Taylor Bailey is the assistant director of Play On!, the provocative and controversial translation of Shakespeare into modern English currently being funded by the Hitz Foundation. In that role, he is responsible for wrangling dozens of playwrights and dramaturges from across the country in order to get the project completed. I caught up with Bailey to talk about his role.
JG: How did you become involved with Play On?
TB: I was in Chicago working for The Neo-Futurists and freelancing as a director and producer, and had been there for four years. I love Chicago, but at the time I had been telling people that I was ready to live "somewhere beautiful with a significantly less human landscape." Then a friend posted a vague job opening at OSF and I jumped. I'd worked with Luis Alfaro in Chicago at Victory Gardens and heard him praise OSF many times. Lue Douthit was intrigued by my application and she explained the project over the phone with me in my first interview. After visiting and talking with more people, it was clear I would take the job if it was offered. In one weekend gay marriage was made legal by the Supreme Court, my sister told me I'd be an uncle for the first time, and Lue called and offered me the job! It was an overwhelming couple of days. Just about a month later I was living in Oregon.
JG: Tell us a little bit about the scale of the project.
TB: The scale is the whole thing! The idea of the project is actually beautiful in its simplicity, you're just going in line by line and examining the work. It's when you multiply that by 39 (plays) then things become challenging. Louis was greatly interested in capturing what language looked like today, so she put the timeline at three years rather than dragging it out over a decade. And it's not as much rinse and repeat as you would expect. Part of doing this job well is adapting to the work styles in needs of each of our individual artists. By the end of my time here, I will have produced more than 80 events for Play On! and OSF. And I'm only here for three years! It's a fantastic challenge, and I've loved rising to meet it.
JG: What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on this process?
TB: I'm a caregiver by nature, and much of my job is just taking care of the 85 artists that are under our wing. I'm also a great lover of new plays, and the process of making them. We get to work on all of these with a real focus on the process of creating the translations without the great concern for final product. Lot of new play workshops happening around the country have a focus on what will happen once this play gets to production. We are just focused on the scripts. It feels like a great luxury. All of this while getting a front row seat to the brain of Lue Douthit, one of our field's greatest minds. I'm a pretty lucky guy.
JG: What do you see as the ultimate goal of Play On!?
TB: I think whenever we work on Shakespeare a big part of what we're doing is trying to crack the code. Whether we are in a classroom studying the text, reading along with friends before seeing a production, attending a performance or writing a new adaptation. We're all looking for an entry into this work. I believe Play on is a new and exciting attempt to walk side-by-side with Shakespeare and really dive deep into his plays. We are discovering so many things we didn't know before, including that things we believed were true are not. Putting writers who are skilled with language at the center of this project means it's a poetic exploration, and I can't imagine a more important designation than that to get at these texts. We're all always trying to understand these plays better. Play On! is just one more attempt at that, coming in from a different angle.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at email@example.com.