Before Freda Casillas ever dreamed of working for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), she was a big fan. The self-described bilingual, bicultural Mexican-American says she inherited her love of arts and culture from her mother and grandmother. “When I was in the OSF auditorium, I would look around and wonder where all the people of color were because I knew they would love it too,” she says.

Now, as OSF audience development manager, Casillas finds that increasing diversity of festival goers is a big part of her job. Through collaboration with community organizations, special events, multi-cultural marketing and other efforts, Casillas works to increase access for people of various ages, socio-economic levels and racial and ethnic demographics as well as people with disabilities. “Diversity exists. Inclusion has to be created,” she says.

Inclusion is a regular principle at work within OSF at large. One outcome is a diverse cast. And this year, four of the shows in the lineup were written by playwrights of color — “Two Trains Running,” “The Liquid Plain,” “The Tenth Muse” and “The Unfortunates.” Casillas credits the internal diversity and inclusion structure for this. “It is really significant. It is really necessary to have the conversation internally.”

After four years on the job, Casillas regularly fields calls from arts organizations around the country wanting to know how OSF has succeeded so well in diversity inclusion. “We are not inviting communities of color to a one-off. We are inviting them to a long lasting relationship that includes collaboration.”

The 2013 season kicks off February 22-24 and includes Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Cymbeline” and “King Lear.”

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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