OK, this was not the weather forecast I was hoping to see the day before the Oregon Shakespeare Festival opens a new batch of plays in the outdoor Elizabethan Theatre this weekend.
Did I mention outdoor? As in, exposed to the sky, the moon… the rain? From bitter experience, I’ve learned to pack for the summer openings in Ashland as though equipping myself for a backpacking trip in the mountains. This trip — see all that rain marked on the chart for Friday? — will be no exception.
On the sunny side, there are all those plays. At the Elizabethan Theatre, assuming I don’t succumb to hypothermia, I’ll be seeing Hamlet Friday night, The Wiz Saturday night, and The Winter’s Tale on Sunday night.
Directed by Lisa Peterson, Hamlet appears to be a straight-up production of the classic, sword play and all. The Wiz is directed by guest director Robert O’Hara, whose website I like because it calls his bio page “dirt.” Finally, Desdemona Chiang, who’s been with OSF for three seasons, is directing The Winter’s Tale; this is probably the outdoor production I’m most looking forward to seeing, as the play itself is so strange. It’s her directing debut at the festival.
I’ll also be picking up two other shows whose openings I missed: Vietgone, directed by May Andrales, and Roe, directed by OSF artistic director Bill Rauch. Vietgone is in the small Thomas Theatre; Roe is in the Bowmer.
Meanwhile, I checked in with Lue Douthit, the veteran festival dramaturg who is heading up the slightly controversial Play On! project, in which OSF — based on a grant — is hiring 36 playwrights to rewrite the entire Shakespeare canon into contemporary English.
Here’s what she had to say:
Play On! is steadily approaching our one year anniversary! We are so excited to report that the project is well under way. Our playwrights are all busily writing, aided by their trusty dramaturgs, as we all work toward the first deadline of the project. First drafts of the translations are due on October 31, 2016. Many of our playwrights have also jumped ahead of the schedule and are well on their way. We’ve had many exciting readings and workshops as we continue to develop these scripts. We expect that 2017 will be our busiest year in this three-year commitment as we attempt to produce developmental readings for all of these plays.
We have also had the joy of seeing one of these scripts in production as Orlando Shakespeare Theatre produced Ellen McLaughlin’s translation of Pericles in February of this year. In the spring of 2017 audiences at the University of Utah will have the opportunity to see Tim Slover’s translation of Two Noble Kinsmen, and plans are underway for a possible production of Kenneth Cavander’s translation of The Tempest at a major Shakespeare festival sometime in 2017. We have received many inquiries from various theatres around the world looking to play a role in developing this work, and we are excited to be partnering with many of them. In September we will be welcoming 12 of our playwright and dramaturg teams to Ashland for a three-day convening to share and discuss the work of Play On!. So far, OSF has engaged roles for 192 actors, 9 directors, 12 producers, 13 stage managers in 16 workshops and readings and one production at 15 different professional and educational theatre institutions in 10 cities across America. Including our 36 playwrights and 37 dramaturgs, we’ve engaged more than 290 people in paid positions so far. With the bulk of work still ahead of us, we are excited to watch that number continue to rise.
So, I asked, will we be enjoying any of these new plays in Ashland any time soon?
In regard to seeing these translations on stage at OSF…we don’t know! We plan our seasons so far in advance (planning for the 2018 season is about to begin) and so many of these scripts will not be completed for another two years. We do plan to have staged readings for the public of some of these scripts. There is a staged reading of Kenneth Cavander’s translation of Timon of Athens in the works for this fall that will be open to the public. More details will be released about that soon. But as for when or if OSF will be producing any of them in full remains to be seen. We certainly hope to see one or two up on its feet for audiences at some point! But as an organization we are very much committed to producing Shakespeare in the original language, so any production of these translations would be in addition to the Shakespeare we produce and not as a replacement. Stay tuned for more!
OK, I have to go pack my rain gear now.