The Oberlin Summer Theater Festival is closing its doors and will not be offering a 2020 summer season. Nagging fiscal and staffing problems that we’ve found increasingly challenging to overcome have finally come to a head and made the operation unsustainable.
A group of us started OSTF in 2009 as an experiment. It had a clear mission to present professional productions of great masterpieces of our theatrical heritage in rotating repertory; to make admission free, so we could attract a diverse audience of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds; to develop a core company of talented theater artists, including Oberlin alumni; to provide a professional venue associated with the College’s Theater department; to develop a business model that promotes putting artists first and treating everyone in the company as equitably as possible while minimizing administrative expenses; and to bring people to Oberlin during the summer months, to enjoy not just our shows, but also our small-town setting, shops, and restaurants.
I believe we were able to accomplish all of these goals. By 2018, our total season audience was just shy of 13,000 — about 80 percent of whom were from out of town, and well over 40 percent from beyond Lorain County.
My personal goal was to run OSTF for 10 years. And now, after 11 successful seasons — during which we produced 32 shows, 20 of which I directed — it is time for me to move on to other endeavors. This has truly been a labor of love for me, and so the decision to close the theater was extremely difficult. I am very proud of the artistic work that our company did over these seasons. I will forever cherish the collaborations and deep friendships that have developed in the company. Every summer, a family of actors, designers, and technicians — eventually up to 50 people per season, literally hundreds over 11 years — worked tirelessly to make these productions happen.
We are all very honored that so many in the community supported our shows as patrons, returning year after year and bringing an ever-expanding audience to celebrate our summer theater tradition. I know that the actors always felt that our OSTF audience was very unique — as demonstrated through your wonderful ovations and kind words. Thank you for supporting our artistic work!