ASHLAND, ORE.—General ticket sales are underway for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) 83rd season, which begins with the first preview on Feb. 16 and continues through Oct. 28.
The 2018 season features four plays by William Shakespeare, a re-imagined classic musical, two West Coast premieres, one U.S. premiere and two world premieres, as well as a host of events and opportunities to further engage with the onstage works.
“Using humor, passion, poetry, heartbreak, music and much more, the playwrights, composers and other creative artists of this season give us stories that help us discover our hidden past, our present selves and our hopes for the future,” said Artistic Director Bill Rauch.
The 2018 playbill includes "Othello," "Sense and Sensibility," "Destiny of Desire," Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!" and "Snow in Midsummer" in the Angus Bowmer Theatre; "Henry V," "Manahatta" and "The Way the Mountain Moved" in the Thomas Theatre; and "Romeo and Juliet," "The Book of Will" and "Love’s Labor’s Lost" in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre.
Tickets are for sale at osfashland.org or by calling the box office at 800-219-8161. High demand during member pre-sale has already led to the addition of six bonus performances: "Manahatta" on July 29; "The Way the Mountain Moved" on Sept. 20, Sept. 26 and Oct. 11; and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!" on Aug. 27 and Oct. 1. All of these added performances are at 8 p.m., and the Oklahoma! dates are both on Mondays — the one day of the week on which the Festival does not typically perform.
In addition to the 11 plays, the 2018 season includes annual events and programming such as the Green Show, free outdoor entertainment, six nights a week in the summer and fall; Juneteenth celebration on June 18; the Daedalus Project to raise funds for HIV/AIDS organizations on Aug. 20, an intensive summer seminar for high school juniors, and the School Visit Program in fall and winter.
In the Angus Bowmer Theatre
The 2018 season opens in February with "Othello," directed by Bill Rauch, marking the 11th time in OSF’s history that this tragedy has been produced. In addition to the title character, the play — which explores racism, religious bias, xenophobia and the more disturbing aspects of relationships — contains one of Shakespeare’s most memorable villains, Iago, as well as two of his most nuanced, compelling female characters, Desdemona and Emilia. This will be director Rauch’s first time directing the play. “This is Shakespeare's most intimate tragedy," Rauch said, "and his searing indictment of a society negotiating with difference could not be a more urgent story for our times.”
Running all season alongside "Othello" is a lively adaptation of Jane Austen’s enchanting romantic tale "Sense and Sensibility." This adaptation, full of comedic surprises and wicked social commentary, first debuted at Bedlam Theatre in New York City in a production that The New York Times praised as “a troupe’s triumphant joy in giving defiantly theatrical form to a literary narrative.”
Also opening at the top of the season, and playing through July 12, is the provocative comedy "Destiny of Desire," by Karen Zacarías. Zacarías supercharges the standard telenovela genre in this music-filled romp that follows the adventures of two girls secretly switched at birth one stormy night in small-town Mexico. Love and betrayal overflow amid a vibrant cast of classic Mexican telenovela characters, with nods to Shakespeare’s comedies and Brecht’s epic theatre. The Los Angeles Times praised "Destiny of Desire" as a “terrifically entertaining theatrical roller-coaster” that “shimmers … with majestic theatrical artistry.”
Opening April 22 and running through the end of the season is "Oklahoma!" directed by Rauch. The OSF production celebrates this groundbreaking musical’s 75th anniversary by offering a 21st-century interpretation featuring same-sex couples and other LGBTQ2+ casting, while retaining the original 1906 Oklahoma territory setting.
“Audiences will see beloved OSF acting company members in inspired casting that celebrates the original pioneering spirit of this musical,” Rauch said.
