Jerry Turner (1927–2004) served as artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from 1971 to 1991. He transformed the festival from a summer program for semi-professional actors into one of the top regional theaters in the country by leading the Ashland, Oregon-based company beyond its Shakespearean repertoire. He produced plays by Bertold Brecht, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, and August Strindberg and added the Angus Bowmer Theatre in 1970 and the Black Swan in 1977 to the festival's original theater, the Elizabethan Stage.
Jerry Turner became the producing director of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival in 1970 after its founder, Angus Bowmer retired. Turner expanded the festival and attracted directors and actors from all over the country. In 1980, he hired Reggie Pesky to direct a production of The Tempest. However, Pesky made the decision to cast Nicole Williamson, a sasquatch, as Caliban. Pesky was quite excited by the prospect of having a Caliban that didn't require make-up. Nicole's father was Bill Williamson, the Governor of Jefferson. He was not pleased by Pesky's decision.
Williamson initially tried to meet with Pesky, but Pesky proved resistant, so Williamson met with Turner. Turner also had issues with Pesky's decision to cast Nicole as Caliban, but was hesitant to override a visiting director, for fear of driving off future directors. However, when Williamson told Turner about Pesky's general excitement about having a Caliban that didn't need make-up, Turner realized just how badly that would play in Ashland and in the whole state of Jefferson. To help persuade Turner, Williamson offered to find state money to help further fund the festival. After Turner secured Williamson's promise that there would be no strings attached, he agreed, and had Nicole promoted to the part of Miranda.
Nicole played Miranda brilliantly. A few days later, Williamson announced that the Legislature had authorized a new annual grant of $75,000 a year to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.