Building on visions of the past to create a new future.
OSF has had five Artistic or Producing, Directors over its 78 year history. For information on our current Artistic Director Bill Rauch, please see his current bio
. For information on past Artistic Directors:
ANGUS L. BOWMER (Tenure 1935-1939, 1947-1971)
Angus L. Bowmer (1904–1979) was the guiding spirit of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from its first season in 1935 until his death in 1979. His tremendous legacy continues to infuse the work of OSF to this day.
Angus Bowmer was born in Bellingham, Washington in 1904, and attended school in Bellingham and then the University of Washington in Seattle. It was there he met B. Iden Payne, the Englishman whose ideas for staging Shakespeare’s plays provided inspiration for the Festival and its Elizabethan Stage.
After several years of teaching in the schools of Washington and continuing his studies at the University of Washington, Bowmer was invited in 1931 to become an instructor in English at Southern Oregon Normal in Ashland, which today is known as Southern Oregon University. He organized theatre activities on campus and continued to teach there until 1970.
The presence in Ashland’s Lithia Park of a Chautauqua building, or the remains of one, sparked the idea of an Elizabethan outdoor stage which would allow the kinds of productions that Bowmer wanted to stage. In 1935, he persuaded the Ashland city fathers to revive a tradition of July 4th celebrations with an important addition: a Shakespearean Festival.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped construct a makeshift stage on the Chautauqua site and Bowmer, college students, teachers and Ashland citizens mounted two plays, The Merchant of Venice
and Twelfth Night
for three performances July 2, 3 and 4. Angus Bowmer directed the two plays and played the roles of Shylock and Sir Toby Belch. He remembered that several hundred people attended that “First Annual Shakespeare Festival”.
Over the ensuing years, Bowmer directed thirty productions and performed 32 Shakespearean roles in 43 separate stagings, in addition to producing all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. He was a member of the National Council on the Arts and received awards and honors from universities, specialists and the federal and state governments. Among his favorites was a commendation from the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology, which stated “His dreams have brought high standards to many performers, designers and technicians. His life has enlightened his community, his profession and, indeed, all of American theatre.”
In 1970, OSF opened a 600-seat indoor facility named the Angus Bowmer Theatre. When asked by a visitor if he had dreamed that his creation would grow to this size, Bowmer replied, “All my dreams are open-ended.”
In the later days of his life, Bowmer enjoyed strolling on the bricks before show time and chatting with the Festival’s growing family. He admired the new theatre and gardens, and noted the ticket buyers queuing up at the box office while others walked the area with ticket-searching signs on display. He would shake his head with a smile, “Isn’t it amazing? Just incredible. You know, we never expected this, but we were ready for it!”
Quotations from Angus Bowmer
“The dome had just been taken off and it gave me the impression of a 16th century sketch of the Globe Theater. I began to do some research and got excited about the possibility of producing a Shakespearean work there.”
“A local furniture store had kept weather records for 40 years. They indicated it was possible to have an out-door theatre here during the summer. The other was a federal report on the economic prospects for this area. Agriculture had gone about as far as it could go. Lumber had reached its peak. The only hope appeared to be the tourist industry.”
“That’s why we settled on a festival, and not a play. A festival would draw people to stay for a time, and to spend money in the community.”
“A good many people felt I was a peculiar young man, but harmless. Others regarded me as a nice young man trying to bring back the good old days.”
--The Oregonian, 1979
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“Perhaps one reason why the Festival has been able to grow over twelve seasons and look forward to many more is the fact that it has had one primary purpose—public entertainment. It has always been held here that scholarship is a means to an end, not an end in itself. To an audience who pays admission to be entertained, the scholar should be as unobtrusive as the electrician.”
-- 1952 OSF Souvenir Program
“I am fully convinced that one of the reasons why so many of our audience members comment about the excitement and satisfaction they feel in our productions is that they have caught the joy of discovery which they share with our company. The discoveries which each company member has worked so hard to find all through the long rehearsal periods he reveals to his audience with the same exultant exuberance as the tyro-bicyclist who shouts, “Look, Ma, no hands!””
-- From As I remember, Adam
“We are not a museum…not an antiquarian display place. The past is certainly our nurturing source and continuing inspiration, but we are in no way bound by the past. We don’t stand still. We are a living, breathing, changing and growing theatre, with a future still to discover. Theatre is always a living art, with open arms for the new. The legacy of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will continue to enrich the future because our beginnings are strong, sound and sure.”
