ASHLAND, ORE.: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) announced the launch of Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare, its latest commissioning project. Led by Lue Morgan Douthit, OSF’s director of literary development and dramaturgy, the three-year project sets pairs of playwrights and dramaturgs to the task of adapting each of the Bard’s 39 plays (Two Noble Kinsmen and Edward III are included in the canon) into contemporary English.
“My interest in the question of how to best create access to these remarkable works is lifelong,” artistic director Bill Rauch said in a statement. “As a 7th grader, I translated Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream into contemporary English for my classmates to better understand it. I am delighted that the Play on! translations will give dramatists a deep personal relationship with Shakespeare’s words and that they will give artists and audiences new insights into these extraordinary plays.”
The program is supported by a grant from the Hitz Foundation and OSF patron Dave Hitz. Plays developed as part of the program have the potential to be included in OSF’s season, alongside the company’s current project of producing all of the Bard’s works in their original language.
In translating Shakespeare’s language to a more modern idiom, Play on! participants are asked only that they refrain from cutting or editing scenes, injecting personal political bias, or altering setting, time period, and historical references.
The commissioned playwrights are more than 50 percent women and more than 50 percent people of color. Commissioned playwrights include Luis Alfaro, Christina Anderson, Ranjit Bolt, Alison Carey, Kenneth Cavander, Christopher Chen, Migdalia Cruz, Amy Freed, Marcus Gardley, Virginia Grise, Lillian Groag, Dipika Guha, David Ivers, Naomi Iizuka, Hansol Jung, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Shishir Kurup, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Douglas Langworthy, Taylor Mac, Ellen McLaughlin, Allison Moore, Brigdhe Mullins, Yvette Nolan, Lisa Peterson, Amelia Roper, Sean San Jose, Tim Slover, Octavio Solis, Lloyd Suh, Andrea Thome, Elise Thoron, Mfoniso Udofia, Jeff Whitty, Josh Wilder, and Tracy Young.
Further details, including a list of plays and dramaturgs, can be found here. For a piece by linguist John McWhorter in which he makes the case for translating Shakespeare into modern English, go here.