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OSF to lift mask requirements and capacity restrictions July 14

E. Faye Butler performs in "Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer" at the Elizabethan Theatre. OSF will lift masking requirements and capacity restrictions for the theater beginning July 14. [Photo by Amy Miller]

Beginning July 14, there will be no mask requirements or capacity restrictions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

OSF will welcome full-capacity audiences to its outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre production of “Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer,” as well as the weekly summer concerts that take place throughout the run of the show.

“Although attendees must still present proof of full vaccination completed or a negative COVID-19 test, the organization has removed social distancing and masking requirements,” said Blake Zidell, OSF spokesman.

“As a result, OSF has put on sale more tickets to the musical that just reopened the Elizabethan,” he said.

Tickets for most July performances of “Fannie” were already sold out.

OSF Executive Director David Schmitz termed it a milestone in the festival’s emergence from the pandemic, calling it the “most challenging period” in the history of OSF.

“There is no substitute for the shared experience of 1,200 audience members coming together for a live performance in the Elizabethan as night falls,” Schmitz said.

“We cannot wait for E. Faye Butler, the ‘Fannie’ company and the artists featured in our summer concert series to energize and move the crowds they deserve.”

Cheryl L. West’s “Fannie,” which runs through Oct. 9, tells the story of the Mississippi-born civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977), painting a portrait of courage, humor and grit.

The play provides a first-person account of her life, alternating between autobiography and song, just as Hamer herself incorporated art into her activism.

The production stars E. Faye Butler, for whom the show was written. Reviewed as “utterly unstoppable” by the Chicago Tribune, Butler is accompanied by a band that includes Chic Street Man (guitar), Morgan E. (keyboard) and Sarah Allen (drums).

Beginning Sept. 1, OSF’s own Greta Oglesby takes over for Butler in the Hamer role, who will leave to star in “Fannie” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago beginning Oct. 15. Seattle Repertory will mount the production in early 2022. The production was co-commissioned by the Goodman and Seattle Rep.

Throughout the run of “Fannie,” OSF will present Wednesday concerts at the Elizabethan, July 2 -Oct. 6. The schedule includes:

July 21-22: Urban Jazz Dance Company

July 28: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Aug. 4: Phoenix and Four Directions

Aug. 11: Hollis Peach

Aug. 18: Brother Angus

Aug. 25: Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre

Sept. 8: Chic Street Man

Sept. 15: The Singer and The Songwriter

Sept. 22: Dancing Spirit Drum

Sept. 29: UNIVERSES

Oct. 6: Flamenco Pacifico

Additional tickets went on sale July 8 at $35 for “Fannie” and $15 for the concerts. They can be purchased by visiting osfashland.org or by calling the OSF box office at 800-219-8161.

Tickets for “It’s Christmas, Carol!” will go on sale at a later date. Written by OSF performers Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley and John Tufts, it will be performed in the Bowmer Theatre Nov. 23-Jan. 2. OSF hadn’t expected mask requirements or capacity restrictions to be in effect by then and is assuming they won’t be necessary.

You can reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.