Ashland couple gives Oregon Shakespeare Festival $1 million

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced today that it has received a $1 million gift from Ashland residents Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod (name corrected) that will be used to support new works, education and a redesign of OSF's brick courtyard.

Half of the donation will be used to redesign the courtyard, which is known as The Bricks, while $250,000 will support OSF's extensive education programs and $250,000 will boost its development of new plays, OSF officials said.

"OSF is humbled by the generosity of Judy and Joel," OSF Executive Director Cynthia Rider said. "We are grateful for the support of OSF's education programs and the development of new work. The portion of the gift dedicated to the renovation of the brick courtyard will provide the seed money needed to re-open the design process. Judy and Joel's gift came as a surprise, and we are thrilled to be able to breathe new life into this project." In 2006, OSF hired a local landscape firm to create a new design for the brick courtyard.

Some users of the courtyard have raised concerns about its slippery and uneven brick surface.

Usage of the courtyard space has changed since 2006 and the redesign plan will have to be re-evaluated, OSF officials said.

OSF officials said Shih and Axelrod's donation also will benefit its education programs, which are among the largest of any theater company in the country.

The donation also affirms the value of OSF's commitment to developing new plays and musicals, OSF officials said.

"It is an honor to be part of the OSF family," Judy Shih said. "From the first time we attended a production here we were so impressed. We are delighted to be able to make a difference like this in our community."

— Vickie Aldous

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