Cynthia Rider balances life, work, play

0713 FOB LWPOregon Shakespeare Festival Executive Director Cynthia Rider balances life, work and play.

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0713 FOB LWP
Cynthia Rider cradles the skull from Hamlet on OSF’s Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch

Cynthia Rider became executive director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in December 2012, replacing long-running director Paul Nicholson. Rider was previously managing director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, where she was known for raising $7 million for a capital/endowment campaign and launching an ambitious five-year plan. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University. Rider also is an accomplished actress; she launched her career as a performer at the Alley Theatre in Houston and was named Best Actress by the Kansas City paper The Pitch for Bed Among the Lentils at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. She lives in Ashland with her husband, Stuart, and 15-year-old daughter, Lily. Her son, Sam, 18, recently finished his freshman year at the University of Kansas.


“I’m passionate about my work. I love storytelling of all kinds, from books to movies to plays. I like exploring new places — I like going somewhere and living there for a while, not just traveling. I’ve been in Ashland since December and I love it. It’s such a beautiful part of the country. I enjoy all the restaurants and shopping at places that are unique to Ashland. I think it’s the diversity of things to do here that makes people fall in love with the area.”


“My work with the theater is a seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day kind of world, but when I do find ways to get away, I like to do day trips. I just went up to King Estate Winery. This weekend I have family in town and we are going to go to the redwoods, where I’ve never been. I like walking on the local trails; it’s so peaceful. I try hard to make time to get out and see the beautiful part of the country we’re in.”


“I’m a very avid reader. I like all types of books. I just read Far From the Trees by Michael Wellman, which was really good. On the other end of the spectrum, I was given a set of Maisie Dobbs mysteries. They’re light, fun detective novels. I want to read — well, re-read — The Great Gatsby; it feels like the right time. I try to mix it up and read something nonfiction, then switch to something light and entertaining.”


“I love the audiences that come to OSF because they love this place and they love theater. They’re a very dedicated and curious audience. I also love the intelligence, talent and creativity of the people I work with, from the staff to the volunteers. One of the first performances I saw at OSF was Animal Crackers last year. It was such a joyous performance. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that much in one day before.”


“I have so many favorite plays, but one of the first professional productions I saw was The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, so that play has a special place in my heart. Once I saw Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano de Bergerac on the same stage on the same day in New York. Later that night my husband proposed to me. He’s an actor; we share a love of the theater.”