Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Elizabeth Bennet (Kate Hurster) takes refuge in her book while visiting the Bingley estate. Photo by David Cooper

Quickly (again) before we run off for dinner, some photos from the new production of Pride and Prejudice at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Mr. Bennet (Mark Murphey) brings news to his daughters, from left, Elizabeth (Kate Hurster), Kitty (Kimbre Lancaster), Mary (Christine) and Jane (Nell Geisslinger). Photo by Jenny Graham

More here, following the jump!

Hey, haven't I been saying for years that people should take the backstage tour at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival?

The Oregonian's classical music critic (NO, I don't know why he came down with theater critic Marty Hughley, whose name, by the way, I finally know how to pronounce, thanks to Stabler) David Stabler thinks that's a great idea too:

Behind the scenes at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The OSF doesn't seem to have any videos about Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which we see at 1:30 pm, but here's a photo with mostly naked Danforth Comins:

Maggie (Stephanie Beatriz) tries to make some connection with her husband Brick (Danforth Comins). Photo by David Cooper

And there is a video about adapting Pride and Prejudice for the stage.

Here you go!

Hamlet (Dan Donohue) considers whether to slay Claudius (Jeffrey King). Photo by Jenny Graham

Just a few Oregon Shakespeare Festival press shots of Hamlet, from which we got back to the hostel about half an hour ago.

I don't want to say too much about it yet, oh, other than that Dan Donohue, who plays Hamlet, rocked it (video of Donohue talking about his 2009 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship below the photos).

And photos:

Hamlet (Dan Donohue) suggests to Rosencrantz (Vilma Silva, right) and Guildenstern (Jeany Park) that his uncle has summoned them to Elsinore. Photo by David Cooper

The Players perform for the residents and guests at Elsinore. Photo by David Cooper

Hamlet (Dan Donohue) points out to Ophelia (Susannah Flood) that the King will reveal what the play means, as Horatio (Armando Duràn) looks on. Photo by David Cooper

And the video:

Ha, er, as I was looking through last year's papers to pick out stories to send to a J-contest, I noticed that I'd promised to post this. And I don't think I did. So, a mere 6 months later, here's the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's SWEET video of the set change from 2 pm's As You Like It to 8:30 pm's On the Razzle (or it could be from the night before to the afternoon show, changed in the morning; the stagehands have to do this sometimes twice a day ... at THREE theaters! Well, it impresses me, anyway.).

Here is the story I wrote about the set design and change work, from last year's OSF issue. Also? Theater freelancer Anna Grace and I head to Ashland for the opening of the OSF, Feb. 26-28! Watch for reviews in the March 4 issue! In the meantime, here's the set change (I believe these are 2008 shows).

Holy crap! The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which cut costs and was in general pretty hard-up thanks to the economy at the beginning of this season (Chuck Adams and I reported on that earlier this year), just sent a happy press release, saying that "the Festival closed with record attendance of 410,034 (89% of capacity), and record revenues of $17,098,115."

The only thing that makes me unhappy in the press release is that one of this year's strongest offerings, Death and the King's Horseman, closed with a much lower percentage of seats sold even than "the rarely performed" (so true, and there are damn good reasons) Henry VIII.

Congrats to the OSF! The full document comes after the jump.

Not that I'm actually crowd-sourcing this (we made our choice, and the cover's pretty much a fait accompli at this point, and I think it's absolutely glorious), but here are the photos that were the contenders. I offered 'em up to production, and production made the call!

Photos are courtesy of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival & have caps and credits below them.

Remember: The cover usually needs a fairly strong vertical image, but a more square one can be boxed; the image has to pop out of the box (theoretically); and there should be room up top or along the sides for our logo and teasers.

Which would YOU pick? Tell us in the comments!

All's Well That Ends Well

Hint: This show is really good. The best of the Shakespeares by a fair shot (if you even count Henry VIII as Shakespeare, which ... more on that later).

The Countess of Rossillion (Dee Maaske) confides in her servant (Armando Durán). Photo: Jenny Graham.

Many more photos after the jump!

Just got this news from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's kickass marketing person.

It's next Wednesday! AUGUST 12! Whoa! I knew New York Times liberal columnist Kristof was in Oregon from his Facebook page, but somehow I missed this ... and reading it, the entire thing looks extremely cool. Have fun down there in Lithia Park, people. I envy you!