-- From As I remember, Adam
Jerry Turner on Angus Bowmer
"My first impression was how small he was. Not that he was diminutive, but his fame and reputation led me to expect someone at least as tall as Tyrone Power and as imposing as Orson Welles. Yet here he was – the Producing Director of the Oregon Shakespearean Festival, laughing at feeble Scotch jokes at the popcorn counter, a weaving, bobbing figure somewhere between Groucho Marx and Jiminy Cricket."
"He was generous beyond belief. Talent was not to be hoarded, but used. He surrounded himself with the most gifted people he could get and tackled the most difficult problems with a zest only the truly confident could muster. And when we failed, as we all did a lot, he was there with unabashed support for a job well done, however inadequate and humiliating the results."
"I hope that we who continue here can carry on Angus Bowmer’s greatest legacy: his humanity. I hope we can work with the same dogged enthusiasm he always had; the same openness; the same faith, the same sincerity. The theatre’s a place where, in Thornton Wilder’s words, people can show most vividly what it’s like to be a human being. That doesn’t seem like much, sometimes, but Angus Bowmer showed us in his life and in his work, that it’s everything."
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Jerry Turner (Tenure 1971-1991)
Jerry Turner (1927–2004) served as artistic director of OSF from 1971 – 1991, and 21 years later his influence on the company remains profound.
During his tenure he directed more than 40 productions, including his memorable productions of Macbeth, The Tempest, The White Devil, Major Barbara, Pericles Prince of Tyre, Julius Caesar, Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh, King Lear and Mother Courage
and her Children.
He directed a number of his own translations including Ibsen's Rosmersholm
, Peer Gynt
, An Enemy of the People
and The Wild Duck
. He also acted 19 roles in 14 productions, and produced acclaimed translations of Strindberg and his beloved Ibsen. Libby Appel directed his translation of The Master Builder
in 1992 at San Jose Repertory Theatre, and Bill Rauch directed his translation of Hedda Gabler
at OSF 2003. Both directors worked closely with Jerry in bringing those productions to the stage. Jerry also translated Strindberg's The Dance of Death
and The Father
for OSF and Miss Julie
for OSF and Tacoma Actors Guild. In 1977 he oversaw the opening of the Black Swan, an intimate black box theatre, designed especially for new and experimental work and offering new opportunities for OSF audiences.
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It has been said that Jerry was a risk-taking traditionalist and that he pushed the Festival to be fresh and un-predictable. "Theatre is supposed to be disturbing," he often said. He was a lover of classical texts and equally dedicated to new work, always finding in any theatre piece a way to surprise and stimulate audiences. "Expanding an audience's horizons doesn't necessarily mean doing new work," he said in a 1987 interview. "American theatre in recent years has tended to turn away from the rich heritage of the past. The danger isn't so much not doing new work as in ignoring the old work. Besides, just because a play was written a long time ago doesn't make it old. There won't be anything old about The Shoemaker's Holiday
once we get through with it here." Insert any play title into that line and it would exemplify Jerry's work.
A graduate of the University of Colorado (BA, MA), with a PhD in Theatre from the University of Illinois, Jerry began his career at OSF as an actor in 1957 and director in 1959. During the academic year in the early and mid-1950s he was Staff Director at the University of Arkansas and Washington State College. From 1957 to 1964 he was associate professor of drama and department chairman at Humboldt State College at Arcata, California, and from 1964 to 1970 he was chairman of the department of drama and professor of drama at the University of California at Riverside. In 1970 he was elected the first chairman of the faculty of the college of humanities and received a UC Humanities Institute Fellowship to study theatre in Sweden. He learned the language, discovered Strindberg, saw Ingmar Bergman's stage work at the Malmo Civic Theatre and returned to the States with a new vision for theatrical work. He later learned Norwegian in order to be able to read Ibsen's work in the original. When he returned to OSF in 1971, it was to take up the post of Producing Director as successor to Angus Bowmer. Jerry continued to work with Angus on a few projects until Angus died in 1979. Jerry became Artistic Director in 1981 (a title change only), retiring in 1991.
