You’ve got about 5 minutes before opening weekend at OSF sells out

Have you noticed?

It’s a golden age for theatre in Ashland – and many other places where artists are creating authentic, unforgettable experiences for the audience. If you can do the real thing, the audience is falling over themselves to get to your door and be a part of it. If you can’t, it’s a struggle to get people to spend even the price of a Higgins burger on your ticket.

In the theatre, we don’t want last week’s fish, no matter how spritzed up it is with lemon spray and garnish. There are loads of places where you can get that.

What we want are real experiences that define, transform and unveil the world. The actual world we’re in.

While having a large budget helps put the platform in place on which these unique experiences can stand, it certainly is not a requirement. Artists with vision and no money have always and will always create theatre as good as anything you’ll find anywhere.

The converse is also true. No matter how big your building and budget, if you don’t have the art and vision, the good stuff simply won’t happen.

The best of all worlds is the confluence of artistry and size – when the big guns are also the leaders and innovators. You get that at Lincoln Center, National Theatre, Steppenwolf, National Theatre of Scotland, The Abbey.

And Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The golden age is now. In some ways, theatre in a place like Ashland is better now than it has ever been anywhere. Where else, across the ages, could you have had the experience you can have right now in Ashland on any given long weekend? Almost nowhere. Ashland’s combination of small town remoteness, staggering natural beauty and big city culture is what sets it apart. Where else can you ski around Crater Lake in the morning and watch RUINED by Lynn Nottage later that night? Where else can you raft the Rogue in the AM and catch ALL THE WAY in the PM? If you’re not the outdoors type, the theatre offerings alone put Ashland on the top shelf. But if you also enjoy the full experience of what one can do on any given day in southern Oregon – there is no place like it.

The secret is out. And that’s why opening weekend for 2015 is moments away from selling out.

Going, going, GONE! Act fast.

Going, going, GONE! Act fast.


The case of the missing mountain.

A mere 90 miles from this…


...to this.

…to this.

But soft! What light o’er yonder stage falls? | The 2015 season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival is mere weeks away

Sound trumpets, don costumes, roll out the red carpet, and marshal those troops. For the season, she approacheth.

That’s the 80th season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, babycakes. And it all gets going in 52 days. Way down in the sunny south. Southern Oregon, that is.

From over hill and dale they come, theatre pilgrims on the way to mecca. Opening weekend at OSF is an annual ritual unlike anything else you have ever experienced. It is not to be missed. In a three day blitz of giddy energy and excitement, you’ll take in four shows, run into long lost friends from all corners of the globe, eat a lot of good food, and just maybe notch another Log Lady sighting on the Bricks (we can’t guarantee everything).

It’s always a high octane experience to watch close up as one of America’s great cultural treasures flips the on switch for another year. BAM! With a blast of light and volume rolling up the majestic lower flanks of the mighty Siskiyou mountains, the entire hamlet of Ashland announces to the world: “It is on, people! It is so on!”

Indeed.

And of course you can also get a world famous espresso shake (or three) at Rogue Valley Roasting over the course of the weekend – reason enough for a trip.

So be there.

Friday, February 27 thru Sunday, March 1. Ashland, Oregon, Earth, The Universe.

You know where it is.

Boom.

Opening weekend 2011 - snow in Ashland!

For opening weekend 2011, Ashland wore her winter whites.

Bright lights, big drama.  Down below the mighty Siskiyou in the Rogue Valley - Oregon's crown jewel: OSF.

Bright lights, big drama. Down below the mighty Siskiyou in the Rogue Valley – Oregon’s crown jewel: OSF.

The deets:

Much Ado about Nothing (February 20 – November 1) by William Shakespeare

In her debut at OSF, Lileana Blain-Cruz directs one of Shakespeare’s most beloved stories, featuring the witty and frustratingly endearing Beatrice and Benedick. Benedick has returned from war, along with his friend Claudio and the rest of Don Pedro’s army. They all land at the estate of Leonato, Beatrice’s uncle and father to Hero, whom Claudio hopes to wed.

But all is not well in this Shakespearean comedy, which Ms. Blain-Cruz describes as a contemporary love story that unfolds as soldiers deal with the demands of a return to civilian life. Not all is as it appears to be, and while Beatrice and Benedick exchange barbs to hide their mutual attraction for each other, Claudio, egged on by a malcontent, levels a shocking accusation against Hero. Everyone’s world is changed, but some semblance of order is restored when the plot is uncovered and Hero is saved by the linguistically challenged Dogberry and his sidekicks.

