UNIVERSES Named Resident Ensemble at OSF

OSF receives $100,000 grant from Ford Foundation to support ensemble’s new work, as well as artistic and educational programming and community-building work

News Release
November 11, 2013

Ashland, Ore.—The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce that UNIVERSES will serve as OSF’s first Resident Ensemble, through a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

UNIVERSES, a theatrical collective comprised of Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz Sapp, Gamal A. Chasten, and William Ruiz, a.k.a. Ninja, is a national/international ensemble company of multi-disciplined writers and performers who fuse poetry, theater, jazz, hip-hop, politics, down home blues and Spanish boleros to create moving, challenging and entertaining theatrical works.

“We are humbled and honored that OSF so warmly welcomes UNIVERSES as Resident Ensemble,” Mildred Ruiz Sapp said, “and that the Ford Foundation so generously continues to support our journey. Our relationship with OSF is invaluable to our Company’s ongoing evolution and we look forward to continuing our creation/development of New Work, as well as inviting communities to dialogue, in this uniquely fertile artistic environment.”

OSF and UNIVERSES first began a partnership in 2007 when Steven Sapp participated in a Mixing Texts/Hip-Hop Boot Camp at OSF. In 2009, UNIVERSES was commissioned through the American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle commissioning program, and they set off on a remarkable three-year journey to create Party People, which premiered in OSF’s Thomas Theatre in 2012.

In addition, the group performed at OSF’s Green Show, a free performance event occurring from June through October before the evening shows, in 2009, 2010 and 2012. They have also been participants in other events, including featured poets in OSF-sponsored poetry slams. In 2013 Ms. Ruiz Sapp played Madame in The Unfortunates, and Mr. Sapp understudied a number of roles in the same production. In 2014 both actors will appear in The Comedy of Errors, running all season.

OSF’s Artistic Director Bill Rauch said, “It is a major honor to have an ensemble of artists of such artistic quality, innovation, integrity and kindness choose to make the Festival their artistic home. Their presence and work gives me hope for the future of the theatre field.”

The goals of the residency are to create an artistic home for UNIVERSES over an extended period of 14 months and two consecutive seasons; to seek opportunities for UNIVERSES’ involvement in OSF programming and community-building that benefit both UNIVERSES and OSF; to use the resources of a large and established theatre company to support the work of a smaller ensemble; and to test a model of a company in residence within OSF’s repertory infrastructure.

Other activities that will involve UNIVERSES during the residency are: bring work in progress to be read or workshopped by the OSF Black Swan Lab, a non-public venue for new play development; perform in the 2014 Green Shows and in the OSF Presents series, as well as community open mics; understudy and/or perform in the 2014 season; and serve as a resource for audience development, FAIR training, education and development.
Party People

Photo caption: William Ruiz, a.k.a. Ninja and Robynn Rodriguez in 2012's Party People. Photo by Jenny Graham.