One thing I’ve learned about Ashland is that common sense is sometimes left in the wake of ideology, verbosity and complication. The OSF / Shakespeare Books & Antiques controversy is a classic example.
For the benefit of those who know nothing about business (and on behalf of those who do, but don’t speak up), here’s what would have worked anywhere else I’ve ever lived, except for Ashland: Some OSF folks see something they don’t like in a book shop storefront and for some reason complain to their own boss. Their boss listens and then explains that the book shop is independently owned; they don’t tell OSF how to run their business and OSF doesn’t tell them how to run theirs.This is particularly pertinent, given the often controversial nature of the OSF work product.
That should have ended it, in terms of OSF involvement. What instead occurred was a really bad personnel management decision that led to the present situation. It also set a precedent that the organization will have to deal with from now on.
OSF had obviously not taken the time to inform their complainants about the political/historical context of the book shop displays, nor the owner’s reputation regarding free speech and civil rights. If it had to go one step further, this should have been the only step. Who decided to ‘go public’ first is irrelevant. Once OSF initiated the confrontation, a few letters displayed in a small shop were no match for OSF’s mighty website and mass distributed "encyclicals."
OSF seems to see itself in some sort of monastic role regarding Ashland, as if the "villagers" are incapable of interpreting events for themselves or otherwise having the sophistication to conduct themselves in today’s world. It’s interesting how the issue of mental illness has been ignored in favor of race relations, considering that the most compelling incident occurred between some OSF folks and a local (known to be mentally ill). OSF’s "diversity training" for the "villagers" never stressed the everyday, visible impacts of mental illness and economic disenfranchisement. I doubt that their upcoming "town hall" will, either.
I think the Tidings' reporting of this peculiar episode has been as even-handed as possible. I might add that there are plentiful theatrical alternatives to OSF in this area. I look forward to providing them much more patronage.