ASHLAND, ORE.: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has announced its 2021 season, featuring a combination streamed OSF archive productions and new work for the digital platform O!, as well as in-person performances when it is safe to do so.
Last year “marked a paradigm shift in which OSF was catapulted into different ways of creating and supporting artists and art making,” said artistic director Nataki Garrett in a statement. “In launching our digital platform, O!, nearly a year ago, the initial goal was to provide an exploratory space to intersect theatre with other forms of media. Now joined together with a compelling schedule of fall and winter onstage programming, O! has evolved into a marquee fourth stage, where new and innovative projects will play alongside some of OSF’s most beloved and well-known productions.”
While dates are still to be announced, OSF plans to offer four onstage productions alongside the return of the Green Show outdoor stage, which will offer free concerts, dance, and community performances to the public.
First up will be August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned. Tim Bond will direct this theatrical memoir, originally performed by Wilson himself, which charts one man’s journey through adversity and to self-discovery as a Black artist in America.
Next up will be Unseen, by Mona Mansour, about an American conflict photographer who has to piece together details of her past after she wakes up at the site of a massacre in Syria unsure of how she got there. Evren Odcikin will direct.
Following will be the world premiere of Dominique Morisseau‘s Confederates, a co-commission with Penumbra Theatre, which follows two Black American women, one an enslaved woman turned Union spy and the other a brilliant professor at a modern private university, in an exploration of the reins that racial and gender bias still hold on America today. Garrett will direct.
The season will wrap up with OSF’s first winter season production, It’s Christmas, Carol!, by Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley, and John Tufts. This twist on the classic Christmas tale sees three ghosts transport theatre producer Carol Scroogenhouse through time to reckon with her abandoning artistry for hollow commerciality.
Over on O!, OSF will stream three high-quality videos from the festival archives. First will be 2017’s Julius Caesar (March 1-27), which features Shana Cooper directing the Shakespeare play alongside Erika Chong Shuch’s choreography. Next will be Mary Kathryn Nagle’s 2018 world premiere of Manahatta (March 29-April 24), which was directed by Laurie Woolery and looks at the consequences of commercial exploitation, including the removal of the Lenape people and the attempted eradication of their culture.
The final video from OSF’s archives, also from 2018, will be Snow in Midsummer (May 3-29), by Francis Ya-Chu Cowhig, based on the classical Chinese drama The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth by Guan Hanqing. Directed by Justin Audibert, this modern ghost story interweaves the story of a young woman who curses her city from the grave and the story of a wealthy businesswoman who has to face the locust-plagued city.
“Along with our archival streaming shows,” added Garrett, “O! will continue to present exciting new programming—digital theatre, film, and immersive projects—throughout the year, bringing OSF’s celebrated artistry of OSF into homes around the world.”
First will be The Cymbeline Project, conceived by Garrett and created and directed by Scarlett Kim. In a multi-episode digital production, Kim mines Shakespeare’s play to explore themes of deceit and violent within today’s political and aesthetic realities.
Next will be You Go Girl! (a working title), a new short film written by Zoey Martinson and directed by resident artist Shariffa Ali. The film follows a Black stand-up comedian who ventures to Southern Oregon to distribute her mother’s ashes and who must overcome her fear of stillness and take control of her own healing.
OSF has also invited artists from a variety of disciplines to create short pieces of digital art as part of its 19 micro-commissions. Artists were asked to create art in response to themes drawn from the acronym C.O.V.I.D.: Community, Offering, Vitality, Identity, and Determination. Commissioned artists include Christina Anderson; Scenic G/Gabriel Barrera; Kit Yan and Melissa Yi; Erika Chong Shuch; Rowena Richie; and Ryan Tacata.
Additionally, O! will feature The Visual Sovereignty Project. Curated by Chava Florendo, this new digital series asks Indigenous artists to visually express their sovereignty, both tribal and personal. The project looks to capture a small cross-section of the diversity of Indigenous people in the way they choose to share their gifts and stories with the world.
“I could not be more excited and honored in partnering with Nataki to introduce this extraordinary combination of digital and onstage programming as the OSF 2021 season,” said David Schmitz, OSF executive director, in a statement. “This unique, first-ever multiformat season reflects OSF’s commitment to innovation, agility, and progress throughout the most extraordinary global circumstances we are all facing. And we are eager to get back to creating live performances when the health authority and governmental restrictions allow us to do so.”
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935, has grown from a three-day festival of two plays to a nationally renowned theatre arts organization that presents works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals, and world-premiere plays and musicals.
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