A Play, a Musical, a Concert, a Journey through American Music
March 14, 2013
Ashland, Ore.—The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will open its world premiere production The Unfortunates on March 31 at 1:30 p.m. in the Thomas Theatre. The Unfortunates is written by Jon Beavers, Casey Hurt, Ian Merrigan and Ramiz Monsef, with additional material by Kristoffer Diaz. Shana Cooper directs, and Paul James Prendergast is associate director.
This wildly theatrical piece is a play, musical, concert and even a musical comic book with superheroes. At its heart, The Unfortunates is a journey of hope, and a story of the power of music and art to heal and empower.
“We are thrilled to add this new, ground-breaking musical to our roster,” said OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch. “I am delighted that this work is among the amazing world premieres that OSF has been developing and offering audiences.”
The story begins with a group of prisoners of war who await execution. In the face of death, they share a song, “The St. James Infirmary Blues,” but one of the soldiers can’t bring himself to sing. The others rally to help him, and he is transported to another world and beyond his own needs.
This world beyond the prison is populated by freakishly odd characters, who have stepped from a comic book world—a world influenced by 20th century animation artists Ralph Bakshi, Bernie Wrightson and Max Fleischer, as well as The Goon, a 1990s comic book series. And it’s in this bleak world that love and music bring meaning, dignity and hope.
The Unfortunates had its beginnings back in 2005 when Jon Beavers, Ian Merrigan and Ramiz Monsef started the a cappella hip-hop group 3 Blind Mice while working as actors in NYC. Monsef had long been fascinated by “The St. James Infirmary Blues,” one of the many descendants of a famous late 18th-century ballad known as “The Unfortunate Rake.” His passion was infectious and spread through the group, and when they met singer-songwriter Casey Hurt, who brought his background in Americana, blues and gospel music, the four started writing songs based on events in “The St. James Infirmary Blues.”
In 2010, when Monsef was in OSF’s production of Hamlet, the group had the opportunity to work on the piece as a Midnight Project (a venue for artists and actors to showcase their work for the OSF company). After playwright Kristoffer Diaz joined the team, that Midnight Project eventually became The Unfortunates and was workshopped in OSF’s Black Swan Lab.
As mentioned, Shana Cooper is director of The Unfortunates, and Casey Hurt is music director. Associate director Paul James Prendergast is also providing additional arrangements and sound design. Choreographer is Tiffany Rachelle Stewart. Others on the design team are scenic designer Sibyl Wickersheimer, costume designer Katherine O’Neill, lighting designer Jiyoun Chang and sound designer Corinne Carrillo. Dawn Monique Williams is the Phil Killian Directing Fellow, Lue Morgan Douthit is dramaturg, David Carey is voice and text director, U. Jonathan Toppo is fight director, and Heath Belden is stage manager.
The cast features Kjerstine Rose Anderson, Jon Beavers, Rodney Gardiner, Casey Hurt, Cristofer Jean, Ian Merrigan, Ramiz Monsef, Barret O’Brien, Isabell Monk O’Connor, Chavez Ravine, Christina Acosta Robinson, and Ken Robinson.
Musicians onstage are Casey Hurt, Jesse Baldwin, Mike Fitch and Joseph Porto, playing the original music by Beavers, Hurt, Merrigan and Monsef.
Production Sponsors for The Unfortunates are the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and Oregon Cultural Trust; Production Partners are George and Claudette Paige in Honor of Paul Nicholson, Sandy Farewell, Karen Easterbrook and Alex Sutton.
Preview performances are Wednesday, March 27 at 8:00 p.m., Friday, March 29 at 1:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 30 at 8:00 p.m. The show runs through November 2 in the Thomas Theatre.
This production is selling well so don’t delay in purchasing tickets.
For more information about the play or to purchase tickets visit www.osfashland.org or call the Box Office at 800-219-8161.