ASHLAND, ORE.: Oregon Shakespeare Festival has announced a new structure for its artistic team, under the leadership of artistic director Nataki Garrett. Scarlett Kim and Mei Ann Teo will join associate artistic director Evren Odcikin to comprise a three-person, non-hierarchical team of associate artistic directors, who will be charged with, respectively, Innovation and Strategy, New Work, and Artistic Programming. These three associate ADs will work together to transcend traditional text-centric models and give centrality, priority, resources, and space to generative theatre artists across media and professions.
“We seek to center those who have been de-centered by predominantly and historically white theatres like OSF,” said Garrett in a statement. “We need to break down and rebuild the structures within predominantly white institutions that hierarchize the artists while grinding them down. This new artistic structure will enable us to place the artist at the center, and as the conduit for how we engage, develop, and access new work, and how we interrogate the classics in both live and digital spaces. I want to be able to provide support for the artist from their point of entry, as opposed to having the artist fit into the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s historical, traditional, and often mechanistic processes. I believe that by uplifting the people who are creating the work, you will invariably uplift and hopefully evolve the worldviews of people who are witnessing it.”
As OSF boldly reimagines the kind of organization it wants to be now and into the future, Kim, Teo, and Odcikin bring a shared devotion to untold stories and underrepresented voices; hybrid forms that can reach global audiences (as platformed by OSF’s immersive and interactive digital space, O!); and artistic experimentalism both rigorous and playful.
Kim and Teo are stepping into their respective roles amid raging, climate change-spurred wildfires and the glaring need for environmentally sustainable practices; the pandemic and new considerations of “liveness” necessitated and explored within it; and racial justice movements that have reverberated across American theatre, as it finally begins to grasp its historically exclusionary and siloed vision of the world.
The introduction of Kim’s position, associate artistic director of Innovation and Strategy, and Teo’s position, associate artistic director of New Work, was made possible with a grant from the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle, an initiative created to bridge the career gaps for women in the American theatre.
The Innovation and Strategy position will spearhead OSF’s expansion into transmedia storytelling, hybridizing live theatre with emergent media forms, inspiring and supporting projects around immersive technologies (AR & VR), and leading the evolution of O!’s exploratory spirit. Kim—a director, artist, and producer who uses participatory performance and mixed-reality technology to enact social change—had already been engaged by OSF to direct the upcoming episodic, digital Shakespeare adaptation The Cymbeline Project. Kim (she/her), who was born in Seoul and activated the multidisciplinary artistic landscape of Los Angeles as her laboratory, noted in a statement that all three of the associate ADs are immigrant artists, saying, “I feel so energized to enter into OSF as my full self. I’m used to severing myself, contorting myself, translating myself; and in this position I want to make sure that we hold expansive space, space that allows artists’ whole selves and full lived experiences and full artistic impulses to be present. My diasporic immigrant narrative always felt fringe in the American theater and so I sought home in other artistic mediums, like extended reality or performance in a visual art setting. My new department seeks to center the ‘fringe.’ The work in the digital realm isn’t meant to betray our roots in liveness—rather, it expands our notion of liveness. Technology enables us to open our practices and dialogues up to a decentralized global audience, bringing our work into their living rooms.”
For the associate AD of New Work, OSF sought an industry leader with the passion and the vision to reimagine and lead its new-works programming to support OSF’s in-person, digital, and community engagement platforms. Mei Ann Teo (they/she) makes theatre and film internationally at the intersection of artistic, civic, and contemplative practice, and takes on the role following their successful tenure as artistic director of Musical Theater Factory, an organization that “develops changemaking new musicals in a joyous, collaborative community free from commercial constraints” and centers “artists of excellence who exist in the intersections of underrepresented groups.” As a Singaporean immigrant who has lived on both coasts of the U.S., Teo said in a statement, “Being from a colonized country, and living in this one, I realize that colonization of the mind is so deep. How do we rectify that within the belly of the beast? The process of subverting the grand narrative is not only in content, but also in form. As my work has spanned the gamut of reimagining classics, new plays and musicals, and devised ensemble creation, I am invigorated by the possibilities at OSF to move the pipeline of development to awaken the many starting points in our art form. From design-driven work, to music rituals, and generating multi-hyphenate artists—I’m excited for us to develop new processes for multidisciplinary work that has transformative relationships with our audience and ourselves.”
Evren Odcikin (he/him), who was born and raised in Turkey and built his U.S. career in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a director, writer, and arts administrator with a deep commitment to championing underserved voices and stories in the American theatre. Odcikin joined OSF two years ago as associate AD; within this new artistic leadership structure, he becomes associate artistic director of Artistic Programming. He will continue to lead producing for all in-person programming, including the repertory productions, Green Show, and other community-engaged programming. Said Odcikin in a statement, “I’m inspired to be working alongside two formidable artist-leaders like Scarlett and Mei Ann, whose global perspective gives them a lived understanding of the nuances of layered identity and a wide range of storytelling traditions. Throughout my career, I’ve built skills and expertise so that I can help run an organization of size like OSF that does not ask artists to translate themselves to make work. This is rare for those coming from the margins of the mainstream—we’re often asked to explain ourselves over and over again, not just to audiences, but to the literary manager, to the associate artistic director, to the marketing director. In this moment of change, Nataki has charged us with thinking about our work as visioning OSF and the American theatre for the future—for 20 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now. We’re just getting started, and I’m so energized.”
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