Playing to a packed house Friday, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch announced a 2018 season featuring four Shakespeare plays, two world premieres, one American premiere, one "lifelong passion project" and five plays by women, including four new plays by writers of color.
The season will open in February with "Othello" at the Angus Bowmer Theatre, to be directed by Rauch, who describes the play as "Shakespeare's most intimate tragedy."
Running alongside "Othello" for the season will be an adaptation of "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen. The adaptation, by New York City playwright Kate Hamill, will be directed by Hana S. Sharif, who is currently associate artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage. It will be Sharif's first time directing at OSF.
Also opening at the top of the season and playing through early July is Karen Zacarias' "Destiny of Desire," a comedy with origins in the Latin American telenovela genre. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, an award-winning theater and film director who is the current artistic director at Los Angeles Theatre Center, the play has been praised as a "fabulous stage comedy" by the Los Angeles Times.
Opening in April is Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" directed by Rauch. In what he describes as a "lifetime passion project," Rauch will set the piece in an environment that promises to look at gender in a different way, with non-traditional and non-binary gender identities taking precedent over what has historically been a heteronormative, classic musical.
The final show to open at the Bowmer will be Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's "Snow in Midsummer," a contemporary take on Guan Hanqing's "Injustice of Dou E." from 1292. The original play has been adapted over the centuries into Chinese opera and for television. This adaptation is currently being staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon. It is a supernatural ghost story with a decidedly modern twist that "addresses climate change, to boot."
Running the entire season in the Thomas Theatre is Shakespeare's "Henry V." In an unusual move by OSF, Rauch was able to announce that Daniel Jose Molina — who can be seen in the current season at OSF as Prince Hal in "Henry IV, Part 1" — will return to the festival as King Henry for this show, which will be helmed by yet another first-time director to OSF, Rosa Joshi of Seattle's upstart crow collective.
Running March through October is the world premiere of "Manahatta" by Mary Kathryn Nagle, to be directed by Laurie Woolery. "Manahatta" tells the story of a native Lenape woman who reconnects with her ancestral homeland when she moves to New York to take up a job with an investment bank just at the cusp of the 2008 global financial crisis. The play explores the history of the Lenape people and the the effects of excess on contemporary culture.
The last show to open in the Thomas Theatre will be Idris Goodwin's "The Way The Mountain Moved," commissioned as part of OSF's Tony Award-winning American Revolutions Series. Set in the pre-railroad American West, the play will feature a clutch of clashing cultures in the form of African-American Mormons, military surveyors, pioneer women and a Mexican-American war veteran, who "lose their way and find each other." The play will be directed by May Adrales, back at OSF and fresh off the heels of her spectacular success with last season's "Vietgone."
The Allen Elizabethan Theatre will open its doors with Shakespeare's enduring classic "Romeo and Juliet." The play will be directed by another OSF newcomer, Damaso Rodriguez of Portland's Artists Repertory Theatre.
Also in June on the outdoor stage is "The Book of Will." This raucous comedy about the creation of Shakespeare's first folio is by playwright Lauren Gunderson — the first female playwright to have an original play staged at the Elizabethan Theatre. Christopher Liam Moore will direct.
The final outdoor show to open in 2018 will be the Bard's "Love's Labor's Lost," directed by OSF veteran Amanda Dehnert. The celebrated comedy about a group of male scholars who eschew debauchery in favor of academic contemplation will play through October. Among Dehnert's stellar credentials as a director at OSF are her stagings of "My Fair Lady," "Into the Woods," and "Julius Caesar."
Following the season announcement, Rauch was joined by OSF Executive Director Cynthia Rider to take questions from an audience of patrons, donors and members of the media.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at email@example.com.