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OSF announces its 11-play 2017 season

Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) Artistic Director Bill Rauch announced the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2017 playbill Friday. 

Rauch said, “The 2017 season represents our ever-growing passion and dedication to represent voices and stories that reflect the cultural richness, and at times the painful legacy, of our country. The season also takes us deeper into our commitment to our namesake playwright and the exciting Canon-in-a-Decade project, with a particularly enticing opportunity in our most intimate theatre space. Patrons will have the rare opportunity to see both parts of 'Henry IV' in the Thomas Theatre, perhaps as part of a same-day marathon! ...

“I’m thrilled that, for the first time in our history, we’ll be presenting a play by a Native American writer with Randy Reinholz’s 'Off the Rails.' And what an extraordinary opportunity we’ve been given to present a new work based on the poetry of August Wilson, 'UniSon,' created by our ensemble-in-residence, Universes. Our resident playwright Luis Alfaro also graces our stages with 'Mojada,' one of his most powerful works, and audiences get to meet one of the American theatre’s most thrilling new playwrights, Jiehae Park, in 'Hannah and the Dred Gazebo.' We are also immensely fortunate to bring the West Coast premiere of 'Shakespeare in Love' to festival audiences. ...

“I also am continually delighted at the opportunities that our flagship venue, the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, offers us. I can’t wait to see how Mary Zimmerman transforms the space for 'The Odyssey,' and we’ll also venture deeper into the musical theatre canon with Disney’s 'Beauty and the Beast' as only OSF can do it — with fresh eyes, powerful acting and endless imagination.” 

In the Angus Bowmer Theatre 

The 2017 season will open in February with 'Julius Caesar,' one of Shakespeare’s most heartfelt, penetrating tragedies. This will be the eighth time in OSF’s history that this timeless tale of ambition, honor, friendship and political intrigue has been presented. The director is Shana Cooper. 

Running all season is "Shakespeare in Love," directed by Christopher Liam Moore. This wildly popular stage adaptation of the Academy Award–winning movie is based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, and is adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. The original stage production, which debuted in London’s West End in 2014, was hailed as “a big-hearted hit” and “an absolute joy from beginning to end” by London critics.

Also opening at the top of the season and playing through early July is "Mojada," by OSF’s resident playwright, Luis Alfaro, directed by Juliette Carrillo. In "Mojada," Alfaro takes the ancient Medea tale and gives it a bracing modern setting that unleashes the power of Euripides’ original story as seen through the lens of the immigrant journey to the U.S. The Los Angeles Times praised "Mojada," saying it “casts a beguiling narrative spell while finding opportunities for biting cultural commentary” while “freely mixing comedy with drama.” The 2015 production at the Getty Villa was the winner of three L.A. Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. 

Opening in April is the world premiere of "UniSon" by Universes, with the poetry of August Wilson, directed by Robert O’Hara ("The Wiz"). OSF’s resident ensemble Universes ("Party People," "Ameriville") sought out and were granted access to August Wilson’s poetry catalogue in association with his widow Constanza Romero and his estate. The result is a high-energy, music-filled exploration of the passing on of legacy and the reconstruction of collective memory, inspired by the poetry of one of our most revered playwrights. Fusing poetry, theater, movement and original music, UniSon gives OSF audiences the opportunity to see one of America’s leading ensembles of color bring an American master to life through their signature theatrical aesthetic — for a new generation, in a new century, a new millennium. 

The final show to open in the Angus Bowmer Theatre is the world premiere of "Off the Rails" by Randy Reinholz, directed by Bill Rauch. This production marks the first time OSF has produced a play by a Native American writer. "Off the Rails" is freely adapted from Shakespeare’s "Measure for Measure" and set in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, with playwright Reinholz describing it as “'Blazing Saddles' meets Shakespeare — with Native Americans taking the reins.” With healthy doses of humor and music, "Off the Rails" tackles the controversial and rarely discussed topic of American Indian boarding schools in the late 19th century in the American West. "Off the Rails" opens in late July and runs through the end of the season. 

In the Thomas Theatre 

The first show to open in the Thomas Theatre and running the entire season will be Shakespeare’s "Henry IV, Part One." In an exciting twist for fans of Shakespeare’s history plays and those taking the journey through OSF’s Canon-in-a-Decade project, "Henry IV, Part Two" will open in July in the Thomas Theatre, offering audiences multiple opportunities to see both plays in either a marathon one-day viewing or a two-day experience with Prince Hal, King Henry, Falstaff, Mistress Quickly and the other indelible characters in the Henry IV saga. The same cast will appear in both parts of the story. 

"Henry IV, Part One" opens in late February and will be directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz. "Henry IV, Part Two" enters the repertory in early July and will be directed by first-time OSF guest artist Carl Cofield. Cofield is the director of recent critically acclaimed productions of "The Tempest" at the Classical Theatre of Harlem and "The Mountaintop" at Cleveland Play House, among others. 

Opening in late March and running for the rest of the season is the world premiere of "Hannah and the Dred Gazebo" by Jiehae Park, directed by Chay Yew. Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when a mysterious package arrives from her Korean grandmother — who may, or may not have, just ended her life in a most flamboyant fashion. The package leads Hannah and her family on a surreal, comedic, heartbreaking adventure to the Sunrise Dewdrop Apartment City for Senior Living on the south side of the Demilitarized Zone (and beyond), with guest appearances from the Ghost of Kim Jong Il, a mythological tiger, and other mischievous fragments of the family's past. 

In the Allen Elizabethan Theatre 

The boisterous comedic adventures of Sir John Falstaff continue on the outdoor stage when Shakespeare’s "The Merry Wives of Windsor" opens the Allen Elizabethan Theatre in June, directed by OSF Artistic Associate Dawn Monique Williams. Never one to steal quietly into town, Falstaff upends the peaceful hamlet of Windsor by wooing two wealthy married women, the Mistresses Ford and Page, and sending Master Ford into paroxysms of suspicion and jealousy. While the two wives make a merry game out of leading Falstaff on, the wooing of young Anne Page pits a parade of colorful characters against each other, all culminating in a hilarious finale in Windsor Park.

Also opening in June is "The Odyssey," acclaimed adapter and director Mary Zimmerman’s first production in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Zimmerman, the adapter/creator of the 2012 OSF hit "The White Snake" and director of 2015’s much-beloved "Guys and Dolls," first presented her vision of Homer’s epic poem in 1990 at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre.

The third show to open outside is Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast,"directed by Eric Tucker, artistic director of the critically acclaimed Bedlam Theatre in New York City. With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, "Beauty and the Beast" ran on Broadway for 5,461 performances between 1994 and 2007, becoming Broadway’s ninth-longest-running production in history. Festival audiences will see a unique, powerful rendition of this beautiful tale, with actors diving deep into the iconic roles under the direction of one of New York’s most innovative, imaginative theater artists.

The 2017 season will begin previews on Feb. 17 and open the weekend of Feb. 24-26. The opening performances in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre will be the weekend of June 16-18. The season will run through Oct. 29. Tickets for the 2017 season will go on sale in November 2016 for members, and general sales will begin in early December.