In previewing the 2019 Oregon Shakespeare Festival season to an enthusiastic audience Wednesday night, outgoing Artistic Director Bill Rauch said the announcement was the latest it’s ever been.
“I’ve driven my colleagues crazy,” said Rauch, who’s taking a job in New York in August next year.
Next year’s season will include four Shakespeare works, five new plays, the musical “Hairspray” and scheduling changes that will allow visitors, for the first time in OSF’s history, to see the entire season in one visit.
Rauch, who noted he was tired of letters complaining of short runs, said the structural changes will respond to audience preference, maximize student ticket availability and spread out production workloads.
The scheduling shift moves the opening of the season to two weeks later, but the opening of the outdoor plays a week earlier. The Angus Bowmer play that typically would stop in July will continue through the season.
Previews begin March 1 for “As You Like It,” Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, directed by Rosa Joshi, the Broadway musical “Hairspray,” directed by Christopher Liam Moore, and the world premiere of Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road,” directed by Rauch, all in the Angus Bowmer Theatre.
“Cambodian Rock Band,” written by Lauren Yee and directed by Chay Yew, opens in the Thomas Theatre on March 6. “Between Two Knees,” a world premiere of the latest in the American Revolution commissioned series, written by sketch comedy group the 1491s and directed by Eric Ting, opens April 3 in the Thomas. Both plays explore place, generation and memory. “Cambodian Rock Band” tells of the Khmer Rouge genocide 30 years later. “Between Two Knees” spans the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre to the 1970s Native occupation of that historic site with performances by the 1491s, an indigenous satiric comedy troupe.
The Allen Elizabethan Theatre opens Memorial Day weekend, with three plays previewing May 28, 29 and 30: “Macbeth,” directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, “Alice in Wonderland,” directed by Sara Bruner, and “All’s Well that Ends Well,” directed by Tracy Young.
Two plays will open in July, Paula Vogel’s “Indecent,” on July 4 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, and “How to Catch Creation,” by Christina Anderson, on July 23 in the Thomas Theatre.
“Indecent,” directed by Shana Cooper, is an OSF American Revolution commissioned play inspired by Sholem Asch’s 1923 Broadway production, “God of Vengeance,” and is an examination of what it means to be Jewish. “Indecent” returns home to OSF after a Tony-nominated run on Broadway and a PBS Great Performances broadcast. The West Coast premiere of “How to Catch Creation” will be directed by Nataki Garrett, in her first OSF production.
It will be the first year that plays by persons of color, Octavio Solis and Lauren Yee, will run for the full season. Solis’ “Mother Road” is an imagined sequel to Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” and Yee’s “Cambodian Rock Band” explores humor and heartbreak with songs by Dengue Fever. Solis participated in Wednesday’s reveal, getting a warm welcome from the audience for earlier OSF staging of his works, “El Paso Blue,” “Gibraltar” and “Don Quixote” and “Mother Road” at the 2017 Latinx Play Project.
The 2019 season includes the pilot of the Community Visit Project, a new and innovative OSF outreach initiative constructed around Luis Alfaro’s “Play On!” adaptation and translation of “The Comedy of Errors” that will be directed by Rauch.
“The Comedy of Errors” will be performed on the OSF campus and will also travel to churches and community centers throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California. The world premiere of this completely bilingual production will share its repertory cast with “Mother Road,” creating an avenue of opportunity for an expanded locals region to come to OSF.
Dedicated fans will ask whether the “Play On!” adaptation of “The Comedy of Errors” meets OSF’s pledge to produce Shakespeare’s canon in 10 years, and Rauch says no. Rauch established the guidelines for the 10-year canon series as excluding new adaptations. However, he says that the new artistic director can revise that rule at will.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.