Rogue Theater Company engages OSF vets for ambitious 2022 season
With a lineup of actors and directors that looks like a who’s who of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Rogue Theater Company’s 2022 season promises to be a remarkable encore to a 2021 season that itself exceeded expectations during a pandemic year.
RTC Artistic Director Jessica Sage’s enthusiasm for the new season lies not only in the impressive company she has assembled, but also in the shows themselves.
“Our 2022 season is filled with incredible plays and extraordinary artists,” she said. “Our theme this year is connection — with each other, with ourselves, and even with our pets.”
All productions will be performed at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St., Ashland. Plays will run Thursdays through Sundays at 2 p.m.
RTC hosted a 2022 announcement party Jan. 29 to reveal the season lineup.
RTC opens the season March 3-13 with Terrence McNally’s classic, “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” directed by Michael J. Hume. Kate Hurster and Al Espinosa play lovers grappling with intimacy and vulnerability in tender and often raucous ways.
The play originally opened off-Broadway in 1967 with F. Murray Abraham and Kathy Bates. It finally made it to Broadway 35 years later, starring Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco.
Hurster, in 11 seasons at OSF, played in “The Copper Children,” “As You Like It,” “The Book of Will,” “The Odyssey,” “Julius Caesar,” “Guys and Dolls,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Pride and Prejudice” and many others. She has performed with several theater companies from coast to coast.
Espinosa, A Yale School of Drama grad, has done considerable work in television, film and stage. In nine seasons at OSF, he performed in “Macbeth,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Destiny of Desire,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Great Expectations,” to name a few.
Hume, a distinguished OSF actor for 26 seasons, directed “Tiny Beautiful Things” for RTC last year, and has also directed for OSF, SOU, Ashland High School, Oregon Cabaret Theatre and the Ashland New Plays Festival.
A playwright as well, Hume is collaborating with writing partners Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner on “Marvellini’s Magic Mansion” and an Irish Christmas musical, “Parcel from America,” both set to be produced in Charlotte, Orlando, Milwaukee and Chicago.
Robin Goodrin Nordli and Michael Elich take the stage in RTC’s second offering, May 5-15, in Christian O’Reilly’s “Chapatti,” directed by Robynn Rodriguez. Goodrin Nordli and Elich play animal lovers who are more comfortable with their pets than with people.
“’Chapatti’ will tickle your funny bone and warm your heart,” Sage promised. Sparks begin to fly between the two and they begin to realize that they don’t have to be alone, that being connected with humans is more gratifying than the safe interaction only with animals.
Goodrin Nordli, a veteran OSF actor over 26 seasons, performed 76 roles in 58 productions for the company. Her credits include “Macbeth,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Hedda Gabler,” “The Pirates of Penzance” and “Into the Woods.”
Elich has 20 OSF seasons under his belt, and has performed regionally, off-Broadway and internationally. He played 59 roles in 47 productions at OSF, with featured roles in “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Heart of Robin Hood,” “The Music Man,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Richard III” and more.
Rodriguez is an OSF veteran with 21 seasons as an actor in such works as “August, Osage County,” “The Cherry Orchard,” “King John,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” “Othello” and “Uncle Vanya.” She’s also worked at The Kennedy Center, in England, and at several regional theaters around the country. Rodriguez has directed at many theaters as well.
In June, Barry Kraft will conduct his popular Shakespeare workshops, this year covering the comedies “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Tempest.”
“If you love Shakespeare, there are few people on this planet who know more about the Bard than Barry,” Sage said.
Kraft has been an actor and lecturer at OSF for 31 seasons, including serving as dramaturg for nearly 60 productions. He has acted in 88 full productions of all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays, performing more than 100 roles.
Kraft will conduct six sessions on the comedies that can be viewed live, via livestreaming, or on video.
After taking a break during the smoky season, RTC will return in the fall with Duncan MacMillan’s “Every Brilliant Thing” Nov. 3-13, starring Danforth Comins and directed by Caroline Shaffer.
In the one-character play, a son tries to cure his mother’s chronic depression by creating a list of the best things in the world worth living for. The HBO film scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian said it was “one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression — and possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, full stop.”
Comins has worked 15 seasons at OSF. He recently performed in the 2021 season at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where he played Pericles in “Pericles” and Tyrell in “Richard III.” His OSF resume includes title roles in “Macbeth,” “Hamlet” and “Coriolanus,” as well as memorable roles in “Twelfth Night,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Bus Stop,” “King John” and more.
Shaffer directed “A Doll’s House, Part 2” for RTC in 2021 and “’night, Mother” the season before. She also has directed for the former Actor’s Theatre, SOU, Ashland High School and the Ashland New Plays Festival.
She has been cast in OSF’s 2022 production of “unseen,” and in 11 seasons with the festival has acted in “Great Expectations,” “As You Like It,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Winter’s Tale” and many others.
In addition to several television and film gigs, Shaffer has performed off-Broadway and at many regional theaters.
Classical pianist Joel Wizansky will play pre-show music before every performance, and will be playing throughout the production of “Frankie and Johnny.” His father lives in Ashland, but Wizansky will be flying in from New Haven, Connecticut, for the performances.
He has won prizes at international piano competitions, has performed internationally in recital and with orchestras, and has served on the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory and the Yale School of Music.
For tickets and updates, go to roguetheatercompany.com or call 541-205-9190.
Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at email@example.com.