OSF Sets New AMERICAN REVOLUTIONS Commissions
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival continues to expand its ongoing commitment to the development and production of new work with three new commissions as part of American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle.
American Revolutions is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 10-year commissioning program (2008-2018) of up to 37 new plays that look at moments of change in America's past, with the goal of helping to establish a shared understanding of our national identity and illuminate the best paths for our nation's future.
Idris Goodwin, award-winning playwright, essayist and spoken word artist, will explore a moment of change in the history of the U.S. environment. His jumping-off point will be a 12-volume set of writings and illustrations by teams of scientists and artists sent by the Department of War to identify potential routes for the transcontinental railroad between 1853 and 1855.
"This project with the good people of Oregon Shakespeare marks an exciting new chapter in my writing career," Goodwin said. "As an artist who regularly engages with our sordid past, inclusion in American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle is a thrilling opportunity to explore big questions and have big conversations."
Goodwin's plays include How We Got On, And in this Corner: Cassius Clay and This is Modern Art.
Dominique Morisseau, in a co-commission with Penumbra Theatre, will be writing about the Civil War from an African-American perspective.
"Inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates's essay in the Atlantic, 'Why Do So Few Black People Study the Civil War?,' Morisseau said, "I'm eager to write a piece that specifically explores Black women's experience in this epic fight and their contribution to the toils of freedom on and off the battlefield."
Morisseau is a writer and actress and an alumna of the Public Theater Emerging Writer's Group, the Women's Project Playwrights Lab and Lark Playwrights' Workshop. Her play Detroit '67 was the 2014 winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama. Her other plays include Sunset Baby and Follow Me to Nellie's.
In a co-commission with the Public Theater, playwright, poet and librettist Dan O'Brien will write about the history of guns in America and American culture. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of writing a play that explores the role of The Gun in American history." O'Brien said. "It's a terrifying, and terrifyingly complex, subject that I hope I will do justice to. I feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity by Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater, as this is such a current and, sadly, ancient American story."
O'Brien's play The Body of an American won the Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding American Play and the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama (2013), shared with Robert Schenkkan's All the Way. This year, O'Brien and Paula Vogel will lead the playwriting workshop at the Sewaneee Writers' Conference.
Alison Carey, director of American Revolutions, said, "We are proud and excited to work with this extraordinary group of writers as they unfold these significant aspects of our country's history. These are stories that need to be told, and we are so lucky to have great artists willing to tell them."
This year's American Revolutions commissions and development are supported by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, and the General William Mayer Foundation.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions commissions to date are: Tanya Barfield, Bill Cain, Culture Clash (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza), Kristoffer Diaz, Michael Friedman, Frank Galati, Idris Goodwin, Kirsten Greenidge, Quiara Alegría Hudes, David Henry Hwang, Stephen Karam, Lisa Kron, Young Jean Lee, Lisa Loomer, Dominique Morisseau, the team of Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone, Lynn Nottage, Dan O'Brien, Robert Schenkkan, collaborators Rebecca Taichman and Paula Vogel, Naomi Wallace, Universes (includes core performers Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz, William Ruiz), Rhiana Yazzie and Karen Zacarías. American Revolutions has created partnerships with Arena Stage, CenterStage, Company One, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Berkeley Rep, Penumbra Theatre Company, The Public Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and the Playwrights Center. Mr. Friedman's commission is shared by American Revolutions and the Edgerton Fund for New Musicals.
Of the 24 American Revolutions commissions, the following eight have had premiere productions: American Night: The Ballad of Juan José by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash (2010); Ghost Light by Tony Taccone, conceived and developed with Jonathan Moscone (2011); The March by Frank Galati, adapted from E.L. Doctorow's novel (2011 at Steppenwolf Theater Company, Chicago); Party People by Universes (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja) (2012); All the Way by Robert Schenkkan (2012); The Liquid Plain by Naomi Wallace (2013); Robert Schenkkan's The Great Society, the sequel to All The Way commissioned by and co-produced with Seattle Repertory Theatre (2014); and Sweat by Lynn Nottage (2015).
Plays originating at OSF have gone on to be produced by theatres across the country, including Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Center Theatre Group, Denver Center Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre.
All the Way received a Tony Award for Best Play in 2014 as well as: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway Play, Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play, Elliott Norton Award for Outstanding Production by a Large Resident Theatre, and IRNE Award for Best New Play, Large Theater. In addition All the Way was a co-winner of the inaugural 2013 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History.
Founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935 and winner of a 1983 Tony Award for outstanding achievement in regional theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival presents an eight-month season of 11 plays that include works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals, and new works. The Festival also draws attendance of more than 400,000 to almost 800 performances every year and employs approximately 575 theatre professionals. More information about OSF can be obtained at www.osfashland.org.