The cast features Christiana Clark as Beatrice, Danforth Comins as Benedick, Jack Willis as Leonato, Cristofer Jean as Don Pedro, Leah Anderson as Hero, Reynaldo Piniella as Claudio, Regan Linton as Don John, Barret O’Brien as Borachio/Ensemble, Armando McClain as Conrade/Ensemble, Allison Buck as Margaret/Ensemble, Robin Waisanen as Ursula/Ensemble, Rex Young as Dogberry/Ensemble, Tyrone Wilson as Friar/Ensemble, Eileen DeSandre as Verges, Lucas Caldwell as Seacole/Ensemble and Cesar Perez Rosas as Oatcake/Ensemble.

Scenic design is by Scott Bradley; costumes by Kara Harmon; lighting by Yi Zhao; music and sound by Chad Raines. Lydia G. Garcia is dramaturg; Susan Sweeney is voice & text director; U. Jonathan Toppo is fight director; and Jill Rendall is stage manager.

Pericles (February 26–November 1) by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s first romance, Pericles, was last produced at OSF in 1999 and staged in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Joseph Haj (Henry V, 2012) will direct this production in the Thomas Theatre, where it will run the duration of the season.

This production will be based on Haj’s 2008 staging at PlayMakers Repertory Company, where he is producing artistic director. A new cast and a few new designers have joined Haj and members of the original design team to help recreate a similar vision in the new space. Haj describes Pericles as a “sophisticated and spiritual play,” which he feels needs a strong musical element. Composer Jack Herrick will refashion his score from the 2008 staging for this production.

Pericles is epic theatre, the story of the Prince of Tyre, who sets out to woo a princess but ends up in the midst of a harrowing adventure. He is pursued by an evil king, blown from port to port, finds the love of his life, then loses her and their infant daughter. But this is a romance, so the miraculous can and does happen, the lost are found and joyous reunions occur.

The cast features Wayne T. Carr as Pericles, Armando Durán as Gower/Ensemble, Brooke Parks as Thaisa/Dionyza/Ensemble, Scott Ripley as Antiochus/Simonides/Pandar/Ensemble, Jennie Greenberry as Marina/Antiochus’ Daughter/Ensemble, Michael J. Hume as Helicanus/Bawd/Ensemble, U. Jonathan Toppo as Thaliard/Boult/Ensemble, Emily Serdahl as Lychorida/Diana/Ensemble, Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Lysimachus/Lord/Ensemble, Barzin Akhavan as Cleon/Cerimon/Ensemble, and Zlato Rizziolli, Samuel L. Wick and Cedric Lamar as Ensemble. Darcy Danielson is the musician.

The scenic designer is Jan Chambers, costumes are by Raquel Barreto, lighting by Rui Rita, music by Jack Herrick, sound design by Amadon Jaeger and video projections by Francesca Talenti. Rebecca Clark Carey is voice and text director; U. Jonathan Toppo is fight director; Dawn Monique Williams is associate director; Gwen Turos is stage manager.

Guys and Dolls, a Musical Fable of Broadway (February 22 – November 1) Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser; Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows; based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon

Director Mary Zimmerman (The White Snake, 2012) returns to OSF to direct this classic 1950s musical based on stories by Damon Runyon. Accustomed to transforming ancient tales, Zimmerman feels she’s on familiar ground because Guys and Dolls has its own share of transformation and unexpected outcomes for its characters. Nathan Detroit runs the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York, and his fiancée, Adelaide, has been waiting 14 years to walk down the aisle with him. Nathan is not sure what to do with his own life, but he is gambling that a date between the high-rolling Sky Masterson and a straight-laced Salvation Army doll, Sarah Brown, might pay him big dividends. Yet it turns out that life and love throw some unexpected results to all of them.

The cast features Jeremy Peter Johnson as Sky Masterson, Rodney Gardiner as Nathan Detroit, Kate Hurster as Sarah Brown, Robin Goodrin Nordli as Miss Adelaide, Daniel T. Parker as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, David Kelly as Benny Southstreet, Joe Wegner as Rusty Charlie, Richard Howard as Arvide Abernathy, Tony DeBruno as Harry the Horse, Robert Vincent Frank as Lt. Brannigan, Richard Elmore as Big Jule, Al Espinosa as Angie the Ox, Eugene Ma as Joey Biltmore, Catherine E. Coulson as Gen. Matilda Cartwright and the following ensemble members: Briawna Jackson, Britney Simpson, Kristin Glaeser, Alyssa Birrer, Curtis Holland, Jonathan Luke Stevens.

