UNIVERSES will serve as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's first resident ensemble, through a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, according to an OSF news release.
UNIVERSES, a theatrical collective composed of Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz Sapp, Gamal A. Chasten and William Ruiz, is an ensemble company of writers and performers who fuse poetry, theater, jazz, hip-hop, politics, blues and Spanish boleros to create theatrical works.
"We are humbled and honored that OSF so warmly welcomes UNIVERSES," Mildred Ruiz Sapp said. "Our relationship with OSF is invaluable to our company's ongoing evolution, and we look forward to continuing our development of new work ... in this uniquely fertile artistic environment." OSF and UNIVERSES began a partnership in 2007 when Steven Sapp participated in a Mixing Texts/Hip-Hop Boot Camp at OSF.
In 2009, UNIVERSES was commissioned through the American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle program, and they set off on a three-year journey to create "Party People," which premiered in OSF's Thomas Theatre in 2012.
In addition, the group performed at OSF's Green Show in 2009, 2010 and 2012. They have also been participants in other events, such as featured poets in OSF-sponsored poetry slams.
In 2013, Ruiz Sapp played Madame in "The Unfortunates," and Sapp understudied a number of roles in the same production. In 2014 both actors will appear in "The Comedy of Errors," running all season.
"It is a major honor to have an ensemble ... of such artistic quality, innovation, integrity and kindness choose to make the festival their artistic home," OSF's Artistic Director Bill Rauch said in the release.
Among the goals of the residency are to create an artistic home for UNIVERSES over a period of 14 months and two consecutive seasons, and to test a model of a company in residence within OSF's repertory infrastructure.