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Taking it on the road

The cast, designers and director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of "Equivocation" will travel to Washington, D.C., to stage the play there in November and December.

"Equivocation," written by Bill Cain, had its world premiere in 2009 at OSF, where it garnered acclaim from audiences and critics.

The play will be performed in the nation's capital at the Arena Stage, after the close of the 2011 OSF season in Ashland.

OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch, who directed "Equivocation" in 2009, will again be the director of the play for its full run at the Arena Stage.

"As one of the most powerful new plays that I've ever been associated with in my life, I am very happy that this production will have a longer life," he said.

"I'm especially proud that we are bringing this political work to our nation's capitol."

"Equivocation" imagines that William Shakespeare receives an unwanted commission from the government of King James to write a play laying out the official version of the infamous Gunpowder Plot.

According to historical accounts, a group of Catholics in England, angered by religious persecution, had plotted to kill the king and blow up the House of Lords during the opening of parliament. The plot was discovered before the explosion, and many of the conspirators were tortured in horrific ways and killed.

In Cain's imagining of the past, the acting company at The Globe Theatre is thrown into a state of turmoil and terror as Shakespeare digs for the truth behind the government's version of events. Shakespeare witnesses the torture and execution of a young plotter.

When OSF staged "Equivocation" in 2009, the debate over U.S. policies regarding the treatment of terrorism suspects was still fresh. Some said harsh interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration amounted to torture.

The nation had also been shocked by photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners and reports that some prisoners had been killed.

The incidents gave "Equivocation" an extra edge, even though nothing in the play specifically referenced modern events.

Rauch said "Equivocation" remains relevant.

"Bill Cain's writing in 'Equivocation' is for the ages — it will resonate with the times in which it's portrayed as long as there is tension between art and politics, which means always," Rauch said. "World events will have shifted the way that audiences will receive the play in ways that I can't even imagine right now, which is part of what's so thrilling about the prospect of this tour."

For anyone interested in traveling to Washington, D.C., the Arena Stage will begin selling tickets to the play on Sept. 1. For more information, visit www.arenastage.org or call 1-202-488-3300.

At this time, there are no plans for performances of "Equivocation" at theaters in other cities, OSF officials said. However, other OSF plays will take the stage elsewhere.

OSF's play "American Night" will be remounted at La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, Calif. in January and February of 2012. For information, visit www.lajollaplayhouse.org.

The play, which premiered in Ashland last year, was the first to come out of OSF's 10-year "American Revolutions" project to commission plays based on the nation's history. OSF added performances to meet audience demand, but the play still finished the season at 99 percent capacity.

Following its world premiere at OSF this season, the play "Ghost Light" — the second play to come out of the "American Revolutions" project — will be staged at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California in January and February of 2012.

"We are thrilled to be sharing dynamic OSF productions with some of our sister theaters all over the country," Rauch said.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter with the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

Members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival perform “Equivocation” on the stage in Ashland in 2009. The play will be staged in Washington, D.C. later this year. - Jenny Graham