Under Jerry's leadership, OSF received the Antoinette Perry Award (Tony Award) in 1983, and in 1991 Jerry and OSF's Board of Directors refused a $49,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts due to restrictive language. OSF subsequently received the 1990 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Commendation and 1990 Open Book Award for First Amendment Courage from American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). Jerry also received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters at Pacific University in 1985, the George Norlin Alumni Award from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1989, the Oregon Governor's Award for the Arts in 1991, and the St. Olav’s Medal from King Harald of Norway in 1996.
"Prodigious scholar, rigorous intellectual, boffo showman, heart as big as The Globe." — Phil Davidson, OSF actor
"For my 20 years with Jerry, he was rascally poetic!" — Todd Barton, OSF Resident Composer and Music Director
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Quotations from Jerry Turner
Jerry Turner on the future of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival stated in 1971 after his return from Sweden:
"Changes, when they come, must preserve the continuity of our success. And that success is based upon the conservation of what is best in dramatic literature. We shall continue to be a playwright's theatre first and foremost. We must never be lured into the cheap or shoddy through pressures of ticket sales or financial needs. Our dedication must be to the best, the highest, the most meaningful in the art. We have all we need for a theatre of greatness: players, two stages, staff, playwrights and a rightfully possessive audience. May we be worthy of the task."
"We need things to reach for. If we don't have things to reach for, our lives get filled with things that are meaningless, that are momentarily distracting but have no exalting possibilities."
"I love to have quarrels over plays. I think it shows that the work is alive. But I hate to get letters about it. If you asked me, 'What's the mark of a very vivid production?' I'd say it's the controversy outside the theatre, the argument out on the bricks, that is the mark of a good show."
"Most people (including a lot of intelligent people) like to say they know what they like when they really mean they like what they know."
"It is important for us to recognize on every level that access to our highest culture is a meaningful right of citizenship, and not something to fill in the recreational gaps between commercial exertions. A culturally deprived individual is a poor individual, not able to achieve his potential in life. Likewise, a nation starved in its cultural expressiveness is a poor nation in its spirit, however outwardly prosperous it may seem."
"The theatre owes its artistic life to its singular ability to project uniquely human values to a large and diverse contemporary community.... We do not seek to startle our audiences into perceptions, but to interpret the plays with our own 20th-century skills and insights to bring them forcefully into our consciousness as living documents. Our motto, almost from the beginning, has been 'What's Past is Prologue.'"
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"In the long run, a 'National Endowment for Nice Art' could prove more dangerous than we know."
"It is the complicity of actor and witness that, it seems to me, lies at the heart of the theatrical expression."
"Every generation not only has its own Hamlet, it has its own Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, Melville and Arthur Miller. A great work of art is great in part because it has the capacity to live, that is to say, it has the capacity to change, as the world and the culture change."
"But always there was this nagging doubt that literature, and especially theatre, might not be respectable. Certainly they were trivial, and if not sinful, an absolute waste of good time." (on the arts in America)
"The great flowerings of civilization (the Renaissance, classical Greece and the like) were brought about by choice — a consciousness of the possibilities of cultural excellence." (1981)
"A steady diet of happy endings is not to serve an audience but to exploit it."
"The meaning of a good play is as elusive as truth. It's never really found but the search for it is omnipotent and important."
"Without passion, theatre is just another low-paying job."
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HENRY WORONICZ (Tenure 1991-1995)
Henry Woronicz first came to OSF in 1984 as an actor and in 12 seasons at OSF he played numerous roles, including Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra,
Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew,
Peer in Peer Gynt,
and many more.
He directed numerous productions as well, including Pravda, Hamlet, The Rehearsal, Cymbeline, All’s Well that Ends Well, La Bête, Other People’s Money, The Second Man, Henry IV, Part Two, Romeo and Juliet, “Master Harold”…and the boys,
and Sea Marks.
In June 1991, Henry accepted the appointment of Artistic Director, succeeding Jerry Turner. In accepting the challenge of Artistic Director he envisioned a redefinition of OSF’s three theatres—on the Allen Elizabethan Theatre a greater reliance on the unadorned façade and the power of Shakespeare’s words; in the Black Swan, a return to the space’s original mission, to be a place where “we can fail and take risks,” and to that end it would no longer be a “mini-Bowmer,” but a spare arena with minimal scenic elements where the focus would be on the relationship of actor, text, director and audience; and the Angus Bowmer Theatre would remain the theatre where anything could be done.
