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OSF 2023 season to feature new work, classics, musicals

(OSF photo)

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has announced its 2023 schedule with a lineup of contemporary works, musicals, reimagined classics, digital productions and strategic partnerships it says will help it realize the future of storytelling.

OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett believes the season is significant in how it continues the transition out of the pandemic.

“The 2022 season was about recovery and rebuilding,” she said. “The 2023 season is about reimagining, revitalizing and reinvigorating--reimagining the future of theater, revitalizing the art form by centering artists and their work, and reinvigorating the intersection between artist and audience. This is my vision for OSF.”

The season offers three looks at contemporary America with an eye toward possibility and healing.

Included are “Rent” (April 5 - Oct. 29), Jonathan Larson’s vision of New York in the 1980s during the HIV/AIDS pandemic; Candice Jones’ “Flex,” a slice of 1990s American life about an all-Black high school girls basketball team in rural Arkansas, a world premiere (April 4 - July 30); and Madeline Sayet’s “Where We Belong,” presented by OSF and Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with Folger Shakespeare Library, a play that follow’s Sayet’s journey to pursue a PhD in Shakespeare in England.

The season opens with Garrett’s first Shakespeare production for OSF, “Romeo and Juliet” (April 4 - Oct. 29), seen through the lens of class in America.

Dawn Monique directs a jazz- and blues-inspired version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (May 30 - Oct. 15), accenting the comedy’s moodier, melancholy edges.

“The Three Musketeers” (May 31 - Oct. 15) will be presented in association with The Acting Company. Kirsten Childs directs the raucous adventure, drawing on Alexandre Dumas’ seldom-cited French-Haitian heritage.

The final summer offering will be Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Yerma” (Aug. 29 - Oct. 29), directed by OSF Assoc. Artistic Director Evren Odcikin. The poetry and queer theatricality of Caridad Svich’s adaptation of the work are highlighted by the world premiere’s songs, puppets and storytelling.

In the fall of 2023, OSF will premiere the groundbreaking “To Feel a Thing--A Ritual for Emergence,” commissioned with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. The Allen Elizabethan Theatre production was written by author and poet adrienne maree brown in collaboration with composer Troy Anthony. With Extended Reality (XR) integrations, it includes songs and sacred acts inspired by brown’s “Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism” and will feature a choir and live band.

Closing the in-person season will be the return of “It’s Christmas, Carol!” by Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley and John Tufts, OSF’s new holiday tradition. The play with lots of music will be presented at the Bowmer Theatre in November and December.

The Green Show will return next summer as well, featuring live music, dance, and other performances on the bricks. Programming will be announced as the season approaches.

OSF’s O! Digital Stage will continue to commission projects that center on the artistic, personal and tribal sovereignty of indigenous artists. Other works will celebrate innovation and intersectionality. And OSF’s two-year partnership with Black Lives Black Words International Project will culminate in a hybrid in-person and digital screening event celebrating the two films in the Films for the People series.

In addition, OSF’s Quills Fest will return in the fall, featuring a bespoke virtual reality exhibition space by OSF’s creative technologists in residence.

Following is the 2023 regular season lineup:

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare, directed by Nataki Garrett, Angus Bowmer Theatre, April 4 - Oct. 29. One of the most famous stories of young love explores a contemporary version as two lovers from different families and backgrounds sacrifice to be together.

“Rent,” book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene, Angus Bowmer Theatre, April 5 - Oct. 29. A group of young artists fights for justice and visibility during the AIDS crisis in this Pulitzer Prize-winning musical.

“Flex” by Candice Jones, directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Thomas Theatre, April 4 - July 30. This West Coast premiere follows the players of an all-Black girls basketball tem in 1997 when WNBA was changing the game for women. Every player dreams of going pro.

“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare, directed by Dawn Monique Williams, Allen Elizabethan Theatre, May 30 - Oct. 15. The hilarious but heart-breaking tale of unrequited love follows Viola, washed ashore after a shipwreck during which her twin brother is lost, as she steps out to explore a new land.

“The Three Musketeers” by Kirsten Childs, inspired by Alexndre Dumas, directed by Kent Gash, Allen Elizabethan Theatre, May 31 - Oct. 15. An inspiring tale, filled with laughter and adventure, it’s a reminder to all that courage, honesty and valor can change the world.

“Yerma” by Federico Garcia Lorca, adapted by Caridad Svich, directed by Evren Odcikin, Angus Bowmer Theatre, Aug. 29 - Oct. 29. The world premiere is a poetic adaptation by Cuban-American playwright Svich. A young woman stuck in a loveless marriage is driven to the unthinkable by her desperate desire for love and yearning for a child.

“Where We Belong,” written and performed by Madeline Sayet, directed by Mei Ann Teo, Aug. 29 - Oct. 29. A Mohegan theatre maker moves to England in 2015 to pursue a PhD in Shakespeare, grappling with the question of what it means to remain or leave as the Brexit vote threatens to further disengage the U.K. from the wider world.

For more information and updates, see osfashland.org.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.