Highlights of the season include a grant to rename Allen Elizabethan Theatre and an American Revolutions commission heading to Broadway
November 5, 2013
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival wrapped up its 78th season Sunday night with the final performances of The Taming of the Shrew and King Lear. Preparations for the 2014 season are well under way; member ticket sales start this week and previews begin February 14.
Commenting on the 2013 season, Artistic Director Bill Rauch said, “The season was filled with rich and rewarding work, with audiences affirming all season long the strength and power of our Shakespeare productions, our American classics, our musicals and our new work. We have an unprecedented number of OSF plays performing across the country—a testament to the excellent efforts of our entire company and the adventurous nature of our amazing audiences.”
The 2013 season, sponsored by U.S. Bank, closed at 87% of capacity. Total attendance was 405,328 and ticket revenue was $19,573,863. The season included 11 productions, with a total of 805 performances. Attendance was up 3.6% from 2012 and revenue was up 7.2%. Student attendance was 66,975, and the Education Department offered 928 Education events throughout the season, for which 32,349 tickets were sold.
Malia Wasson, president of U.S. Bank in Oregon, applauded OSF: “As the season comes to a close, all of us at U.S. Bank extend our congratulations to OSF for bringing vibrant, compelling and thought-provoking theater to its audiences. We eagerly await the 2014 season and look forward to seeing you in Ashland next year.” U.S. Bank will also be the 2014 season sponsor.
Executive Director Cynthia Rider said, “The year has been a most amazing inaugural season as executive director. What has been most remarkable is to experience the work on OSF’s stages. It was truly impossible to respond to people’s queries on what I would recommend they see. How does one choose between the joy of sitting under the stars and watching a rarely staged Cymbeline, the utter delight of My Fair Lady, the very best production I think I will ever see of King Lear, the profound truthfulness of Two Trains Running, or the unique passion of The Unfortunates? There simply is no answer but to suggest they attend all the shows.”
OSF continues to see its American Revolutions commissions bear much fruit, both here at OSF and throughout the country. Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, developed and premiered at OSF in 2012, had a hugely successful run at American Repertory Theatre in Boston this fall. The production was directed by Mr. Rauch and featured a new cast led by Bryan Cranston as LBJ. That production will transfer to Broadway early next year and also be directed by Mr. Rauch. Naomi Wallace’s The Liquid Plain, which played to many sold-out houses in the Thomas Theatre this season, will be staged in 2014 at Baltimore’s CenterStage. American Night: The Ballad of Juan José (2010 OSF premiere), by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash, has had numerous productions throughout the nation including California Shakespeare Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Denver Center Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre.
Other OSF commissions are doing equally well. Director Mary Zimmerman’s luminous 2012 world-premiere adaptation of The White Snake just completed a run at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ (10/15-11/3) and will be staged at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre from May 3 to June 8. Both runs feature many of the same actors from the OSF production.
The renaming of the Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion to Allen Elizabethan Theatre was the result of a generous $3 million grant from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The Foundation provided the lead gifts for the building of the Allen Pavilion in 1993 when the name of the theatre was changed to Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion. This new gift is designed to support a broad array of priority areas for OSF, such as funding the work on stage, maintaining and restoring the organization’s buildings, and attracting visitors to experience live theater, in addition to other needs of the organization.
Donors have been extremely generous this season. Contributed income is up from last season. In April OSF received a gift of $1 million from Ashland residents Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod to support new works ($250,000), education ($250,000), and the redesign of the Festival courtyard, also known as the Bricks ($500,000).
Also of note is OSF’s three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) of $200,000 for “Digitizing and Creating Access to the Audiovisual Collection in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Archives.” The grant will enable OSF to preserve and make public the work of its founders, artists and innovators, which is documented in an extensive audiovisual collection. Seventy-five percent of the collection is unusable due to preservation concerns and technological obsolescence. With digitization, these 2,655 at-risk tapes, films and videos will be preserved for future use and be made available for the first time.
OSF also hosted the Latino/a Play Project in late October—a project it hopes will be an annual event. The Play Project develops and presents new plays and provides a forum for artists, producers and audiences to discuss and advance Latino/a theatre at OSF and nationwide. The LPP also deepens and sustains the momentum of OSF’s commitment to inclusion and audience diversity by enlisting the assistance of a community advisory group, “mesa consultiva,” to strengthen and expand OSF’s partnerships with local and statewide Latino communities. The Project is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, with additional support from the Ruben and Sandra Islas Foundation.
In 2013 OSF commenced building a new production shop in Talent, Oregon, due to significant space limitations in creating sets and props and woefully inadequate storage. The project is nearing completion, and OSF expects to begin moving to the building in 2014. Once everything is moved from the current production shop on First Street in Ashland, OSF will create a new rehearsal center in that space. The Hay Patton Rehearsal Center was made possible through a $4.5 million donation in 2012 by a group of donors comprised of The Goatie Foundation, Roberta and David Elliott and Peter and Helen Bing. The donation secured the naming rights of the New Theatre, which was changed to the Thomas Theatre.
The 2014 season will open on Friday night, February 21, in the Angus Bowmer Theatre with Shakespeare’s The Tempest. On Saturday OSF will open Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, and George S. Kaufman and Irving Berlin’s Marx Brothers musical comedy The Cocoanuts. Opening Sunday in the Thomas Theatre is William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. In March, Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play Water by the Spoonful comes to the Thomas Theatre, and in April the beloved American classic A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Tracy Young from the book by Madeleine L’Engle, will be staged in the Bowmer Theatre.
In the Thomas Theatre, where The Comedy of Errors will run all season, Water by the Spoonful will run from March 26 to June 20 and then reopen from September 4 to November 2. This new performance schedule provides the opportunity for the world-premiere rock musical commission Family Album, by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, to be staged from July 1 through August 31. OSF hopes the schedule maximizes audience members’ ability to see all three plays.
In the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, OSF will produce Shakespeare’s Richard III and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, along with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s classic American musical, Into the Woods.
And last but by no means least, Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society, the second part to All the Way, will be staged in the Angus Bowmer Theatre from July 23 to November 1. The world-premiere production will feature much of the same cast as the 2012 production of All the Way, including Jack Willis as LBJ and Kenajuan Bentley as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Previews begin on February 14, and the season runs through November 2.
2014 Presale for membership begins November 8, and general ticket sales for the 2014 season begin November 25. For information call (800) 219-8161 or (541) 482-4331 or visit www.osfashland.org. The Box Office will be closed November 5-7.