Paul Christy has been hired as acting executive director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival by OSF’s board of directors. Christy will fill the position until the new executive director is hired. He began work at OSF this week.
Christy, 64, retired in 2014 as chief operating officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration where he oversaw 3,000 employees in 300 locations.
“My skills are a good match for what OSF needed,” he said, citing his experience in information technology, managing large networks, human resources, grant writing and cyber security.
OSF will launch a national search for a new executive director to fill the position most recently held by Cynthia Rider. The board is also currently entering the final phases for the search for a new artistic director due to the upcoming departure of Bill Rauch in August. During the interim, Christy and Rauch will be co-equal partners in providing overall leadership of the organization.
After retirement, Christy and his wife, Teresina (who grew up in Southern Oregon), relocated to the Rogue Valley. Since moving here, he has done volunteer work for OSF in the marketing and development offices.
“I may be the first person who went from volunteer to executive director,” he said.
During the last few years of his 40-year career with the federal government, Christy found himself in situations similar to his new role at OSF.
“At least a half dozen times I was asked to take over when there was a vacancy in some department,” he explained. “They’d tell me, ‘Paul, go in there, keep your hands on the wheel, and keep it going.’”
His efforts at OSF will be on many fronts, he said. “But if I do my job right, I’ll be invisible, keeping the trains running.”
Christy sees both challenges and opportunities at OSF during the transition.
“There is the environmental challenge, of course. We’re concerned about the health and safety of our actors and patrons. The challenge is to underpin that with adaptations when the weather changes,” he said. “Smoke is a reality. But it’s only one thing that’s in our future. We’re in a five-year planning stage with an emphasis on offering the public the great entertainment they expect from OSF.”
He said he knows the continued success of the festival is also a major factor in the financial health of the community. “We need to make sure the business community knows we’re in lockstep with them.”
Challenges can lead to opportunities, he said.
“The more we analyze, the more we are in touch with audiences — learning what they want to see and when they want to see it.”
Christy has had a partial view of OSF from the inside as a volunteer. He sees the emphasis for him initially as an intensive period of self-education.
“I’ll be doing risk analysis and project management,” he said. “I know the discipline.”
He said his work will include defining problems and goals, employing state-of-the-art solutions, staying on track, and delivering.
The Christys have been attending OSF plays for 40 years, traveling to Ashland from Washington D.C. almost every year.
“I’m always amazed at how difficult it is to manage a repertory company and how OSF does it so well.”
“The board is delighted that Paul has agreed to join the organization as its acting executive director,” OSF board President Gail Lopes said in a prepared statement. “So much of Paul’s government experience fits the administrative and business expertise that OSF was seeking in this position. Those who have worked with Paul admire his leadership style, which is even-keeled, thoughtful and respectful of team members and their ideas. He makes tough decisions in a way that builds consensus.”
Lopes said during the transition, the board will increase its role to help create continuity and partner with key staff to oversee organizational change.
Rauch, who temporarily served as both executive and artistic director, said he was looking forward to working with Christy.
“I am grateful to have someone with his ties to OSF and the Rogue Valley in this role as we enter my final season as artistic director,” Rauch said.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival annually presents an eight-month season of up to 11 plays that include works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals and world-premiere plays, drawing attendance of more than 400,000 to approximately 800 performances every year.
OSF opens its 85th season March 1. On stage in 2019 will be “As You Like It,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Hairspray (the Broadway musical),” “Macbeth,” “Cambodian Rock Band,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “How to Catch Creation,” “Between Two Knees,” “Mother Road,” “Indecent” and “La Comedia of Errors.”
For tickets and information about the plays and other OSF activities, go to osfashland.org.
Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.