OSF's Allen Elizabethan Theatre to Open in June

By: May. 12, 2016
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Oh, the places you'll go! The Oregon Shakespeare Festival transports audiences to a ghostly Danish castle, dynastic China, and Oz's Emerald City when its outdoor theatre opens the weekend of June 17-19. The Allen Elizabethan Theatre will feature Hamlet, directed by Lisa Peterson; the classic 1970s musical The Wiz, directed by Robert O'Hara; and The Winter's Tale, directed by Desdemona Chiang. The shows will close the weekend of October 14-16.

Previews begin June 7, as do Green Show performances. The Green Show features free live entertainment on the Courtyard Stage six nights a week at 6:45 p.m. throughout the run of the Allen Elizabethan Theatre productions. The 2016 Green Show schedule will be published online in mid-May. Performers appearing this summer include Ashland Taiko, Charya Burt Cambodian Dance, Nanda, Mariachi Mestizo, The Curtain Climbers Aerial Dance Company, the Ugandan Kids Choir and many more.

The Ashland Lions Club will celebrate the opening of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Allen Elizabethan Theatre on Friday, June 17 at 6:00 p.m. with its Feast of Will, an evening of food and entertainment featuring a full dinner of Lions BBQ chicken or vegetarian lasagna, coupled with music by the Jefferson Bag Pipers and Siskiyou Singers. The Lions Club donates profits to projects benefiting Lithia Park and many other organizations. Tickets are $15, and available online, at the OSF Box Office or by phone at (800) 219-8161.

Hamlet opens at 8:00 p.m. Friday, June 17. Director Lisa Peterson is fascinated with the otherworldly, even "between-worldly" elements of the play. "It's a ghost story. This is a play that not only muses about death and our mortality, but more importantly, examines the possible passage from one side to the other. What if a message comes from the other side, as Hamlet's father's words seem to? What does a person, in this case Hamlet, do with that?"

While the costume design of Hamlet will suggest the Jacobean period, the haunting, modern sonic landscape will be devised by veteran OSF composer and sound designer Paul James Prendergast in collaboration with guitarist Scott Kelly, famous in post-metal music circles as guitarist/vocalist for the band Neurosis. Kelly will also play the role of the Gravedigger in the production. "Scott's music evokes a dark place," states Prendergast. "He's the soundscape for Hamlet's mindscape."

The Hamlet design team includes Laura Jellinek (scenic design), David C. Woolard (costumes), Japhy Weideman (lighting), Paul James Prendergast (composer and sound), Philippa Kelly (dramaturgy), Sara Becker(voice & text), U. Jonathan Toppo (fight director) and Gwen Turos (stage manager).

The cast includes Danforth Comins as Hamlet, Christiana Clark as Horatio, Michael Elich as Claudius, Robin Goodrin Nordli as Gertrude, Derrick Lee Weeden as Polonius, Tramell Tillman as Laertes, Jennie Greenberry as Ophelia, Dylan Paul as Rosenkrantz/Ensemble, Cedric Lamar as Guildenstern/Ensemble, Eric Steinberg as Voltemand/Player/Ensemble, Benjamin Bonenfant as Osric/Ensemble, Ted Deasy as Barnardo/Ensemble, Julian Remulla as Francisco/Player/Ensemble, Al Espinosa as Marcellus/Ensemble, Richard Howard as Ghost, Elijah Alexander as Player King/Ensemble, Jordan Barbour as Player Queen/Ensemble, Tyrone Wilson as Player Lucianus/Ensemble, Scott Kelly as Gravedigger, Daniel Duque-Estrada as Player/Fortinbras/Ensemble, Stephen Michael Spencer as Cornelius/Player/Ensemble and Devin White as Ensemble.

Hamlet is supported by Production Sponsor Robert Dohmen and Production Partners Trine Sorensen and Michael Jacobson, Karen Easterbrook and Alex Sutton, Wally and Sheila Weisman, and Ann P. Wyckoff.

The following night, Saturday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m., hold on tight as a twister descends upon the Allen Elizabethan Theatre and transports us to Oz, courtesy of the classic 1970s musical The Wiz, directed by Robert O'Hara. The 1975 Broadway production of The Wiz, starring Stephanie Mills, garnered seven Tony Awards, including best musical, best direction, best choreography and best original score. The book for The Wiz is by William F. Brown, with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls.

Director O'Hara is fully embracing the theatre's Elizabethan façade as he stages The Wiz. "There's an Elizabethan-meets-Black-1970s-R&B music style in the production, and the show will begin like an Elizabethan play. Slowly but surely things are pulled apart. It is an actor-driven play, so the actors are part of the tornado, the actors are part of all of the dancing and all of the moving of the sets. It all comes from them, because it is also coming from Dorothy's imagination."

