bill. He has the leader’s ability to value everyone in the room, but he still has the vision and strength of character to follow through on a decision. [OSF’s] program has very severe structural demands, and he wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t worked beautifully over the last five years within the rules of the game. I can’t imagine him not making innovative changes, but they will be within the general structure of the festival.”
The 73-year-old festival looked nothing like the humble beginnings that Angus Bowmer had begun in 1934, and yet the same spirit of collaboration in rotating repertory that the founder and the leaders that followed him had instilled in the organization ran strongly throughout the company. Mallory Pierce, Director of Marketing and Communications, knew that within this time of transition lay an opportunity for the company to reflect on its unique personality in the American Theater. Engaging in a rebranding process at this time could give the festival a chance to strengthen how it communicated what was already felt by all that participated in its activities while introducing the distinct leadership changes that Rauch brought to the table. Pierce wondered what the branding process would reveal about them, exactly what their journey would look like along the way, and if the end product would communicate the organization as a whole and not just Rauch’s leadership.
Publication Date: 2008-05-15
Suggested Citation: Rachel Tillman Smith, "Oregon Shakespeare Festival (2007-2008)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #08-12, May 15, 2008
Keywords: Oregon, Branding, Leadership Transition, Organizational Direction
Teaching Notes: Yes (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
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