The final show to open in the Angus Bowmer Theatre on Aug. 5 is the U.S. premiere of "Snow in Midsummer," by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. Debuting in Ashland after the play’s acclaimed world premiere at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), "Snow in Midsummer" is a contemporary re-imagining of the 13th-century Chinese Yuan dynasty ghost story by Guan Hanqing called "The Injustice to Dou E." In Cowhig’s thrilling adaptation, a young woman named Dou Yi is sentenced to death for murder and swears vengeance before her execution, cursing her city from beyond the grave to a catastrophic drought and midsummer snow and forcing locals to face a past that no one wants to remember.
The Evening Standard praised the RSC production as “a beguiling and unexpected evening” that has “an unusual and most particular sense of grace and beauty.” "Snow in Midsummer" will be directed by Justin Audibert, who also served as director of the RSC production.
In the Thomas Theatre
The first show to open in the Thomas Theatre will be "Henry V," one of Shakespeare’s most popular and oft-quoted history plays, from Feb. 24-Oct. 27.
Opening on April 1 and running through Oct. 27 is the world premiere of "Manahatta," by Mary Kathryn Nagle. Nagle is a playwright, attorney, activist and citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, as well as the executive director for the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. "Manahatta" tells the story of Jane Snake, a brilliant young Native Lenape woman with a Stanford MBA. Jane reconnects with her ancestral homeland, known as Manahatta, when she moves from her home with the Delaware Nation in Anadarko, Oklahoma, to New York for a job at a major investment bank just before the financial crisis of 2008.
Jane’s struggle to reconcile her new life with the expectations and traditions of the family she left behind is powerfully interwoven with the heartbreaking history of how the Lenape were forced from their land. Both old and new Manahatta converge in a brutal lesson about the dangers of living in a society where there’s no such thing as enough.
The final show to open in the Thomas Theatre on July 14 will be the world premiere of "The Way the Mountain Moved," by Idris Goodwin, commissioned by OSF’s American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle. This powerful journey into the genesis of the Transcontinental Railroad explores the often untold perspectives of a chapter in American History and the events that shaped the country’s moral and environmental future. In a remote desert in the 1850s, four men — a U.S. Army lieutenant, a sharpshooter, a botanist and an artist — set out to survey a route for the new continent-spanning railroad.
After being scattered on separate odysseys, they cross paths with lost pioneers, cautious Native Americans and an African-American Mormon couple unsure whether to befriend, fight or flee the newcomers. Whose dreams will prevail?
Allen Elizabethan Theatre
The open-air Allen Elizabethan Theatre season will begin with previews on June 5, and outdoor productions will run though Oct. 14. The official opening weekend is June 15-17.
Shakespeare’s tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" will open first in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Director Dámaso Rodríguez, artistic director of Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, says, “Audiences will see a production steeped in lush period detail and historical context that considers the effects of the religious and social order of the time as the source of the ancient grudge between Montague and Capulet. This look to a century far in the past will echo our polarized present.”
Opening on June 16 on the outdoor stage is "The Book of Will," playwright Lauren Gunderson’s lively and poignant comedy about the creation of Shakespeare’s First Folio that feels tailor-made for the OSF acting company. "The Book of Will," directed by Christopher Liam Moore, centers on the efforts of Henry Condell and John Heminges, two members of Shakespeare’s theater company, to bring his plays to publication against seemingly insurmountable odds. The Boulder Weekly praised the 2017 world premiere of The Book of Will as a “thoughtful rumination on mortality, a touching ode to the power of love and a laugh-out-loud comedy,” adding “Shakespeare lovers will kick themselves, hard, if they don’t get to a performance of The Book of Will.”
Shakespeare’s "Love's Labor's Lost" opens on June 17. Instinct battles intellect in this charming and linguistically nimble, music-filled comedy about a group of young male scholars, led by King Ferdinand of Navarre, who swear themselves to three years of chastity, contemplation and scholarship. That plan is quickly derailed when a group of lovely, witty and playful ladies arrive on the scene. Linguistic and physical hijinks abound in Shakespeare’s delicious comedy with a cast of indelible supporting characters and a surprising twist of an ending.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 season runs from Feb. 16 through Oct. 28. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit osfashland.org or call 1-800-219-8161.