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  • OSF commission nominated for Tony Award

    Ashland's Bill Rauch directed Robert Schenkkan play on Broadway
  • The Broadway production of "All the Way," Robert Schenkkan's Oregon Shakespeare Festival-commissioned play about President Lyndon B. Johnson, directed by OSF's Bill Rauch, has been nominated for a Tony Award for best play of 2014, it was announced Tuesday in New York.
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  • The Broadway production of "All the Way," Robert Schenkkan's Oregon Shakespeare Festival-commissioned play about President Lyndon B. Johnson, directed by OSF's Bill Rauch, has been nominated for a Tony Award for best play of 2014, it was announced Tuesday in New York.
    The play premiered in OSF's Angus Bowmer Theatre in July 2012 and played at OSF through November of that year.
    In another nod to the play, the actor playing Johnson in the Broadway production, Bryan Cranston, who stars in TV's "Breaking Bad," was nominated for a Tony for best lead actor in a play.
    "I couldn't be more proud and grateful," Rauch said Tuesday from Portland, where he is directing "Pirates of Penzance" at the Portland Opera. "It's a home-grown play. We developed it, and I'm so proud of our actors and other artists and our audience."
    "All the Way" came into being when Rauch, OSF's artistic director, asked Schenkkan, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for "The Kentucky Cycle," whether he'd be interested in writing a play about President Johnson and the seminal events of 1964, when Johnson spent the year wheeling and dealing for civil rights and major social programs and defeated Barry Goldwater in a landslide in the November election.
    Rauch said the nominations and awards the play has garnered in three productions so far testify to the power of OSF's American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, the program under which the play was developed.
    The list of honors the play has garnered includes four Outer Critic Circle nominations (Outstanding New Play, Best Actor, Outstanding Featured Actor and Best Director), a Drama League nod (Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play) and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for a drama inspired by American history.
    The 10-year American Revolutions program (2008-2017), begun by Rauch and led by OSF's Allison Carey, a longtime Rauch associate, will see the commissioning of up to 37 new plays linked to moments of change in United States history. Bringing together artists and historians from around the country, the project is intended to mirror the scope of Shakespeare's history plays.
    The project has brought to Ashland playwrights from around the nation, including Lynn Nottage, Tony Tacone, Jonathan Moscone, Naomi Wallace and Richard Montoya and Culture Clash. The roster of plays produced at OSF includes "American Night," "Ghost Light," "Party People" and "The Liquid Plain."
    Rauch said he first had the idea for the history cycle when he was competing for the artistic director's job at the festival.
    "I thought about my interests and was looking for overlap in what OSF did," he said. "I thought of Shakespeare's history plays and thought, what if?"
    The best new play category features James Lapine's "Act One," Terrance McNally's "Mothers and Sons," John Patrick Shanley's "Outside Mullingar" and Harvey Fierstein's "Casa Valentina."
    "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" leads the Tony pack with 10 nominations, followed by "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" with eight.
    "After Midnight," "Beautiful — The Carole King Musical," "The Glass Menagerie" and "Twelfth Night" won seven nominations each.
    Nominees for best musical are "After Midnight," "Aladdin," "Beautiful — The Carole King Musical" and "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."
    The lead actor in a play nominees, in addition to Cranston, are Samuel Barnett ("Twelfth Night"), Chris O'Dowd ("Of Mice and Men"), Mark Rylance ("Richard III") and Tony Shalhoub ("Act One").
    Best actress in a leading role in a play nominees are Audra McDonald ("Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill"), Tyne Daly ("Mothers and Sons"), Estelle Parsons ("The Velocity of Autumn"), LaTanya Richardson Jackson ("A Raisin in the Sun") and Cherry Jones ("The Glass Menagerie").
    "The Great Society," Schenkkan's follow-up to "All the Way," also directed by Rauch, will open July 27 in the Bowmer with Jack Willis as Lyndon Johnson and Kenajuan Bentley as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    After its OSF debut, "All the Way" was staged in fall 2013 at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., before moving to Broadway in March. It will run at the Neil Simon Theatre through June 29.
    Rauch said Cranston, who plays meth-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White on "Breaking Bad," was a joy to work with.
    "He's hard-working, kind and funny," Rauch said. "Jack Willis (LBJ in the OSF production) is a great American actor. I was fortunate to work with two equally brilliant actors in the role."
    The Tonys will be handed out June 8 at New York's Radio City Music Hall. The 68th annual event will air live on CBS.
    Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at varble.bill@gmail.com.
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