"We will be having the movements from court dancing clashing with the 1970's," adds choreographer Byron Easley, "and because Dorothy is up to date, she knows today's moves as well, so we will throw some of today's contemporary moves in it. It will be a clash of these three types of movements to celebrate this story. The music makes you dance, so we are going to try to celebrate that in a big, bold, flavorful way."

The cast includes Ashley D. Kelley as Dorothy, Britney Simpson as Glinda, Michele Mais as Addaperle, Rodney Gardiner as the Tinman, Christiana Clark as the Lion, J. Cameron Barnett as the Scarecrow, Jordan Barbour as Uncle Henry/The Wiz and Yvette Monique Clark as Aunt Em/Evillene. Singers are Stephanie Anne Johnson, Daniela Cobb and Michael McDonald. Ensemble members are Tramell Tillman, Cedric Lamar, Jonathan Luke Stevens, Briawna Jackson, Tatiana Lofton, Jennie Greenberry, Desmond Nunn, and Eaen Cochran.

Celebrated guitarist/producer/composer Jeff Pevar is leading a band that includes Darcy Danielson and Kent Wilson Jr. (keyboards), Ivan Payne (drums), Jacob Asa Ackerman (bass), Gordon Greenley (woodwinds), Mark Eliot Jacobs (trombone) and Daniel Kocurek (trumpet). Bert Cross II is the conductor.

The Wiz is supported by Production Sponsor the Jed and Celia Meese Foundation, and Production Partners Cynthia Muss Lawrence, the Teel Family Foundation and Anonymous.

The final opening weekend show at 8:00 p.m. Sunday is Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Director Desdemona Chiang is locating the play in two strikingly different settings - the Sicily of Shakespeare's play is now in an ancient Eastern Kingdom, while the Bohemian scenes are set in a New World West. In addition to the Taiwanese-born Chiang, the majority of the actors and designers are also of Asian or Asian-American heritage.

"The two stories are set an entire generation apart on opposite sides of the world, with their own distinct cast of characters," notes Chiang. "These two halves are polarized in every aspect of tone, theme and content. They coexist in exquisite synchronicity and confront all the new worlds vis á vis powerful oppositions: dark vs. light, winter vs. spring, ancient vs. modern, high class vs. low class, heaven vs. earth, parent vs. child, and in this production, East vs. West. We are using Han China as inspiration and a point of major departure for our vision of Sicilia, and an imagined Western frontier for a vision of Bohemia."

"The Winter's Tale is ultimately about restoring what was lost and awakening faith in the impossible," says Chiang. "It is a second chance at life when we think we've lost it all. It is profoundly spiritual. To feel healed, to feel restored...in a way that brings us some degree of peace in a world full of suffering. I think these are all things that people seek and I think that is why we all love the play so much."

The design team includes OSF Senior Scenic and Theatre Designer Richard L. Hay (scenic design), Helen Q. Huang (costumes), Yi Zhao (lighting), Andre J. Pluess (composition and sound), Valerie Rachelle (choreography), Gina Pisasale (dramaturgy), David Carey (voice and text) and D. Christian Bolender (stage manager). The assistant director is Lavina Jadhwani, OSF's 2016 Phil Killian Directing Fellow.

The cast features Eric Steinberg as Leontes, Amy Kim Waschke as Hermione, Cristofer Jean as Camillo, Paul Juhn as Antigonus/Ensemble, Miriam A. Laube as Paulina, Cindy Im as Perdita/Ensemble, Jonathan Haugen as Old Shepherd, Paco Tolson as Young Shepherd/Ensemble, Will Dao as Cleomenes/Ensemble, Julian Remulla as Dion/Ensemble, Michele Mais as Mopsa/Ensemble, Nancy Rodriguez as Dorcas/Ensemble, Naomi Nelson as Mamillius, James Ryen as Polixenes, Moses Villarama as Florizel/Ensemble, Stephen Michael Spencer as Autolycus/Ensemble, Jeena Yi as Emilia/Ensemble, and J. Cameron Barnett, Jeremy Gallardo and Stephanie Anne Johnson as Shepherds and Shepherdesses.

The Winter's Tale is sponsored by Lead Sponsor The Pigott Family, and Production Partners National Endowment for the Arts and Susan Henderson.

Still to come in the 2016 season are two more plays from Shakespeare, as OSF continues its commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by presenting five of his works, including one from each genre and one of the most overdue titles for OSF fans looking to complete their viewing of the Bard's complete canon.

Richard II, directed by OSF artistic director Bill Rauch and starring Christopher Liam Moore in the title role, begins previews July 5 in the intimate Thomas Theatre. Richard II officially opens July 9 and runs through October 30.

With its production of Timon of Athens, starring Anthony Heald in the title role, OSF will officially complete its fourth journey through Shakespeare's canon. Directed by Amanda Dehnert and playing in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, Timon of Athens begins previews July 28, opens July 31 and runs through October 29.


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