Oregon Shakespeare Festival Kicks Off 82nd Season

ASHLAND, Ore.—The North State’s renowned theatrical neighbor to the north shows no signs of slowing down as it enters its 82nd season, delivering innovative Shakespeare, thought-provoking and relevant modern and historical plays, as well as delightful classical fare.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has committed to producing the entire Shakespeare canon in 10 years (starting in 2015) and adds the following four performances this season (there were five last year; a “Canon in a Decade Passport” is available at the gift shop for dedicated theatregoers):

  • Henry IV, Part One” (Thomas Theatre, through Oct. 28) – Epic Shakespeare in the intimate Thomas Theatre provides a memorable intensity and perspective. This two-hour-40-minute performance alternates between introspective dialogues and monologues explicating the monarchy’s distressing military situation, and blitzes of carnal color and hilarity that mark the irrepressible Falstaff and his crew. Prince Henry (played by Daniel Jose Molina in his third OSF season, complete with mop of curly hair and skinny jeans) gives a compelling performance as a reluctant young monarch. In typical OSF gender-role-switching fashion, the meaty role of Hotspur is played well by Alejandra Escalante. (Read a Mail Tribune review.)
  • Henry IV, Part Two” (July 4 through Oct. 27) – This is the first time in festival history that these two plays will be performed the same year, with overlap July 4 through closing for those who want to catch both during a single visit. Part Two has a different director but the same cast.
Worcester (Kimberly Scott), Mortimer (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend) and Hotspur (Alejandra Escalante) plot a rebellion against King Henry IV Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Worcester (Kimberly Scott), Mortimer (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend) and Hotspur (Alejandra Escalante) plot a rebellion against King Henry IV Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

In “Henry IV, Part One,” Sir John Falstaff (G. Valmont Thomas) revels in the rowdy atmosphere—and the company (Rachel Kostrna, Nemuna Ceesay)—at the Boar’s Head Tavern. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

In “Henry IV, Part One,” Sir John Falstaff (G. Valmont Thomas) revels in the rowdy atmosphere—and the company (Rachel Kostrna, Nemuna Ceesay)—at the Boar’s Head Tavern. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Other plays open now:

Mojada: A Medea In Los Angeles” (Angus Bowmer, through July 6): This modern play by Luis Alfaro and directed by Juliette Barillo strikes timely relevance with the issue of immigration. (Read reviews by the Siskiyou Daily News and Ashland Daily Tidings.)

Shakespeare in Love” (Angus Bowmer, through Oct. 29) – Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, this stage adaptation by Lee Hall and directed by Christian Liam Moore is a U.S. premiere.

Viewers will find “Shakespeare in Love” a delightful presentation of this story made famous on the big screen in 1998. (The movie version won seven Academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench)). One might argue the costumes alone are worth the price of admission. Notable performances abound, including a most endearing Viola de Lesseps, played by Jamie Ann Romero. New to OSF last year, Romero offered a standout performance as the younger sister in “The River Bride.”

Ralph (Michael J. Hume, far left) and Ned Aleyne (far right) look on as Queen Elizabeth (Kate Mulligan) tells Viola (Jamie Ann Romero) it is time to say goodbye. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Ralph (Michael J. Hume, far left) and Ned Aleyne (far right) look on as Queen Elizabeth (Kate Mulligan) tells Viola (Jamie Ann Romero) it is time to say goodbye. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A cast of 20-plus characters (ensemble) join Will Shakespeare (William DeMeritt) on his path to becoming one of the world’s greatest writers. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A cast of 20-plus characters (ensemble) join Will Shakespeare (William DeMeritt) on his path to becoming one of the world’s greatest writers. Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Opening later this season are three world premieres:

  • UniSon,” a musical directed by Robert O’Hara (Angus Bowmer, April 19 through Oct. 28)
  • Off the Rails,” by Randy Reinholz and directed by OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch (Bowmer, July 27 through Oct. 28)
  • Hannah and the Dread Gazebo” by Jiehae Park and directed by Chay Yew (Thomas Theatre, March 29 through Oct. 28)

Rounding out the summer season in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre are Homer’s epic “The Odyssey,” adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman (June 7 through Oct. 14), and Disney’s musical “Beauty and the Beast,” directed by Eric Tucker (June 8 through Oct. 15).

For those interested in more of the behind-the-scenes of the theatre company itself, here are some notable facts and figures:

  • Established in 1935, OSF is among the oldest and largest professional regional repertory theatre companies in the United States.
  • OSF has the oldest existing full-scale Elizabethan stage in the Western Hemisphere, built on the site of the old Chautauqua theatre established in 1893.
  • OSF presents 11 plays in a nine-moth season—a mix of Shakespeare and classic and contemporary playwrights—in rotating repertory in three theatres: the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre (seats 1,190), the Angus Bowmer Theatre (seats 601), and the Thomas Theatre (seats 270-360).
  • In 2016, total attendance was 397,304. Patrons see an average of three shows, making the total number of visitors to the festival each year approximately 125,000. Eighty-eight percent of audience members travel more than 125 miles.
  • OSF will present 790 performances in 2017.
  • The festival’s 2017 budget is $37,218,900, 70 percent of which is realized through earned income.
  • In 2015, the festival had a state economic impact of $262,495,558.
  • OSF offers a school visit program which annually sends actors to about 100 schools, presenting performances and workshops in Shakespeare and modern literature to more than 70,000 students in California, Kansas, Oregon and Washington.
  • OSF employs about 600 theatre professionals and has a volunteer staff of nearly 700.

Get details on all the plays, as well as ticket and visitor information, at osfashland.org.

Candace L. Brown
Candace L. Brown has been a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor since 1992, including eight years at the Redding Record Searchlight. She lives in Redding and can be reached at candace.freelance@gmail.com.
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