Musicans are Michael Vannice, Gordon Greenley and Daryl Fjeldheim on woodwinds; Bruce Dresser, Mark Jacobs on brass; Bruce McKern on bass and Jim Malachi on drums.

Choreographer is Daniel Pelzig and music director is Doug Peck. Scenic design is by Daniel Ostling, costume design by Mara Blumenfeld; lighting by T.J. Gerckens; sound design by Ray Nardelli. Susan Sweeney is voice & text director; U. Jonathan Toppo is fight director; and Jeremy Eisen is stage manager.

Fingersmith (February 21– July 9) by Alexa Junge, based on the novel by Sarah Waters

OSF is honored and delighted to present this world-premiere production in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Bill Rauch will direct, and as he noted in an interview about the play, the fact that playwright Alexa Junge proposed this adaptation and British novelist Sarah Waters agreed is a great gift to OSF.

The story is a theatrical page-turner set in a startling, vivid world of Victorian con artists and thieves. Pickpocket Sue Trinder has a simple task: cheat a gullible young heiress out of her fortune for a con man. But in this world nothing is what it seems, and the twisting story lands Sue in a stifling mansion, madhouses and squalid London streets.

The cast features Sara Bruner as Sue, Erica Sullivan as Maud, Elijah Alexander as Gentleman, Kate Mulligan as Mrs. Sucksby and in a number of roles; Peter Frechette, Terri McMahon, Nancy Rodriguez, K.T. Vogt, Peter Laughlin, Carlos N. Lopez, Bruce A. Young, Brent Hinkley, Moira Todd and Sofia Villareal.

Scenic design is by Christopher Acebo; costumes by Deborah M. Dryden; lighting by Alan Edwards; music and sound by Andre J. Pluess; and projections by Shawn Sagady and Daniel Cariño. Dramaturgs on the project are Lydia G. Garcia and Christopher Liam Moore; David Carey is voice & text director; U. Jonathan Toppo is fight director; Mandy Younger and Karl Alphonso are stage managers.

I’m dreaming of a red Christmas | OSF’s ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY by Robert Schenkkan at Seattle Rep are 100% sold out

And there you have it. Appropriately for plays that come out of a program called the US History Cycle, Robert Schenkkan’s ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY are making history of their own in Seattle.

Both shows are now 100% sold out. And there’s still two weeks to go.

More stats will be forthcoming, but it seems clear this was one of the most successful theatre productions in Seattle, Oregon and Northwest history.

SOLD OUT!  Every seat is filled.

SOLD OUT! Every seat is filled.

Closing out the year in style | Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY by Robert Schenkkan are sell out sensations in Seattle

Midway through the first marathon performance day of the sold out Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions of Robert Schenkkan’s two play LBJ epic at Seattle Rep last weekend, as the closing moment of ALL THE WAY faded into darkness and one of the most roof-shaking, riotous standing ovations I have ever seen made the Bagley Wright Theatre feel like CenturyLink Field after a hometown win, one thing was clear.

What the Jet City has playing right now at center stage is no ordinary regional theatre experience. This is something different. OSF’s road show of two towering new plays about America is nothing less than a high water mark in the national theatre of our lifetime.

They built it. We came. And the result is what the theatre can be.

You better believe that's exciting.

You better believe it’s exciting.

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Go big or go home | One week after opening, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of ALL THE WAY by Robert Schenkkan sets all time box office record at Seattle Repertory Theatre

12.13.2014 UPDATE Reflections after seeing both shows at Seattle Rep on the first marathon day

8.3.2014 My review of THE GREAT SOCIETY at Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer

You heard it here: Get ready for that big whooshing sound that says SOLD OUT! Robert Schenkkan’s epic LBJ plays ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY at Seattle Rep are just about to ignite and become what every theatre and playwright dreams of – a full blown cultural phenomenon that captivates a city’s population and rises to the very top of the national must see list.

The man behind the curtain.  Robert Schenkkan.

The man with the stories: Robert Schenkkan.

It’s not a Seahawks game, or a Fleetwood Mac concert, or a marathon performance of Wagner’s entire RING cycle. But it’s turning out to be just as popular in Seattle.

One week after opening, Robert Schenkkan’s play ALL THE WAY, which covers LBJ’s first year in office, has already laid low the former Seattle Rep box office record. It’s impressive, but we’re just getting started.

