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Arts on the bloom in 2019

The 2019 color trends showcase a more subtle, delicate palette, but Southern Oregon's theater and art scenes are anything but subdued.

Here are just a few of the Rogue Valley arts events to look for in 2019.

Actor Jessica Sage has announced the formation of the Rogue Theater Company, and its first performance will be the premiere of her play “Fragments.”

The play will be performed in March 2019 at the Bellview Grange in Ashland, followed by a new production planned for November 2019.

Quirky and outspoken, Sage admits that she’s a little crazy to start a new theater company, but she says people who attend shows in the Rogue Valley are smart and they really like new works.

She piloted "Fragments," an autobiographical work set in the 1970s, at Ashland’s Monday night playwriting atelier to good feedback. "I feel like the world is my oyster, and I have a lot of ideas, everything from one-acts and things you wouldn't see," Sage said. "It’s a risky endeavor and an expensive endeavor, but I have a very high bar and want to hire the best possible people."

For more information, see RogueTheaterCompany.com.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is set to open early in 2019, and once a show opens, it will continue through October, the end of the season. A range of performances are on tap, including “Macbeth” in the Elizabethan, a bilingual translation of “As You Like It,” the pop musical “Hairspray,” a return of the 1491s (the Native American sketch comedy troupe), new commissioned works and more.

“2019 is really a thrilling year for us, and there’s an exciting array of projects,” explained Amrita Ramanan, OSF director of literary development and dramaturgy. “This season is very personal to Bill Rauch, as it is his last as full-time OSF artistic director, and he is incredibly reflective of his mission, vision and values.”

OSF expects to announce the appointment of an interim executive director shortly after the first of the year, according to an OSF board member who declined to be named. The position will be for a seven-month period, through the end of Rauch’s contract. The new hires are expected to continue OSF’s commitment to diversity and outreach, largely initiated during Libby Appel’s time as artistic director and amplified by Rauch.

Play On!, a translation project started in 2015 by former OSF dramaturg Lue Morgan Douthit, transformed Shakespeare’s language into the language of our time. Now largely complete, 39 translations by 36 playwrights are in production across the country. As of 2019, Play On! has separated from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is now an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit supported by the Hitz Foundation.

The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University completed a massive renovation and expansion project in 2018 that positions SOU’s theater program for new opportunities in 2019. Five additional studios are now available for student training, according to theater program Director David Humphrey. The costume shop was enlarged, a metal shop added and the design studio has state-of-the-art digital design applications and printing capabilities.

Also in the new Oregon Center for the Arts facility are the fully re-engineered spaces dedicated to Jefferson Public Radio, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019.

“We’ll be expanding our JPR classical live sessions, now that we have a studio and piano,” said JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle.

Westhelle noted that Jefferson Public Radio will also increase the station’s long-form news and arts coverage with the addition of a news director and another news reporter. And while construction continues at the Holly Theatre in Medford, a project of Jefferson Live! — which is a division of the JPR Foundation — the work to open the theater will likely be completed in 2020.

Public art beautifies and enlivens community spaces, and both the Medford and Ashland public art commissions are planning new work for 2019.

Likely on the horizon is what may be the Rogue Valley’s largest mural, a Pear Blossom Festival-themed work at Vogel Park in downtown Medford. Once the project has been approved by the building owners, the city of Medford will issue a request for artist proposals.

In Ashland, the Arts Commission and Historic Commission are developing a historic site marker project called Marking Ashland Places, or MAP, with requests for artist qualifications to be issued in early 2019. Explanatory panels will be set into the sidewalks of four nationally registered historic districts: downtown, the Railroad District, Siskiyou-Hargadine, and Skidmore Academy. Each area will have a hub site with spokes that mark historic points.

“The vision for Phase I of the MAP project, which is planned for completion in 2019, is to install original, artistic plaques in the sidewalk at five specific locations within the Historic Railroad District,” said commissioner Sandy Friend, “using visual imagery and narrative in sculptural relief to provide a visual reference to the history of the site.”

Also on the 2019 horizon are Shawn Ramagos’ first lineup as artistic director of Camelot Theatre in Talent, Susan Aversa-Orrego’s new women’s voice productions at Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford, and maestro Michael Morris’ vision after taking up the baton at the Rogue Valley Chorale.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Corrections:The Medford Arts Commission has decided not to invest in more decorative work on the Hawthorne Park viaduct columns and crossbars, as was reported in a previous version. The request for proposals on the Vogel Plaza mural has not yet been issued, and is pending owner approval of the project. Incorrect information was provided to the Mail Tribune.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will present "Macbeth" in its outdoor Elizabethan Theatre this season. OSF photo{ }