When it comes to going big or going home, very few theatres in America can originate new epic play cycles. We’re not talking about the small stuff – the disposable 80 minute one person laugh track monologues with a shelf life of week old sushi. We’re talking about the BIG stuff – big casts, decades of elapsed time, and real stories you don’t forget. Stories that get to the heart of who we (humans) are. Think August Wilson or David Edgar. Or Robert Schenkkan.
Telling the story of a nation or people or city (sounds weird to hear such lofty aspirations even phrased anymore, doesn’t it?) hits many speed bumps along the pathway of gettin’ ‘er done. There’s the cost, the vision (usually deficit), the time (usually years) and more than a few other details. Plus it’s just plain hard to take that idea for the next ANGELS IN AMERICA that you got while waiting in line for your tall triple caveggiato and follow through and actually do the thing. If the work tackles important social or cultural issues – it gets even harder.
The good news for the American theatre and Oregonians, though, is that almost no one does this big picture, swashbuckling visioneering better than the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of our country’s preeminent cultural institutions, strategically hidden away in the aptly (and theatrically) named Rogue Valley in Jackson County. Where? Don’t ask questions – if you don’t know it, you’d better get there. Pronto (as Spicoli would say). Because lo! (theatre lingo) – right on queue, they (as “they” are wont to do) are at it again.
Hark, pray tell, what be it? Ta da. Last week OSF announced a big project to commission a new three play cycle about the Latino experience in the US from Luis Alfaro.
It makes perfect sense that OSF would team up with San Francisco’s mighty Magic Theatre on this one.
Now all we have to do is wait 3-6 years for opening night(s)!
Nice work, OSF. Keep on keepin’ on…
ASHLAND, ORE.—Luis Alfaro, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence, will pen a three-play cycle about a Latino family in the United States under a co-commission by OSF and Magic Theatre in San Francisco.
Mr. Alfaro’s trilogy, currently titled This Golden State, will be developed in collaboration with both OSF and Magic Theatre. With ongoing support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a commissioning grant from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, Magic Theatre has committed to producing the entire cycle of plays.
Magic Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Loretta Greco said, “It is with great passion that we come together with our friends at OSF to celebrate a writer we have both heralded over the years and to support his next groundbreaking cycle of work. Our community was transported by Luis’ Oedipus el Rey and Bruja and looks forward to experiencing his one-of-a kind lens on America within This Golden State. This is probably an unprecedented collaboration between theaters of such varying size and I couldn’t be happier to be cross pollinating with such a spirit of possibility.”
OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch agreed. “We are so proud to be in collaboration with our esteemed colleagues at the Magic to help our playwright-in-residence Luis Alfaro dive even more fully into creating this ambitious and hugely important trio of plays. Luis is a major American artist and arts leader, and we could not be more proud of the impact he is having on our campus through his residency.”
According to Mr. Alfaro, each part of This Golden State will examine a different “great American theme”—religion, politics, and identity—through the experiences of an extended Latino family with deep multi-generational roots in the Western United States.
“I really want to write about Latinos as Americans,” Mr. Alfaro said. “What does it mean to be ‘American’ for a family whose ancestors were indigenous to this land long before it was part of the United States? In a way, that’s the great American story.
“I see this as one big American story told in three plays,” Mr. Alfaro continued. “It’s an ambitious idea that rises to the ambitions of these two outstanding American theatre companies.”
Mr. Alfaro is a critically-acclaimed writer/performer who has been working in theater, performance art, poetry and journalism since 1982. A multi-disciplined artist, he also works as a director, educator, curator, producer and community organizer. A Chicano born and raised in downtown Los Angeles, Mr. Alfaro is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, popularly known as a “genius grant,” awarded to people who have demonstrated expertise and exceptional creativity in their respective fields. He is the only playwright to receive two Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play awards in the same year (2002), and is the 2012 Joyce Foundation Award Fellow. He is currently serving as OSF’s first Resident Playwright as part of a three-year residency made possible by a $303,000 grant from the Performing Arts Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Mr. Alfaro’s plays and performances have been seen throughout the U.S. and Europe, and he has taught throughout the country, including the majority of University of California and California State institutions. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Southern California (USC) in the MFA Dramatic Writing Program. Previously he taught at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal-Arts).
Founded in 1967, Magic Theatre is dedicated to fostering ferociously courageous playwrights and producing explosive, entertaining and ideologically robust plays. Magic believes that demonstrating faith in a writer’s vision by providing a safe yet rigorous artistic home, where a full body of work can be imagined, supported, and produced, that writers, in turn, will thrive. Twenty-two of the last 25 plays developed and produced at Magic have enjoyed extended life in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington DC, Paris, Manila, and Seoul. Magic’s home-grown premieres, Sharr White’s Annapurna and Polly Penn and Victor Lodato’s Arlington, will both be seen in New York this spring. Up next at Magic: the world premieres of Taylor Mac’s HIR, Linda McLean’s Every Five Minutes, and Christina Anderson’s pen/man/ship.
Since its founding by Angus Bowmer in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has grown from a three-day festival of two plays to the largest rotating repertory theatre in the country, presenting an eight-month season consisting of four plays by William Shakespeare and seven that represent a mix of classics, musicals, and new works. The Festival also draws attendance of more than 400,000 to almost 800 performances every year and employs approximately 575 theatre professionals. In 2008, OSF launched American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, a 10-year cycle of commissioning new plays that has already resulted in several OSF commissions finding success nationwide, including the Broadway-bound All The Way, which won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History in 2013.