Shana Cooper saw her first play rehearsal on Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Elizabethan Stage when she was 6 and promptly fell in love with theater. This summer she's returning to Ashland to direct "Love's Labor's Lost" at one of the nation's premier regional theaters.
Cooper, whose parents ran the Ashland Bakery Cafe, majored in theater at Willamette University, earned a master's degree in directing from the Yale School of Drama and was associate artistic director at California Shakespeare Theater for four years. In 2009 she came back to OSF to wear an assistant director's hat for both "Macbeth" and Bill Cain's new play "Equivocation."
Now she's at the helm of Shakespeare's popular comedy about what happens when the King of Navarre and his buddies vow to give up worldly affairs — including women — for three years.
"What first captivated me about this play is the impulsive, brazen, passionate, uncontrollable energy of youth that is bubbling underneath the complicated language of this play," Cooper says in a press release.
"Love's Labor's Lost" will open Sunday, June 12, and run through Oct. 9 in the Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion. Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part Two" opens Friday, June 10, and runs through Oct. 7, and the first full-scale musical production on the Elizabethan Stage, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Pirates of Penzance," opens Saturday, June 11, and runs through Oct. 8.
"I can't wait to have audiences experience the bittersweet majesty, the soaring music and the comic freshness of this year's offerings," says OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch.
The weekend will begin at 8:30 p.m. Friday with "Henry IV, Part Two," directed by Lisa Peterson, who directed OSF's 2008 "Othello" on the same stage. Part Two is the middle play between Part One and "Henry V" — Peterson calls it "the meat of the sandwich" — and the one in which the young Hal transforms into King Henry V. The setting is described as "modern-medieval 15th-century England."
Many of the actors from last year's Part One will return, with John Tufts as Prince Hal, Richard Howard as King Henry IV, Christine Albright as Lady Percy, Howie Seago as Poins and Brent Hinkley as Bardolph. Michael Winters will play Falstaff this season, with Kimberly Scott as Mistress Quickly.
Scenic design is by Rachel Hauck, costumes by David Woolard, lighting design by Jane Cox and music by Paul James Prendergast.
Saturday night, the Elizabethan Stage will be filled with the music of Gilbert and Sullivan, as Rauch directs "Pirates," which he describes as a "natural fit for our language-based theatre and our world-class repertory acting company."
The cast of 22 includes Michael Elich as Pirate King, Eddie Lopez as Frederic, Khori Dastoor as Mabel, Robin Goodrin Nordli as Ruth and David Kelly as Maj. Gen. Stanley.
The setting is the English coast in 1879. Scenic design is by Michael Ganio, costumes by Deborah M. Dryden and lighting by Jane Cox. Kai Harada and Joanna Lynne Staub are co-sound designers, and Gary Busby directs a 14-piece orchestra, assisted by associate music director Darcy Danielson.
On stage Sunday will be Shakespeare's playful tale about the King and his pals swearing off women — until the Princess of France and her girlfriends show up.
"I think the heart of this play is the zealous young in pursuit of impossible ideals while denying what is real and human until it might be too late," she says.
Cooper has set the play in a world described as "contemporary and natural."
The production features Mark Bedard as the King of Navarre, Kate Hurster as the Princess of France, Gregory Linington as Berowne, Stephanie Beatriz as Rosaline, John Tufts as Dumaine, Christine Albright as Katherine, Ramiz Monsef as Longaville and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart as Maria.
Christopher Acebo is set designer; Christal Weatherly is costume designer; Marcus Doshi is lighting designer; and Paul James Prendergast is composer.
Tickets remained for previews and openings at press time and may be purchased at www.osfashland.org or by calling the box office at 541-482-4331.
The annual Feast of Will is set for 6 p.m. Friday, June 10, in Lithia Park. Tickets are $15 at the box office, Paddington Station and Music Coop.