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James Ryen, Will Dao, and Paco Tolson in "Vietgone" at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (Photo by Jenny Graham)

New Works, New Takes Headline 2020 Slate at Oregon Shakes

Nataki Garrett’s first season includes Qui Nguyen’s sequel to ‘Vietgone’ and plays by Dominique Morisseau, Karen Zacarías, Theresa Rebeck, Marcus Gardley, and Sarah B. Mantell.

ASHLAND, ORE.: The incoming artistic director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), Nataki Garrett, joined its outgoing a.d., Bill Rauch, to announce the festival’s 2020 playbill today. The season celebrates OSF’s ongoing commitment to the work of Shakespeare, alongside imaginative adaptations of beloved classics and illuminating new plays in a year that includes two world-premiere American Revolutions commissions for only the second time in the OSF’s history.

“I’m thrilled to be coming on board at OSF as we plan in 2020 to celebrate a Jubilee year,” said Garrett in a statement. The Jubilee refers to what she called “a nationwide effort to get theatres to diversify the voices of the writers they produce, with a focus on women, people of color, LGBTQIA writers, and playwrights with disabilities. Although we will not waver on our commitment to our namesake playwright as we continue ‘Canon in a Decade,’ creative teams on our Shakespeare productions will be sure to reflect the Jubilee spirit of voices too often marginalized in the American theatre.”

Add a.d. Bill Rauch in statement, “The artistic staff and I began to select the 2020 season last August in collaboration with over 60 of our colleagues, and our work has been further refined by our incoming artistic director Nataki Garrett. I could not be more proud of the plays and artists in this season that fully reflect OSF’s dual commitment to innovative classics and dynamic new voices. I am humbled to pass the festival baton to one of the most vital new leaders in the American theatre.”

The 2020 season will emulate the current year’s production schedule, including a slightly later season opening weekend and earlier starts for the Allen Elizabethan productions. Best of all, no show will close before the end of the season. To give audiences even more opportunity to experience this exciting line-up, the 2020 season will include an end-of-season expansion with the Allen Elizabethan shows running one week longer and all indoor plays performing an additional week. The season will end on Nov. 1, 2020.

The indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre season begins with A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Feb. 28-Nov. 1, 2020), directed by Joseph Haj, artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Haj previously helmed OSF’s widely praised Pericles in 2015.

Running alongside Midsummer will be Peter and the Starcatcher (Feb. 29-Nov. 1, 2020) by Rick Elice, based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, with music by Wayne Barker. This theatrical adaptation provides an inventive backstory for how the characters of Peter Pan, Mrs. Darling, Tinker Bell, and Captain Hook all came together in Neverland. Lavina Jadhwani, former Phil Killian directing fellow coming off the success of her recent production of As You Like It at the Guthrie Theater, will direct.

Also running all season will be one of two American Revolutions commissions, in its world premiere: The Copper Children (March 1-Oct. 31, 2020), written by Karen Zacarías and directed by Shariffa Ali. Inspired by true events involving an Irish “orphan train” in a mixed-race Arizona mining community in 1904, the play explores the profound impact and provocative intersections of difference across race, religion, and family.

The final show to open in the Angus Bowmer Theatre is Qui Nquyen’s Poor Yella Rednecks (July 2-Oct. 31), a sequel to Vietgone that explores the next chapter in Tong and Quang’s journey as they build new lives in a foreign land called rural Arkansas.

Opening first in the Thomas Theatre and running the entire season is Bring Down the House, an epic two-part adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy featuring an all-female cast (Part 1 runs March 4-Nov. 1, 2020, Part 2 March 5-Nov. 1). This adaptation by Rosa Joshi and Kate Wisniewski will also be directed by Joshi, who with Wisnieski and Betsy Schwartz are co-artistic directors of the upstart crow collective, which is dedicated to all-female Shakespeare stagings.

Next is Confederates, written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by incoming artistic director Nataki Garrett (April 8-Oct. 31, 2020). The play leaps through time as it traces the identities of two Black American women living over a 150 years apart and explores the reins that racial and gender bias still hold over American educational systems today.

The final show to open in the Thomas is Everything That Never Happened by Sarah B. Mantell (July 21-Oct. 31, 2020), directed by Jessica Kubzansky, artistic director at Pasadena’s Boston Court Theatre, where she also helmed the play’s world premiere. Taking place in the gaps between The Merchant of Venice and the realities of Jewish culture, law, and history, Everything That Never Happened is a play about a father, a daughter, disguise, assimilation, pomegranates, and everything Shakespeare left out.

The outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre season kicks off in late spring with The Tempest (May 26-Oct. 16, 2020), Shakespeare’s blend of tragedy, comedy, spectacle, politics, and psychologically nuanced family dynamics, directed by Nicholas C. Avila.

Also opening on the outdoor stage is Black Odyssey by Marcus Gardley (May 27-Oct. 17, 2020), directed by Monty Cole. This interpretation of Homer’s The Odyssey smashed box office records at California Shakespeare Theater in 2018.

The third show to open outside is Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet (May 28-Oct. 18, 2020), directed by Dawn Monique Williams, who helmed OSF’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in 2017. Rebeck’s play tells the story of Sarah Bernhardt, the French stage actress who starred in some of the most popular French plays of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and her determination to tackle one of the greatest male roles in the dramatic canon, Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has grown from a three-day festival of two plays to a nationally renowned theatre arts organization that presents an eight-month season of up to 11 plays that include works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals, and world-premiere plays and musicals.

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