OKLAHOMA! Featuring Same-Sex Couples Among OSF's 2018 Season Lineup

OKLAHOMA! Featuring Same-Sex Couples Among OSF's 2018 Season Lineup

Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) Artistic Director Bill Rauch announced the Festival's 2018 playbill today.

Rauch said, "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. The 2018 season will take us further into the Native American canon that we have begun to explore in 2017, and we will also see a newly adapted classic of ancient Chinese theatre that comes to OSF after its premiere at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Women playwrights created five of our plays for next season, a historic high for our classical theater. We will also continue our thrilling exploration of Shakespeare's Henriad quartet in the most intimate way possible in the Thomas Theatre."

"I'm so proud to share this 2018 season with our OSF audiences as well as our colleagues in the theatre field," Rauch enthused. "It is such an exciting, vitally important time to be working in and experiencing the American theatre. There's never been a greater diversity of voices and artists whose work is being seen on stages all over our country. While there is still so much work to be done in achieving true equity and representation, there is also much to take joy in, including this fabulous lineup of 2018 plays at OSF."

In the Angus Bowmer Theatre

"O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on." The 2018 season will open in February with OTHELLO, directed by Bill Rauch. This will be the 11th time in OSF's history that this tragedy has been produced. In addition to the title character, the play 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 helming the play, and he observes: "This is Shakespeare's most intimate tragedy, 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 an adaptation of Jane Austen's enchanting romantic tale SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, directed by Hana S. Sharif and adapted by Kate Hamill. This adaptation first debuted at Bedlam Theatre in New York City, directed by Eric Tucker (director of OSF's 2017 production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast) in a widely-praised and often-extended production that the New York Times praised as "a troupe's triumphant joy in giving defiantly theatrical form to a literary narrative." Director Hana S. Sharif is the associate artistic director at Baltimore's Center Stage, where she recently directed productions of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Pride and Prejudice.

Also opening at the top of the season and playing through early July is the delicious and provocative comedy DESTINY OF DESIRE by Karen Zacarías, directed by José Luis Valenzuela. Playwright Zacarías supercharges the standard telenovela genre in this smart, sizzling, music-filled romp that follows the adventures of two girls secretly switched at birth one stormy night in small-town Mexico. The Los Angeles Times praised Destiny of Desire as a "terrifically entertaining theatrical roller-coaster" that "shimmers...with majestic theatrical artistry." Director Valenzuela is the artistic director of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, an award-winning theater and film director and a tenured professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Opening in April is Rodgers and Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA! directed by Bill Rauch. The OSF production will celebrate this groundbreaking musical's 75th anniversary by offering a uniquely 21st-century interpretation featuring same-sex couples while retaining the original 1906 Oklahoma territory setting. Rauch says, "Audiences will see beloved OSF Acting Company members in inspired casting that celebrates the original pioneering spirit of this musical." When Oklahoma! first opened on Broadway in 1943, Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times that the show's opening number, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" changed the history of musical theater, saying, "After a verse like that, sung to a buoyant melody, the banalities of the old musical stage became intolerable."

The final show to open in the Angus Bowmer Theatre is the U.S. premiere of SNOW IN MIDSUMMER by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. Debuting in Ashland after the play's widely acclaimed world premiere at the Royal Shakespeare Company, 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. Cowhig's adaptation tells of the spirit of the wrongly executed Dou Yi wreaking havoc on the modern industrial village of New Harmony, bringing catastrophic drought and midsummer snow until her innocence is proclaimed. 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." The director of Snow in Midsummer will be announced shortly.

In the Thomas Theatre

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." The first show to open in the Thomas Theatre and running the entire season will be Shakespeare's HENRY V. Audiences will see Daniel José Molina continue his two-season journey in the title role following 2017's productions of both parts of Henry IV. Henry V will be directed by first-time OSF director Rosa Joshi, a Seattle-based director and co-founder of upstart crow collective. Joshi says "Shakespeare is my great passion. I'm always looking for what is relevant, fresh and immediate in the plays for a contemporary audience. As a director who loves classical work, I'm obsessive about asking 'why this play, why now?'"

Opening in late March and running through October is the world premiere of MANAHATTA by Mary Kathryn Nagle, directed by Laurie Woolery. Mary Kathryn Nagle is a playwright, lawyer, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, as well as the executive director for the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. Laurie Woolery has previously directed The Language Archive and the world premieres of The Tenth Muse and The River Bride at OSF. 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 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. In the haunting and haunted wilderness setting of the play, African-American Mormons, Department of War surveyors, pioneer women and a Mexican-American war veteran lose their way and find each other in the starkly beautiful, pre-railroad American West. They are unknowingly watched by Native Americans who argue whether to befriend, fight, or flee the newcomers. In a nation still taking shape, built mostly of dreams and ideas, which version of America will prevail? The director of The Way the Mountain Moved is May Adrales, who directed the wildly popular Vietgone in OSF's 2016 season.

Allen Elizabethan Theatre

The "star-cross'd" young lovers and feuding families of Shakespeare's tragedy ROMEO AND JULIET will inaugurate the Allen Elizabethan Theatre season in early June, in a production directed by Dámaso Rodríguez, artistic director of Portland's Artists Repertory Theatre. Rodríguez 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." In addition to his four years leading Artists Rep, Rodríguez's directing credits include work at Playwrights' Center, Pasadena Playhouse, Intiman Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Laguna Playhouse, A Noise Within, The Theatre@Boston Court, Naked Angels and Furious Theatre, which he co-founded and co-artistic-directed.

Also opening in June on the outdoor stage is THE BOOK OF WILL, playwright Lauren Gunderson's riotous and heartfelt comedy about the creation of Shakespeare's First Folio that feels tailor-made for the OSF Acting Company. The Book of Will, to be directed by Christopher Liam Moore, centers on the efforts of Henry Condell and John Heminges, two members of Shakespeare's theatre 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." Lauren Gunderson will be the first female playwright with a completely original play on OSF's Elizabethan Stage in its 83-year history. Director Christopher Liam Moore is in his eighth season as an actor and director with OSF and is the director of 2017's Shakespeare in Love.

The third show to open outside will be Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST, directed by Amanda Dehnert. Instinct does battle with intellect in this 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. Festival audiences have previously been treated to director Dehnert's inventive and provocative stagings of My Fair Lady, Into the Woods and Julius Caesar, among others.

The 2018 season will begin previews on February 16 and open the weekend of February 23-25. The official opening weekend in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre will be June 15-17. The season will run through October 28. Tickets for the 2018 season will go on sale in November 2017 for members, and general sales will begin in early December.

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