A commitment to the development and production of significant new theatrical work is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's impetus to commission eight new plays as part of American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle.
The newly commissioned artists are sketch comedy group 1491s; writer, actress and director Aditi Brennan Kapil; award-winning playwright Basil Kreimendahl; playwrights Mona Mansour and Carlos Murillo; novelist, playwright and human rights activist Susan Nussbaum; playwright and director Robert O’Hara; and performer and award-winning playwright Jiehae Park.
OSF's decades-long program of commissioning new plays about moments of change in U.S. history launched in 2008 and brought OSF audiences such premieres as playwright Lisa Loomer's "Roe," running through Oct. 29 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre; Lynn Nottage's "Sweat," in 2015; Robert Schenkkan's "All the Way," in 2012, and its sequel, "The Great Society," in 2014; Naomi Wallace's "The Liquid Plain," in 2013; UNIVERSES' "Party People," in 2012; Tony Taccone's "Ghost Light," in 2011; "American Night: The Battle of Juan José," by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash, in 2010; and others.
The best plays come from giving playwrights full freedom to follow their artistic passions, according to OSF's website. The nonprofit theater company asks that each play be based on history and explore a moment of change. The playwrights choose the content, form and style of their work. The cycle’s variety of voices and visions is intended to create a meaningful and artist-curated portrait of our country’s history.
Ultimately, American Revolutions will commission and develop 37 new plays. To date, 32 have been commissioned by the program. The last five will be commissioned in 2017, with writing and development to continue through 2027.
Two of the newest commissions are in partnership with other theaters: The 1491s with New Native Theater in Minneapolis and Kreimendahl with Actors Theatre of Louisville.
OSF's 2011 "Ghost Light" was co-produced with Berkeley Repertory; Schenkkan’s "The Great Society" was commissioned by and co-produced with Seattle Repertory Theatre; and "Roe" was co-produced with Arena Stage and Berkeley Repertory.
"American Night" — the first American Revolutions commission to be produced at OSF — was adapted by Montoya for OSF's 2015 School Visit Program tour and turned into a radio play by L.A. Theatre Works. "Sweat" and "Party People" will be produced in 2016 at the Public Theater in New York City. They also were finalists for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History.
Berkeley Rep's 2015 production of "Party People" won the Theatre Bay Area Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical, and "Sweat" won the 2016 Susan Blackburn Prize.
"All the Way" received a Tony Award for Best Play in 2014 — along with a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway Play, Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play, Elliott Norton Award for Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theater, and IRNE Award for Best New Play by a Large Theater.
"All the Way" was a co-winner of the inaugural 2013 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. HBO premiered its movie adaptation of the play, with screenplay by Schenkkan, in 2016.
Theaters with upcoming productions of "All the Way" include San Jose Stage, South Coast Rep, Cleveland Play House, Actors Playhouse in Florida, Theatre Pops in Oklahoma, and Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Massachusetts.