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OSF's 2020 season revealed

Outgoing Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch and incoming artistic director Nataki Garrett shared the Thomas Theatre stage Tuesday afternoon to announce the 2020 season, which promises adaptations of classical works, innovation and jubilation. Having both directors in the same place at the same time to launch the season was a historic event.

Rauch stood at the mic to greet the crowd and introduce Garrett to Ashland, on staff for just three weeks. As Rauch began the reveal, Garrett, who was seated alongside, asked Rauch to sit down. Rauch’s familiar toothy grin gave way to a guffaw as he noted Garrett’s superb, demonstrated qualifications as a director, and the two continued the reveal from seated positions.

Opening in February in the Bowmer Theatre and running through the full season are “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Joseph Haj, and “Peter and the Starcatcher,” by Rick Elice based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson and directed by Lavina Jadhwani.

Opening in March in the Bowmer is the world premiere of the next American Revolutions work, “The Copper Children,” by Karen Zacarias and directed by Shariffa Ali. “Poor Yella Rednecks,” a sequel to “Vietgone” that continues the characters and narrative from the earlier work, will open in July; OSF has not yet announced who will direct.

Opening in March in the Thomas Theatre are “Bring Down the House,” Rosa Joshi and Kate Wisniewski’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” trilogy, which will be performed in two parts and produced in association with upstart crow collective.

“Confederates,” by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Nataki Garrett, opens in April and is the second American Revolutions work for the 2020 season, co-commissioned with Penumbra Theatre.

“Everything that Never Happened,” by Sarah Mantell and directed by Jessica Kubzansky, opens in July and tells the stories that occurred in the interludes of “The Merchant of Venice.”

Three plays will preview the weekend of May 26 in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre and are also scheduled later that summer for the Mountain Avenue Theatre in case of wildfire smoke. Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” will be directed by Nicholas C. Avila; “Black Odyssey,” by Marcus Gardley, will be directed by Monty Cole; and “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” by Theresa Rebeck, will be directed by Dawn Monique Williams.

There are no musicals in the 2020 OSF schedule, though “Peter and the Starcatcher” will have a musical score. Actors’ contracts will be released immediately before ticket presales in November.

The 2020 plays were selected through a yearlong process called the Boar’s Head that involved more than 60 OSF critical readers and was completed before Garrett arrived at OSF. As is typical for artistic directors, Garrett will have about seven months to learn about the community, stewards and OSF’s traditions before the 2021 season’s work begins with next year’s Boar’s Head.

Garrett begins her work at OSF in the year of Jubilee, a yearlong national theater initiative to surface new and marginalized voices, a notion that she is experienced in and well equipped to accomplish. She and Rauch both acknowledge that Jubilee continues and focuses on the equity, diversity and inclusion work that OSF has been doing for decades and has caused them both to be more intentional and thoughtful as they consider the future of this dramatic art form.

Garrett is well-known for her work to develop new and innovative plays and bring out diverse voices and views in Shakespeare at the core of her work.

“What’s important to me about Shakespeare’s work is that what he didn’t make up himself, he borrowed, he adapted stories and ideas,” Garrett explained. “That is at the core of the work I’m interested in doing. How do you use Shakespeare to continue to evolve storytelling? How you continue to reflect humanity and inspire empathy. And sometimes Shakespeare’s words on the page are enough.”

The 2020 OSF schedule will mirror the 2019 schedule but will open one week earlier with previews beginning the week of Feb. 28. The Elizabethan will open one week earlier as well, with previews beginning the weekend of May 26. All theaters will run a week longer in 2020, the Bowmer and Thomas through Oct. 31 and the Elizabethan through Oct. 16. As in 2019, once a play opens at the festival, it will continue through the rest of the season.

Before turning the mic over to audience questions, Rauch summarized Garrett’s inaugural season, saying: “The 2020 season includes two world premieres commissioned through American Revolutions; a thrilling two-part adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” trilogy with an all-female cast; two contemporary plays by female playwrights exploring the resonance and impact of Shakespeare’s plays through time; a prequel to ‘Peter Pan’ that multiple generations of families can enjoy together; a bold, powerful, unique reinvention of an ancient classic the overdue return of “Pericles” director Joseph Haj; and finally the much awaited sequel to “Vietgone.”

“That, my friends, is the 2020 season,” said Rauch.

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

Nataki Garrett and Bill Rauch announce Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2010 season Tuesday. Photo by Maureen Flanagan Battistella