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OSF receives major grant to fund U.S. history series

A $400,000 grant from The Collins Foundation will make possible the largest commissioning and production project in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's history.

The grant is awarded over three years, from 2008 through 2010, and is the largest grant OSF has received from The Collins Foundation. It will fund the launch of "American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle."

OSF will commission 37 new plays over 10 years, each inspired by a moment of transformation, inspiration or conflict in the nation's history. The festival will announce the first three to five of the cycle's commissions in June.

OSF's United States History Cycle will bring together more than 100 artists, historians and institutions from around the country. The 37 new plays will create up to 15 full productions at OSF between 2010 and 2019. Every work commissioned, even if it does not receive a full production, will be presented to OSF audiences through workshops or readings.

"This unique project highlights the power of theater to inspire us," said Cynthia Addams, executive vice president of The Collins Foundation.

"It is one of those wonderfully creative initiatives that captures the mind and the spirit," Addams said.

OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch has established the United States History Cycle as one of his top priorities. In conceiving the cycle, Rauch took inspiration from the festival's genesis in the Chautauqua movement of the late 19th century and OSF's birth on the Fourth of July, 1935.

OSF's commitment to the works of Shakespeare (the festival has completed the canon three times) drew Rauch to the potential parallels between the United States History Cycle and Shakespeare's own histories in chronicling the tensions and intentions of a nation. Acknowledging this, the Cycle's 37 commissions match the number of plays in the Shakespeare canon.

"Theater has always spoken to the concerns of its time," says Rauch. "Our nation is at a time of great change, and we hope the plays that come from the Cycle will help re-establish a shared vocabulary about our national identity and illuminate the best paths for our nation's future."

The cycle is directed by Alison Carey, co-founder with Rauch of Cornerstone Theater Company. As Cornerstone's resident playwright, she wrote more than 25 of the company's productions for stages across the country.

OSF aims to commission between three and five plays in each of the next three years, seeking the voices of renowned and established writers as well as early career genius. OSF hopes to mount the cycle's first full production on one of its stages in 2010.