And Mr. Kristof + wife & kids, may I recommend The Music Man, The Servant of Two Masters and All's Well That Ends Well? If you need to go to an outdoor performance, I'd say ... hm. Henry VIII has some great performances and unbelievably lovely costumes. I hear that Paradise Lost is also superb (it's the only play I haven't yet seen).

Lithia Park image by Demi, posted to Wiki Commons


Free Evening Talk Features New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof

Ashland, Ore.— The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will host the second in a series of Chautauqua 150 events on Wednesday, August 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in various community locations. The series of three Chautauqua events celebrates Oregon’s Sesquicentennial and OSF’s deepening commitment to scholarly and community interaction. The theme for the day is Oregon’s history, with a special focus on Southern Oregon. The third event will be held October 24. Tickets are required for some events and available by calling the Box Office at 541-482-4331 or visiting 15 South Pioneer Street in the Garden Level of Carpenter Hall.

The main event on Wednesday is “Oregon and Beyond,” an open-air talk by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He will speak about the intersection and conflict of values and interests across state, national and international boundaries. The event will be held from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Lithia Park Bandshell. The event is non-ticketed and admission is free.

The schedule of events is:

From Chautauqua 1893 to Shakespeare Under the Stars
10:00-11:30 a.m., New Theatre, Ticketed Event, $5
OSF’s Associate Producer, Stage Management Kimberley Jean Barry will give a historical talk about OSF’s roots in the Chautauqua movement. Barry has been with the OSF company for 30 seasons and is a vast and entertaining treasure trove of OSF history.

Chautauqua Readings: Who We Are and Where We’ve Been
12:00-1:00 p.m., Carpenter Hall, Ticketed Event, $8
OSF actors and others will read passages of plays, poetry and prose, exploring Oregon’s interaction with the world outside. Readers include OSF actors Michael J. Hume, Juan Rivera LeBron and Liisa Ivary.

Weaving our Way Then and Now: Indians in Southern Oregon
1:15-2:15 p.m., Carpenter Hall, Ticketed Event, Free
Southern Oregon Historical Society – Tom Smith
Through an interactive presentation utilizing hands-on artifacts, participants learn how Southern Oregon’s earliest inhabitants lived, worked, socialized and hunted. Social, familial and leadership structures are discussed, including personal responsibility for the survival of tribal bands, governance by consensus as well as the honor codes employed by the warrior societies.

Community Story Circles: Making and Remaking Oregon
2:30-3:30 p.m. Carpenter Hall, Ticketed Event, Free
3:30-4:30 p.m. Bill Patton Garden, Non-ticketed Event, Free
Led by Director of U.S History Cycle and playwright Alison Carey
For more than 20 years before coming to OSF, American Revolutions Director Alison Carey worked with Artistic Director Bill Rauch and Cornerstone Theater Company to make community-based theater in towns around the country. Learn about the art they made and how they did it, and contribute your stories about Oregon, Ashland and OSF to help create a short performance piece for the October 24 Chautauqua event.

Talk: The Oregon Encyclopedia
3:45-4:45 p.m. Carpenter Hall, Ticketed Event, Free
Editor-in-Chief William Lang will talk about the encyclopedia, a comprehensive and authoritative compendium of information about Oregon’s history and culture. The encyclopedia has been developed through a partnership between Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society.

Talk: Oregon and Beyond
6:00-7:00 p.m. Litha Park Bandshell, Non-ticketed Event, Free
Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times columnist and Oregon native Nicholas Kristof will look at the intersection and conflict of values and interests across state, national and international boundaries.

Kristof’s new book, co-written with Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, will be released in September, and Bloomsbury Books will be taking advance orders at Kristof’s talk in the park, as well as provide book plates that he will sign. Plates can be attached to books when they are received in September.

Hey y'all! Back in April, I was asked to write several blog posts about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for a newish theater-community website called TheatreFace. For the first post, I interviewed the director of the play I'm going to see this afternoon. (I've seen Much Ado About Nothing, Equivocation and Henry VIII so far! Three more to go ... ). With permission, here's the reprint (repost?) of the blog post from April. — Suzi

Truffaldino (Mark Bedard) decides to take a break, thinking it may help keep him out of trouble. Photo by Jenny Graham.

