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Showtime! OSF to open first full season since 2019

Director Evren Odcikin works with Helen Sadler, left, and Nora el Samahy during a rehearsal of 'unseen." The show's first preview is at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, in the Thomas Theatre. Photo by Liz Lanier

It will be a big day Tuesday at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The campus will be alive with enthusiastic playgoers, tickets in hand for the first two plays of the 2022 season.

And those tickets are considerably less expensive than in recent years.

OSF will launch its first full season since 2019 on April 12 with preview performances of “unseen” at 1:30 p.m. in the Thomas Theatre and “Once on This Island” at 8 p.m. in the Angus Bowmer Theatre.

OSF abandoned the dynamic pricing model it adopted in 2015, an industry practice that raised prices as the season progressed, correlated to scarcity and popularity.

The festival also lowered its top ticket price from $132 or more to $75 for 2022. The range this season is $35 to $75, depending on the day of the week, time of day and special circumstances, such as holiday weekends.

There will be only two seating zones in each theater, and thus only two ticket prices for any given performance. Depending on the performance day and time, the prices will be either $35 and $55, $45 and $65, or $55 and $75.

As a result, playgoers will find it easier to buy tickets and be able to see more performances. And with prices set for the season, patrons don’t have to worry about paying more for a last-minute ticket.

Theaters went dark in early March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the performing arts industry. The ensuing two years have been a challenge for both the festival and the Ashland business community.

In the interim, OSF developed online programming and offered on-demand streaming of some previous shows. And then in 2021, as the pandemic eased somewhat, the organization mounted a one-woman show in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre.

“Given the challenges, ‘Fannie’ last summer was an honest-to-goodness miracle,” said OSF Executive Director David Schmitz, “produced by the skin of our teeth with a skeleton crew, duct tape, and chewing gum!”

Eight plays will be produced on stage this season in the Angus Bowmer, Thomas, and Allen Elizabethan Theatres, and special new programming will be presented on its O! Digital Stage.

The Green Show will also return, with performances on the outdoor stage on the bricks Wednesday through Saturday evenings from June to September.

“Our season is dedicated to the artists,” said Nataki Garrett, OSF Artistic Director. “In this moment of reemergence, I rely on artists because they have their ears and hearts to the ground.”

The season is starting later than in previous years and will run through the end of December in response to customers asking for a winter season show.

The 2022 calendar is based on analysis of OSF audience data and feedback from patrons. In a push towards a more sustainable financial model, OSF took a close look at audience metrics and found that 88 percent saw five or fewer plays, which led to the decision to schedule fewer shows this season.

“The cost of presenting 10-11 plays was not manageable long-term,” said Schmitz. “That’s why we’ll be presenting eight productions in our theaters in 2022.”

Musical and a premiere

Tuesday’s previews that kick off the 2022 season include a musical and a West Coast premiere.

“Once on This Island” is a Tony Award-winning musical with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty, based on the novel, “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, and directed by Lili-Anne Brown. It will play through Oct. 30.

The story takes place on a golden and verdant Caribbean island where a little girl is rescued from a disastrous storm by four gods. It’s a tale of Black joy and sorrow, the aftermath of colonization and isolation, and the triumph of love.

New York Times reviewer Jesse Green wrote, “What a delight it is to enter the world of ‘Once on This Island’ … a ravishing revival.”

Running through July 31, “unseen” is the story of an American conflict photographer who wakes up at the site of a massacre in Syria, not sure how she got there. With her Turkish girlfriend and her Californian mother, she must piece together the details of her past to find out what happened.

The OSF run of “unseen” is a West Coast premiere, written by Mona Mansour and directed by Evren Odcikin.

Next on the calendar is “August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned,” running from May 3 to July 30.

Co-conceived by Wilson and Todd Kreidler, the play is directed by Tim Bond. Originally performed by Wilson, it is a theatrical memoir charting one man’s journey of self-discovery through diversity, and what it means to be a Black artist in America.

Other plays on the 2022 schedule include:

• “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, June 1 – Oct. 15, Elizabethan;

• “Revenge Song: A Vampire Cowboys Creation” by Qui Nguyen, June 2 – Oct. 14, Elizabethan;

• “King John” by William Shakespeare, Aug. 17 – Oct. 29, Bowmer;

• “Confederates” by Dominique Morisseau, Aug. 23 – Oct. 29, Thomas; and

• “It’s Christmas, Carol!” by Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley and John Tufts, November and December (dates TBA), Bowmer.

New in the digital lineup will be “The Cymbeline Project” by William Shakespeare, conceived by Nataki Garrett, and created by Scarlett Kim; “Films for the People,” featuring two short films presented by Black Lives, Black Words International Project; and “Quills Fest,” an immersive digital festival at the intersection of live theater and extended reality.

For more information, updates, schedule of shows, cast lists, and to buy tickets, go to osfashland.org.