OSF's Allen Elizabethan Theatre Opens Today

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The Oregon Shakespeare Festival opens its outdoor theatre the weekend of June 13-15 with two Shakespeare productions, Richard III, directed by James Bundy, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Sarah Rasmussen. Also opening is Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical Into the Woods, directed by Amanda Dehnert. The shows will close the weekend of October 10-12.

This outdoor season marks two milestones. The first is that the Allen Elizabethan Theatre opens with a new name-the result of a $3,000,000 grant from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in October of 2013 to support the renaming of the theatre from Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion. The second is the installation of a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound system in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, made possible through a donation from Ashland residents Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod. The new system, which includes new microphones, speakers, and sound control, is designed to enhance the voice, bringing clarity, articulation and projection throughout the venue. In addition, with the new system in place, OSF's assistive hearing devices should deliver an improved experience for audience members.

"All three of these productions promise to be wildly entertaining in very different ways," OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch said. "The Meyer Sound system in the newly renamed Allen Elizabethan Theatre will give audiences the greatest possible access to the gorgeous music of Shakespeare's language as well as the brilliance of Sondheim's lyrics and melodies, and I couldn't be more grateful to Joel Axelrod and Judy Shih as well as the Allen Family for the major improvements that their generosity has made possible."

Richard III will open at 8:00 p.m. Friday, June 13. Director James Bundy notes that he loves this play for "its headlong and sometimes hilarious portrait of both evil deeds and the comeuppance of conscience. At its center stands Richard, a character of astonishing malevolence and wit-but also, in the end, a mortal as frail as any of us and just as subject to the cruelty of others." Bundy also points out that there is no character in Shakespeare's canon before Richard and until Hamlet, who has such a strong relationship with the audience-"one that provides conspiratorial pleasure to us and thereby implicates the audience in Richard's evil as well as his pain."

The play is set in the late 15th century and the design team includes Richard L. Hay (set), Ilona Somogyi (costumes), Jane Cox (lighting), Sarah Pickett (composition and sound), U. Jonathan Toppo (fight direction), Lydia G. Garcia (dramaturgy) and David Carey (voice & text).

The cast features Dan Donohue as King Richard III, Anthony Heald as Duke of Buckingham, Armando Durán as Edward IV, Jeffrey King as Duke of Clarence, Franchelle Stewart Dorn as Queen Margaret, Kate Hurster as Lady Anne, Judith-Marie Bergan as the Duchess of York and Robin Goodrin Nordli as Queen Elizabeth. Others in the cast include Howie Seago, Jerome Preston Bates, Ramiz Monsef, Mauro Hantman, Al Espinosa, Tyler Joseph Kubat, Javier Muñoz, Russell Lloyd, R. J. Foster, Omoze Idehenre, Keith Leroyal, Jeremy Peter Johnson, Corey Porter, Kurt Langmeyer, Nur Shelton and Tess Hemmerling.

Lead Sponsor of Richard III is The Pigott Family; Production Sponsors are The Chautauqua Guild and Yogen and Peggy Dalal; Production Partners are Robert Dohmen, Mrs. Donald Hare and Ann P. Wyckoff.

The following night, Saturday, June 14 at 8:00 p.m., the magical and irreverent Tony Award-winning musical Into the Woods will take to the stage, with direction and musical direction by Amanda Dehnert. This Sondheim and Lapine show features many well-known fairy-tale characters on fabulous adventures, making surprising choices with unexpected results that create a memorable theatrical journey-all accompanied by a 25-piece professional and pre-professional orchestra comprised of adult and young performers from the Rogue Valley. Dehnert said that she wanted to embrace the orchestral nature of the score and offer opportunities for young performers to work with master musicians. (read the press release)

This fairy-tale world features costumes by Linda Roethke, set by Rachel Hauck, lighting by Jane Cox, sound by Josh Horvath, associate music direction by Matt Goodrich, fight direction by U. Jonathan Toppo, and voice and text direction by David Carey and Rebecca Clark Carey.

The cast features Javier Muñoz as the Baker, Rachael Warren as the Baker's Wife, Miriam A. Laube as the Witch, Miles Fletcher as Jack, Robin Goodrin Nordli as Jack's Mother, Jeremy Peter Johnson as Cinderella's Prince/Voice of the Wolf, Howie Seago as the Wolf, Kjerstine Rose Anderson as Little Red Riding Hood, Jennie Greenberry as Cinderella, Robert Vincent Frank as Cinderella's Father, Catherine E. Coulson as Cinderella's Stepmother, Royer Bockus as Rapunzel, John Tufts as Rapunzel's Prince, David Kelly as the Steward, Anthony Heald as Narrator/Mysterious Stranger, Katie Bradley as Florina/Sleeping Beauty and Christiana Clark as Lucinda/Snow White.

Into the Woods is sponsored by Production Sponsors Amy and Mort Friedkin and Jed and Celia Meese; and Production Partners Thomas Castle and Pamela Howard, Sid and Karen DeBoer, Jerry and Jeanne Taylor Family Foundation, and Betty and Jack Schafer.

The final show to open that weekend at 8:00 p.m. Sunday is William Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Sarah Rasmussen with an all-female cast. As Rasmussen explained at the show introduction in April, when she first started thinking about the characters in the play, she thought about the inspired performances by women in OSF's company that she'd seen over the years, and before long she wanted to stage the play with an all-female cast. She admits it also has a "cool parallel" to the traditional all-male casting during Shakespeare's time.

The costumes, designed by Moria Clinton, are inspired by late-16th-century fashions, and the set is by Andrew Boyce. Also on the design team are Porsche McGovern (lighting), Andre J. Pluess (composition and sound), U. Jonathan Toppo (fight direction), Kimiye Corwin (movement direction), Gina Pisasale (dramaturgy) and Rebecca Clark Carey (voice and text direction).

The cast includes Christiana Clark as Proteus, Sofia Jean Gomez as Valentine, Erica Sullivan as Julia, Vivia Font as Silvia, K.T. Vogt as Launce/Duke, Kjerstine Rose Anderson as Speed/Ensemble, Judith-Marie Bergan as Lucetta/Host, Vilma Silva as Antonio/Ursula/Ensemble, Celeste Den as Thurio/Ensemble, Catherine E. Coulson as Pantino/Eglamour/Ensemble, Nancy Rodriguez, Olena Hodges, Delaney Kentzell and Royer Bockus as Outlaws/Ensemble, Chloe Brown as Violinist/Ensemble, Grace Pruitt as Ensemble, and Picasso (a Great Pyrenees dog) as Crab.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is sponsored by Production Sponsor the National Endowment for the Arts, and Production Partners Peter and Jane Carpenter, Julie Strasser Dixon and Rocky Dixon and Katie Farewell.

The 2014 season is sponsored by U.S. Bank.

Tickets are available online at www.osfashland.org or call the Box Office at 800-219-8161.

Tickets remain for preview performances: Richard III on June 3, 6, 10; Into the Woods on June 4, 7, 11; and The Two Gentlemen of Verona on June 5, 8, 12. There are also some tickets for opening performances on June 13-15.

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