For this first post about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, may I present director Tracy Young?

Young has worked at and with Yale Rep, Cornerstone Theatre and LATC, among many other credits. She's an award-winning director and playwright, and she is also most gracious on the phone. Last season at OSF, Young directed Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

This year, Young directed The Servant of Two Masters, a classic of Italian theater.

Carlo Goldoni’s 1753 play, Young says, took commedia dell’arte characters and attempted to give them a structure, a formal story. But the story changes with every iteration, and this version — adapted by Young and Oded Gross from a translation by Beatrice Basso — is no different. Times are a bit tighter in Ashland than they have been for a while, so Young and Gross used that to their advantage in making Servant a true marker of this particular time and place. One reviewer wrote, “It is brilliant, and contains perhaps a hint of something beyond the laughs.”

Young and I spoke by phone on the morning of April 3.

Good morning! So talk to me about this adaptation.

I was very interested in keeping with the commedia tradition. It always reflects the time and culture that it is being performed for. We thought about the biggest thing going on in our culture, [and that] is the crazy economic collapse of our country. Plus, the show’s being performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and that’s got its own culture and reference points.

Commedia troupes would travel from one town to the next, and depending on what was happening, they would find out what the gossip was and find a way to weave it into our stories. This season’s other productions are referenced in there, and the OSF is having its own economic woes, so we thought that would be useful to place it within that context. So, we’ve got this frame that involves the actors in an acting troupe, an they are struggling to put on this production withing the framework of a budget crisis. The conceit is that this particular show has to re-use costumes and props from the OSF, that we can’t afford newly designed items.

When you were adapting it last year, was the extent of the economic trouble clear?

I was up here last year in May, and the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapse had happened, and the real estate meltdown was happening. I had just recently bought a house, my first home, in Las Vegas, and my husband and I were very familiar with the fact that Las Vegas had had a bubble and, well, you could find a house very cheaply. We were seeing the writing on the wall, and then Oded and I began working on the adaptation in earnest around October. The banking meltdown and the stock market downturn also happened around that time, and that was when OSF started having a sense of belt-tightening like everywhere else.

So how do you make comedy out of that?

I’ve always been very interested in the great way that limitation can actually produce exciting art. Crisis always offers certain kinds of opportunities, so I thought it would be interesting to have a sort of green ethos. Basically, I asked the designers to utilize materials already in existence at the OSF, which has a huge costume stock and prop inventory. I asked them to attempt to create all of the costumes for the show out of costume pieces already in existence, and it ended up being a very exciting and fun thing for the costume shop and people involved in that. This place has such a rich history, and the props, the costumes, they carry a wonderful energy, the stories of what this place is about.

[Costume Designer Christal Weatherly] made all of the costumes out of pieces already in existence and/or donations we got from different businesses in the Ashland area, and the prop items were the same way. We thought it would be really fun to only use props that already existed and find a way to incorporate them, sometimes to humorous effect.

The most famous piece in the play is this scene where Truffaldino tries to serve his two masters at once without either of them knowing. There are a lot of prop food items that go with this sequence. And we figured, we have to make these things out of things already on hand, like there’s pasta made out of a big floppy mop head.

It was about having the process mirror the intent of the show, to work within this restrained budget, that forced us to find unexpected creative solutions to problems.

Director Tracy Young. Photo courtesy OSF.

It opened on March 25. How are you feeling about it?

It’s been fun! The audiences have been responding well. The fun that we had in creating it is, I think, translating to the audience, which is nice. The biggest thing about commedia and this production at the OSF is the fact that in the commedia, the central relationship is from performer to audience member and back. The fourth wall doesn’t exist in commedia; it’s a direct experience that the performers are performing for an audience, a known and accepted idea within the framework, even in the sense that actors look directly at audience members when they are speaking.

In this production, we wanted to celebrate that central and essential relationship, centralized in role of commedia, which has obviously has been the central raison d’etre of OSF for nigh-on 75years. The audiences here, who they are and how they continue to come back here every year and invest this place with the spirit it has, is something we wanted to underscore. And there are pockets built into the show that still have a kind of opportunity for improvisation at every show, so sometimes different material comes out.

That must mean you trust the actors. You have David Kelly, Eileen DeSandre, Mark Bedard ...

