OSF To Celebrate Juneteenth

OSF To Celebrate JuneteenthThe Oregon Shakespeare Festival will host its annual Juneteenth Celebration on Monday, June 18. The day's activities include a variety show, a play reading, a tribute to G. Valmont Thomas and a roundtable discussion. All events are free or pay what you can, though donations will be accepted for the Juneteenth Scholarship Fund and future Juneteenth celebrations.

The 2018 Juneteenth theme is "Activate: A Roll Call & Response." This year's theme asks us all to reflect on and represent our individual stake in the conversation, regardless of race, and inspires us to delve into how emancipation and equity, diversity and inclusion improve our community. It is also an invitation to explore where our community and our nation still struggle and need work.

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 18, with a number of events commemorating the holiday. The day kicks off at 10:00 a.m. with a roundtable discussion entitled "Black Joy and Pain: Why be an Ally?," presented by the OSF Leadership Alliance and led by Kamilah Long, OSF director of capital campaigns and leadership alliances.

The afternoon continues at 1:00 p.m. with a pay-what-you-can reading of Kevin Douglas' play PLANTATION!, directed by Christiana Clark in the BLACK SWAN Theatre. A post-show discussion will be led by Robert Goodwin, OSF associate director of education and engagement.

Seating for the reading and the roundtable discussion will be limited and available on a first come, first served basis.

The public is encouraged to visit The BLACK SWAN Lobby before and after the play reading for an exhibit honoring the life and legacy of dearly departed OSF actor and Ashland community member, G. Valmont Thomas, to whom OSF's 2018 season is dedicated. The exhibit will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The day will culminate in the main event, a Variety Show on OSF's Courtyard Stage at 5:30 p.m. 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 Christiana Clark, Juneteenth creative director and OSF actor.

"As always our Juneteenth celebration offers a space to honor our shared history and acknowledge our collective present as we look to shape our unified future," Clark said. "Under this year's charge 'Activate: A Roll Call and Response,' we bring focus to the value of freedom for each and every one of us so fortunate to call America our home."

Clark continued, "The addition of a play reading and the later start time of activities should allow more people the chance to join us throughout the day; and being able to expand our circle to include more of our community is exactly why we have this celebration."

All events are free and open to the public, though donations are encouraged to support the Juneteenth Scholarship for OSF's Summer Seminar program and future Juneteenth Celebrations.

The Juneteenth Celebration will continue on Tuesday, June 19, at the Ashland Public Library; events and times are to be announced.

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 annual Summer Seminar for High School Juniors. The Juneteenth Scholarship Fund was created for that purpose.

Founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has grown from a three-day festival of two plays to a nationally renowned theatre arts organization that presents an eight-month season of up to 11 plays that include works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals, and world-premiere plays. OSF's play commissioning programs, which include American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, have generated works that have been produced on Broadway, throughout the American regional theatre, and in high schools and community theatres across the country. The Festival draws attendance of more than 400,000 to approximately 800 performances every year and employs approximately 575 theatre professionals.

OSF invites and welcomes everyone, and believes the inclusion of diverse people, ideas, cultures and traditions enriches both our insights into the work we present on stage and our relationships with each other. OSF is committed to equity and diversity in all areas of our work and in our audiences.

OSF's mission statement: "Inspired by Shakespeare's work and the cultural richness of the United States, we reveal our collective humanity through illuminating interpretations of new and classic plays, deepened by the kaleidoscope of rotating repertory."

Photo: Christiana Clark (center) leads the ensemble of performers at 2015's Juneteenth Variety Show. Photo by Julie Cortez, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

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