OSF Celebrates Juneteenth On June 17
Oregon Shakespeare Festival will host its annual Juneteenth Celebration on Monday, June 17. The day's activities include a variety show on OSF's Courtyard Stage, a play reading and an exhibit. The celebration also continues Wednesday, June 19, at the Ashland Public Library with a book reading and panel discussion.
The 2019 Juneteenth theme is "Jubilee: Celebrate the Shift." This year's theme encourages Rogue Valley residents to reflect on our individual stake in the ever-present conversation of race, gender, ethnicity, ability, class, religion and nationality. It invites all people to explore how emancipation has evolved into practices of equity, diversity and inclusion as tools for collective freedom to improve our communities, places of work and sites of recreation.
Juneteenth is the oldest-known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Major-General Gordon Granger led his Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. Today, Juneteenth commemorates African-American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions come together to acknowledge a period that shaped our history and continues to influence our society.
This year's Juneteenth Celebration starts on Monday, June 17, with a number of events commemorating the holiday.
The public is encouraged to visit the BLACK SWAN Lobby throughout the day, especially before or after the play reading, to experience a JET Gala display curated by Whitney Reed, OSF membership and patron engagement coordinator. The installation uses clothing and visual art to explore the impact of forced African labor and forms of cultural resistance through music and other arts. The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.The day kicks off with an 11:00 a.m. play reading of the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson (writer of How to Catch Creation) at the Thomas Theatre. ASL interpreters will be provided. A post-show discussion will be led by Robert Goodwin, OSF interim director of education and production dramaturg for How to Catch Creation.
Seating for the free reading and the roundtable discussion will be limited and available on a first come, first-served basis. Four tickets are available per person; for more details call the OSF Box Office at 800-219-8161.
A variety show on OSF's Courtyard Stage beginning at 5:30 p.m. will be the day's main event. ASL interpreters will also be provided. The approximately hour-long program of original spoken word, dance, music, visual art and theatre excerpts was co-created by a group of OSF company members under the leadership of Tyrone Wilson, Juneteenth producer, and William Thomas Hodgson, Juneteenth artistic director-both of whom are also OSF actors.
Attendees of Juneteenth activities and the public are also welcome to head over to Northwest Pizza & Pasta Company (1585 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland) at 6:30 p.m. after the variety show to support local business and continue celebrating in fellowship.
"As always, our Juneteenth celebration is an opportunity to recognize the work of Rogue Valley artists of the African Diaspora while acknowledging the personal and community work that continues to make the Rogue Valley a more welcoming and safe space for all communities of color," Wilson said.
Hodgson added, "With Juneteenth and more events to come, the OSF community is excited to be celebrating the coming Jubilee year in 2020, a National Theatre initiative in which performance art venues produce works by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and /or LGBTQIA artists."
All events are free and open to the public, though donations to the Juneteenth Fund are encouraged to ensure that this volunteer-based program continues.
The Juneteenth Celebration will continue on Wednesday, June 19, at the Ashland Public Library with "Super Space Storytime," a book reading series by OSF actors Christiana Clark, Lauren Modica and Kevin Kenerly from 10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., as well as a panel discussion from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. featuring Rogue Valley community leaders that will include Torrie Allen, director of development for OSF, Lieutenant Hector Meletich from Ashland Police Department and others, exploring health, wealth, safety, education and spirituality through the lens of Afrofuturism.
OSF has celebrated Juneteenth since 1998, when actor Aldo Billingslea, who was from Texas, hosted a fundraising barbecue to help African-American students attend the OSF Institute's Summer Seminar for High School Juniors.
Biographies of OSF directors, designers and actors for the 2019 season can all be found at www.osfashland.org/en/company/osf-company