I do! This is an extraordinary ensemble. The actors up here are very talented in general, and this particular ensemble … we had a very gratifying experience together, and I do trust them. They have great comedic sensibilites, and because of their own shared history, there’s a trust there between all of them that lends itself to being able to play in a wide band, to swing wide at times and bring it back and keep it on track. That’s fortunate when you work with a company that has a history like that. All of these folks are known to the audiences and have such a rapport with them. Even the newer folks who have been here for one to four seasons have the same kind of feeling of a kind of family unit.

What’s it like directing this play in the New Theatre, with all of its opportunities for different configurations?

When I was first given the commission, [OSF Artistic Director] Bill Rauch had already decided within his season planning that production was going to be presented in the round, and I knew that from the beginning.

I have a lot of background in commedia and never have presented it in the round before because it’s a seemingly incongruous pairing. It’s traditionally performed in proscenium-esque setup, or at least a thrust. There are typically stylized ways that these characters move, present their bodies and faces that is a rigor unto itself — the actors and I went on a warp-speed process to learn these techniques. But in addition to that, trying to figure out how to adapt the particular physical configurations and ways of playing the commedia in a 360-degree presentation as opposed to a 2-D presentation was a very interesting challenge for me as a director. The commedia has these very particular characters. Each has his own physical life and characteristics that the actor will take on and make their own, but the way they stand and talk to each other, it’s all got its own little language, so we’ve done some interesting things for anyone who is familiar with techniques of commedia. I think they’ll find what we’ve done interesting and surprising.

Richard Hay, whom I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to work with in the theater that he designed, was such a great, very fun collaborator. For me, he provided a sort of layer of how to bring the culture and the history of this place into this production. He holds and carries so much of that energy in his own work and presence here. And the set incorporates some painting images of some of his past designs.

In a funny way, of all the configurations that you can have for a play [in the New Theatre], you get the most present sense of the audience in the round. They look across the space and see other audience members, and actors are always close in proximity to audience members.

How did the history of Servant affect the adaptation?

The idea of a commedia play is a little bit of an oxymoron because the commedia was and is so heavily based on scenarios and improvisation as opposed to a play structure. Actors in commedia would have scenarios but not a specific way to present them from performance to performance. When Carlo Goldoni was asked by one of the more famous characters, who traditionally played Arrlechino, to structure it into a play form, this was after-the-fact attempt to capture these piece in a play form.

So this is a narrative that serves more as a blueprint to help troupes with a road map, a certain kind of narrative. I think Goldoni would agree that the narrative is something the troupes can discover for themselves on the journey.
For the process of adaptation, we agreed early on that it would be useful and necessary to have a script with lazzi built in. There are many of those already built into the text, so we would predetermine how action would proceed, dialogue, structure of how story and how the humorous lazzi would go, so we nailed down a lot of it in the writing.

This particular rehearsal slot is the shortest one in length of any of the 11 productions that they do here, and I had never worked with any of these actors so far. We needed to figure out our own ways of working toegther, and in addition none of these actors had performed in the commedia style before. We had a long way to come in a very short time, so we knew we had a strong foundation from which to play. There’s lots of it created specifically from actor interaction in rehearsal, but that came about in addition to predetermined stuff we had already come up with. It kind of marries and mirrors the Goldoni tradition in that way.

OSF is known as a very text-driven company that has the facility and ability to really work and explore a text very effectively. There’s a wonderful literary department, who were just instrumental with Oded and me, giving us support and feedback and great insight from the moment that we began working on the commission all the way through to the week before we opened, when we were still shaping the script and making changes.

Obviously, there’s a relationship to Shakespeare’s comedies, some sort of reflection that audiences should recognize.

It’s a nice resonance that happens. Of course, there’s mistaken identity, so present in Shakespeare’s work, which is a component often in the commedia. The commedia characters are based on archetypes, and because of that the characters — the servants, the miserly older man, the master, the lusty wench servant girl — they’re all characters that Shakespeare drew on. You can see them now in sitcoms, in The Simpsons, in I Love Lucy. They are as universal and as fresh today as they were when theater sort of began. There’s something eternal about these particular archetypes that resonates from culture to culture. I think audiences recognize these characters in any aspect of contemporary culture, and that’s a part of what makes them human and fun.


Below, a snippet of Young talking about Servant, from YouTube.

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