The term "Black Monday" can refer to many events &

from the day in 1360 that King Edward III's soldiers and horses died in a bitterly cold hailstorm outside Paris, to the 1929 U.S. stock market collapse that heralded the Great Depression.

William Shakespeare even makes reference to a Black Monday in his play "The Merchant of Venice."

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has its own Black Monday &

a term coined by actors to describe the day each year that the artistic director calls actors to tell them whether they are being offered roles for the next season.

"The humane thing is to let everyone know at once so there's no conjecture. It lets people know as early as possible their situation for next year," said long-time OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson, who leads the organization in partnership with the artistic director.

Nicholson said the practice of notifying the actors on one day dates back through several artistic directors.

During five years as a guest director for OSF, new Artistic Director Bill Rauch was involved in the casting process.

But Monday of this week marked his first time making the round of calls to actors himself.

Rauch said there are currently 91 actors on the payroll.

He said he can't say yet how many actors &

or which ones &

will be returning to OSF next season and how many will be departing. Actors who were made offers had until Friday to accept or decline, he said.

There will be more reshuffling based on the actors' responses to the offers, followed by auditions held around the country to fill in any remaining roles, Rauch said.

"We have an ongoing company that has always been a wonderful combination of long-term actors and new ones to fit specific needs," he said. "In any given season, there is change."

Rauch said OSF's practice of notifying actors on one day about the coming season is unusual. Most other theater companies cast one play at a time.

With 11 plays to produce in three theaters, OSF staff members plan each season far in advance.

Rauch said actors who were not offered roles on Monday for next year may return to OSF at some point.

"One of the things about OSF is that it's actor-based, " he said. "Former actors do return. They come in and go out. We have an extended group of people who've worked at OSF over the years. People go all over the country and sometimes they are able to come back. They are able to bring those experiences."

OSF actors who were both offered roles and not offered roles declined to comment on the record for this article.

In January, Rauch announced major changes for key non-acting positions.

Associate Artistic Directors Tim Bond and Penny Metropulos, Resident Scenic Designer Bill Bloodgood, Producing Director David Dreyfoos and Green Show Artistic Director David Hochoy will not return for the 2008 season, at least in their current positions.

Rauch said at that time that they may return as guest artists.

He added, combined and eliminated positions so that OSF could bring in more guest directors and designers and commission a cycle of plays based on American history.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199or vlaldous@yahoo.com.