The United States History Cycle
American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle is OSF’s 10-year program (2008-2017) of commissioning up to 37 new plays sprung from moments of change in United States history. Bringing together artists, historians and institutions from around the country, and mirroring the scope and scale of Shakespeare’s history plays, American Revolutions is the largest commissioning and production project in OSF’s history. Theatre contributes to vision, to conversation, to commitment, to belief, to action and must actively participate in the life of our country. These truths animate OSF’s American Revolutions goals and create value for our participating artists, our fieldwide collaborators and our audiences.
Of the 23 American Revolutions commissions to date, seven have been produced.
by Lynn Nottage (OSF, 2015)
The Great Society
by Robert Schenkkan, commissioned by and co-produced with Seattle Repertory Theatre (OSF, 2014)
The Liquid Plain
by Naomi Wallace (OSF, 2013)
All the Way
by Robert Schenkkan (OSF, 2012)
by UNIVERSES (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja) (OSF, 2012)
by Frank Galati, adapted from E.L. Doctrow's novel (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, 2011)
by Tony Taccone, conceived and developed with Jon Moscone (OSF, 2011)
American Night: The Ballad of Juan José
by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash (OSF, 2010)
*The March was co-commissioned with Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
The Success of American Revolutions Ties Back to the Following Founding Principles
The best plays come from giving playwrights full freedom to follow their artistic passions.
OSF asks that each play be based in history and explore a moment of change. Beyond that, the playwrights choose the content, form, and style of their work. Over time, the Cycle’s variety of voices and visions will create a meaningful and artist-curated portrait of our country’s history.
The best plays come from supporting playwrights toward the fullest realization of their inspiration.
We have no set map for development and respond to the needs of the individual plays and playwrights. Artists are invited to participate in the Black Swan Lab or to simply come to beautiful Ashland as a writing retreat. We provide for readings and workshops here or with partnering theaters and development centers. We support playwrights in their research-related travel, and engage historians as consultants and participants. In addition to play development support, we convene an annual American Conversation among the commissioned artists as an essential component to the program. These gatherings cover such topics as practical advice about resources to far-reaching discussions about who has the right to tell what story.
The art of playwriting should not be constrained by limiting cast sizes, nor should the telling of the American story.
OSF, with the largest standing acting company in the country, has a responsibility to help create large-cast plays for their continued life in a field that seems increasingly confined to small-cast plays. Many of the great works of dramatic literature were created in the context of acting companies working in repertory: Shakespeare, Molière, Brecht, Chekhov, Lorca, Odets, O’Neill. American Revolutions embraces and celebrates the role of a repertory company in new play development.
American Revolutions must work across the field to have a substantive impact on national conversations about our identity and future.
As has been true to date, we expect the majority of OSF’s future relationships with American Revolutions writers to be co-commissions, with partner theaters chosen by the playwright and with OSF paying the entire commission cost and each theater paying for development that happens within its walls. And, while OSF is happily in partnership with other large regional theaters, we seek to broaden the pool of institutions with which we partner, working closely with smaller to support the costs of large-scale productions.
American Revolutions is committed to expanding the reach of these remarkable plays and the program itself.