In order to help accomplish his goals he expanded the artistic office to include Pat Patton as Associate Artistic Director, Kirk Boyd as Associate Director/Production and Cynthia White as Associate Director/Play Development. Cynthia, in particular, would help with Henry’s commitment to new play development. In a 1991 inter-view he said, “Our house playwright is a great writer, and I think a classical theatre has a certain obligation to nurture writers because there will be classics in the future that will have to be done.”
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Henry was committed to increasing the diversity of the acting company and to multicultural casting. It troubled him that during one season people of color were represented on stage and then the next season there was no diversity. In 1991, people of color represented only one percent of the acting company. By 1995 that number had risen to 25 percent. In addition, OSF increasingly produced stories of people of color—August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
(1993); George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum
(1994), Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s From the Mississippi Delta
(1995) and Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding
Henry also hired more women directors and was the first to hire a woman as associate artistic director (Fontaine Syer, 1993-1995) and in doing helped pave the way for OSF’s first female artistic director, Libby Appel. In addition he added more actor resources, hiring voice and text coaches, a movement director and dramaturges. His influence continues, and today OSF hires artists to fill these positions for each production team.
At the time of taking on the job of AD, Henry noted that he was inspired by three men of the theatre. First was Laurence Olivier, who was both actor and director, and Henry, too, continued to act and direct in order to be “in the heart of the company.” Second was Jim Edmondson, long time OSF company member and actor and director: “Jim’s nurturing quality is something that I try to incorporate into my work,” Henry said. And lastly, Jerry Turner: “I have a great admiration for his honesty. He strikes me as one of those great artists of the soul, someone who demands constant investigation of this life.”
Henry left the position of Artistic Director at OSF in 1995 and has continued to act and direct in regional theatre throughout the country. He served as Executive Producer for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival for the 2009 season, a one year consultation. He is currently the Head of the MFA Acting Program at Illinois State University in the School of Theatre.
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LIBBY APPEL (Tenure 1995-2007)
“Moment to moment… it’s the moments we remember from plays that make the indelible memories in our lives. It doesn’t always matter if the whole is successful. It’s the effort; it’s the creative drive; it’s those searing moments that pay off.”
Libby Appel first came to Ashland in 1988 to direct Enrico IV (The Emperor),
a defining moment for many Festival patrons. Since that summer, she has spent over 20 seasons with the Festival, and directed over 30 productions. In 1995, she was named OSF’s fourth Artistic Director.
She has established herself as one of the premier Chekhov interpreters of our time, yet has also been a strong champion of new play development. Under her leadership, we produced new work such as By the Waters of Babylon
(Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan) and Gibraltar
(Octavio Solis), Continental Divide: Daughters of the Revolution
and Mothers Against
, David Edgar’s monumental two-play vision of American politics, co-produced with Berkeley Repertory Theatre; UP
, Oedipus Complex
, Lorca in a Green Dress
; as well as such re-envisioned classics as Hedda Gabler
, Measure for Measure
, Antony and Cleopatra
and Henry VI
An equally defining quality is her fierce commitment to diversity in theatre. She expanded our repertoire to include more works deemed “ethnic-specific” and increased diversity in casting. In one of the better known examples, she cast women of three different ethnic backgrounds as the daughters in 1997s King Lear
. “Diversity in casting has made people look at the plays differently, and I’m thrilled about that. I think our audience regards these plays and the diversity of the company as a plus.”
Under Libby’s tenure the Festival opened a new theatre space; the Thomas Theatre. “Having three theatres of different sizes—not just in physical proportion, but in spiritual proportion, where you can see plays in totally different ways—is an artistic director’s dream: to be able to look at plays up close with a microscope, or farther back to see a bigger picture, or in an epic, hugely theatrical style. It’s the perfect setup.”
In 2010, Libby was awarded the Stephen and Christine Schwarzman Legacy Award for Lifetime Achievement and Excellence in Theatre.
Artistic director, Indiana Repertory Theatre 1992-1996; dean and artistic director, School of Theatre at the California Institute of the Arts; head of the acting program at California State University, Long Beach; wrote Mask Characterization: An Acting Process
; created and produced Inter/Face: The Actor and the Mask
(video); co-author of two plays, Shakespeare's Women
and Shakespeare's Lovers
; OSF-commissioned new adaptations of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard
, Uncle Vanya
and Three Sisters
Honorary doctorates from Southern Oregon University, University of Portland and Willamette University; M.A., Northwestern University; B.A., University of Michigan.
-Information drawn from articles and interviews published by Oregon Shakespeare Festival
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