As LBJ himself might have remarked in trademark blunt style: You ain’t seen shit.

Meaning – the show is only beginning to build. After uniform rave reviews and a few weeks of visibility all over the Seattle media (my Google alert on the show seems to crank out multiple emails an hour at this point), ALL THE WAY is just about to go completely, unreservedly, irreversibly nuclear. And then THE GREAT SOCIETY, part 2 of the cycle (which was sold out all summer in Ashland BTW), will follow suit.

But this blockbuster hit didn’t pop out of left field with no warning. It’s the result of a perfect storm of factors (some years in the making) that have all come together to create one of the most exciting theatrical events Seattle has ever seen.

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Telling big stories on the big stage | An interview with Seattle playwright Robert Schenkkan

Seattle playwright Robert Schenkkan (@RobertSchenkkan) has had a long and distinguished career in theatre, TV and film. And at 61 he’s not slowing down one bit.

For the theatre, Schenkkan’s latest project is the epic, two play treatment of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, premiered by Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Part 1, ALL THE WAY (2012), which was commissioned by OSF’s American Revolutions program and covers Johnson’s first year in office, started in Ashland and then went to Boston and New York, picking up numerous awards along the way, including a Tony for best new play. In this age of small casts and attention spans, for a big history play to take Broadway by storm is impressive. It’s also being made into an HBO film directed by Steven Spielberg.

Part 2, THE GREAT SOCIETY (2014), was commissioned by Seattle Rep and launched this summer in Ashland. It covers Johnson’s second term from 1964-8. If all goes well, GREAT SOCIETY will also be Broadway bound in the not too distant future – possibly including Bryan Cranston again as Johnson.

But in the meantime, one of the most exciting theatre events anywhere in the US in the 2014-15 season is bearing down on Seattle and involves both plays in the cycle. Starting this Friday, Seattle Rep is bringing the original OSF productions of ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY to the Jet City to play in rep through January 4. ALL THE WAY will open first, followed by THE GREAT SOCIETY on December 5. The two will then run simultaneously for a month. So if you’re the marathon type, come see both shows for a single day six hour immersion in the kind of live experience only the theatre can provide. It’s a big story on the big stage – and it’s already selling out.

I caught up with this extremely articulate American playwright recently to talk about the Austin connection, Johnson, the contemporary theatre landscape and more.

The man behind the curtain.  Robert Schenkkan.

Robert Schenkkan.

Continue reading

T-10 until LBJ invades the Northwest | Seattle braces for one of the most exciting theatrical events the Jet City has ever seen

Audience

RING fever in 2013 at Seattle Opera. Get ready for sold out houses and shattered box office records at Seattle Rep as Robert Schenkkan’s massive and surprisingly relevant two play study of LBJ hits town.

Are you ready, Seattle? I can’t heeeeeear you.

It’s time to suit up, saddle up and show up.

Because something WICKED your way comes. Something wicked good (for the Mainers in the house).

It’s bearing down like a February storm on Puget Sound. And based on all advance indicators, it’s going to quite possibly be a direct hit the likes of which the Jet City has NEVER seen before.

So batten down the hatches, get out your calendar, and launder the black tie formal wear. Seattle, if you don’t like a little drama in your life, then the next two months are going to be downright difficult. Deal with it.

What, pray tell, is “it”?

Hints:

* It’s one of the biggest national theatrical events in the 2014-15 season
* It’s breaking box office records
* It’s by a local playwright
* It’s spawning sold out runs on Broadway and across the country
* It’s spawning HBO movies with the likes of Bryan Cranston and Stephen Spielberg involved

Oh – and P.S. Sounders fans: It’s made in Oregon. Ha. Sorry. Had to.

It would be hard to exaggerate just how exciting and electrifying “it” is going to be. But (as you know) we’ll try.

Nutshell: The OSF production of Robert Schenkkan’s epic, acclaimed two play cycle about LBJ starts up at Seattle Rep on November 14. That’s next Friday, people.

And here’s a tip: It’s going to create sold out pandemonium that you may not have seen since last year’s RING cycle packed McCaw Hall. So don’t wait until you hear about it in the paper. Plan ahead.

Portlanders – schedule a weekend trip up north when you can catch both plays on the same day. You may also be able to fit in watching the Sounders lose a game at home if you want.

This is your wake up call. Come be part of American theatre history in the making.

Perhaps you’ve been waiting for an experience like this?

Well here it is.