The old, the new, and making the old new are characteristics of the 2013 Oregon Shakespeare Festival schedule that Artistic Director Bill Rauch unveiled this week. While bringing British and American classics to its stages, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has scheduled a U.S. premiere and three world premiers in a playbill dominated by women.
“It is in fact a season of extraordinarily strong female characters,” Rauch said in a festival release. “Several of our 2013 shows examine gender dynamics in provocative and entertaining ways.”
That theme kicks off right away with Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, opening Feb. 15 and running through the whole year in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. This will be OSF’s 13th staging of this comedy, but will be the first indoor production; all the rest played on the Elizabethan Stage. David Ivers, co-artistic director at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, will direct.
Meanwhile, King Lear will get the intimate treatment of the New Theater in a production opening Feb. 21 directed by Rauch. “I am delighted to be directing King Lear in the intimacy of the New Theater, as well as [Shakespeare’s] moving romance Cymbeline on the outdoor stage, centering on Imogen, one of Shakespeare’s most compelling heroines.” Cymbeline opens June 4, and the festival’s fourth Shakespeare offering of the year, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will join it in repertory on the Elizabethan Stage two days later.
OSF will also be presenting some American classics, starting with the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady Feb. 17 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Amanda Dehnert (All’s Well That Ends Well, Julius Caesar) will direct this intimate production in which two grand pianos will grace the stage and provide orchestration. The Bowmer will also stage August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award–nominated drama, Two Trains Running, directed by Lou Bellamy, the founder and artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company whom Rausch described as “one of the premier interpreters of Wilson’s work.” A third American masterpiece joining the Bowmer repertory April 17 is Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. The play will be directed by Christopher Liam Moore, who will be reuniting much of the team that produced Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of the festival’s hottest tickets in 2009.
The final show to open in the Bowmer is a world premiere by Tanya Saracho with the working title of Dreams of the Muse, a comic drama set in a 1715 Mexican nunnery.
One of the most important innovations for 2013 will be the New Theatre schedule, with three productions playing in repertory through the whole year, starting with King Lear's opening in February. Opening in March will be a world premiere musical, The Unfortunates, with book, music, and lyrics by 3 Blind Mice (Jon Beavers, Ian Merrigan, and Ramiz Monsef) and Casey Hurt. The play has been workshopped over the past two years at OSF, and Monsef has been a member of the OSF acting company for five seasons. The production will be directed by Ashland native Shana Cooper (Love’s Labor’s Lost). The original musical follows a group of condemned soldiers into a dark dream world inspired by American folklore, as well as the history and evolution of American musical styles, from gospel to Americana, blues to hip hop. Visually, The Unfortunates lives in a comic book world reminiscent of old Charles Fleischer animation, Erik Powell’s comic book The Goon, and the stop motion films of Tim Burton.
Joining the New Theatre repertory in July will be Naomi Wallace’s newest work, The Liquid Plain, a world premiere production commissioned through OSF’s American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle. The play about two runaway slaves and a near-drowned sailor in 18th century Providence, R.I., will be directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, British actor, playwright and director, and artistic director at Baltimore’s Centerstage.
Finally, in the summer, OSF’s famous Elizabethan Stage will be transformed into a forest setting that all three productions will share. This bold design conceit will allow for more thematic interplay between the plays outdoors, and will give OSF’s designers and artisans a chance to create with a different level of detail for Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night's Dream with Moore at the helm, and David Farr’s The Heart of Robin Hood, a witty revisionist version that premiered last year at the Royal Shakespeare Company putting Marian at the center of the action (directed by Joel Sass).
February 2, 2012