It’s the New Year, and already that resolution to have less drama in your life is under pressure.
Because opening weekend at Oregon Shakespeare Festival is coming up fast. And you can’t miss that. If you’re into theatre and anywhere near Oregon, there is no place else to be the weekend of Feb 24-26. So ye best plan to attend for a bard load of drama, fun and food.
As always, the season kicks off with four openings over three days. There are many other unique events over opening weekend that make this a theatre gathering unlike just about anything you’ll ever experience. Think of it as Broadway under the Siskiyou. With plentiful outdoor adventure options, it’s hard to think of a more exciting weekend. Anywhere.
Ski in the morning, consume affogatos in the afternoon, watch Shakespeare at night. It’s a tough life but someone has to do it.
Are you ready, theatre fans? In just a few short days and rain-soaked weeks, the 2016 season thunders forth at one of earth’s great theatres. Behold, way down in Oregon’s sunny south. You know the place of which I speak. The hamlet of Hamlet. Stratford-upon-Rogue. Broadway on Siskiyou.
I’m talking about Oregon Shakespeare Festival. If you haven’t been lately to the mightiest theatre town of them all (ASHLAND, ORE-GONE), ye best hitch up the carriage and make haste. Pronto.
Wondering when to go? Try opening weekend. Of course. This traditional kick off to the season is unique in the arts world. It’s like a three day blow out party with plenty of special events and star-studded local color. You’ll see old friends and make new ones. In addition to four shows and numerous panel discussions, you can go skiing to stay fit and order repeat affogatos at Mix to stay awake.
Tick tock. Prepare to fill these seats. OSF’s Bowmer Theatre was SOLD OUT over and over again last year for GUYS AND DOLLS. [Read the following in the voice of Rodney Gardiner as Nathan]: “Don’t delay – reserve your seats today!”
OSF knows how to roll out the red carpet for opening weekend. And if you’re really lucky, the Cascade weather gods will roll out the white carpet – as pictured above in 2011.
If you’re a regional theatre, going to Broadway sounds like a dream. But unless you know what you’re doing, taking a show to the world’s toughest theatre market can play out more like a nightmare. It’s tough. And very few can pull it off.
On paper, southern Oregon would seem an unlikely incubator IN THE EXTREME for Broadway buzz. 100 years ago, Ashland, Oregon was (to put it mildly) in the middle of nowhere. It still is. But today nowhere is somewhere – at least in the theatre world. And thanks to Angus Bowmer, a whole phalanx of succeeding individuals, and a good mix of sheer chance and historical luck, Oregon Shakespeare Festival has become a Broadway launching pad. Incredible but true.
While it’s too soon to say for sure, another OSF-hatched American Revolutions world premiere may soon be headed for the world’s biggest stage.
When a live performance event is good, they’ve gotta have it. They = the audience.
When it’s good, whatever “it” is, they, the audience, come from over hill and dale. They come because they must have this experience. Because there’s nothing else like live performance. When it’s good.
We’re used to people camping night and day for tickets to see The Who or The Grateful Dead or Wilco or the Seahawks.
But theatre does not usually see such pandemonium. Unless it’s Hamilton.
If you’ve hit the Bricks in Ashland lately, you may have noticed scores of people with signs waiting outside theatres trying to find a ticket – any ticket. In fact, the impulse to make a “Tickets wanted” sign is now such a normal part of the daily routine in Ashland that the OSF box office is making signs for people! Now that’s service.
This is good. This is how it should be. A ticket to see David Kelly or Miriam Laube or Kimberly Scott or Kevin Kenerly live in Ashland should be in demand. BIG TIME. Because there is nothing else like this. This is the show you have been waiting for.
When it’s good, the only crisis of the American theatre today is how can we fit more people in the room, where will they all sleep, where will they all wait in line and not block traffic, and is there enough food in town to feed them?
They’ve gotta have it. And this summer in Ashland, they’re coming for it.
When SWEAT, the new play by Lynn Nottage getting its world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is gone, Reading (pronounced “red-ing”), Pennsylvania will still be there.
And then what?
Nottage has spent several years visiting Reading gathering material for her play. But she did not want that to be the end of a heightened focus on de-industrializing American towns.
To continue the dialog and also give something back to the town, Nottage has created The Reading Project (again pronounced “red-ing as in the town), a collaboration between Market Road Films, which is run by Nottage and Tony Gerber, and New York’s Labyrinth Theatre Company.
So far you can see a few videos on Market Road Films’ Vimeo that feature some of the voices Nottage heard on her trips to Reading.
But there’s more coming up. And you know with Nottage and Labyrinth involved, you’re going to want to see what they come up with. So watch this space.
Y’all ready to sweat a little, Ashland, Oregon? I hope so. Because it’s going to be hotter than hell in the Rogue Valley on Wednesday. And I’m not talking about the weather.
That’s right. Even though the forecast is calling for 104, there’s going to be something even hotter than that going on beneath the glare of the mid day fire ball on the Bricks in downtown Ashland tomorrow. And that’s the first preview of the world premiere of SWEAT by Lynn Nottage in the Angus Bowmer Theatre at 1:30 PM.
Despite the temperature, just writing that last sentence there sends a cold sweat down my back. Hoo boy. If I could rub Aladdin’s lamp and be granted one wish to be anywhere on earth in any theatre there is seeing any show imaginable tomorrow – I’d be right here in Ashland. No question.
If you’re a theatre fan, and especially if you’re an Oregon theatre fan, there is simply nowhere else to be on Wednesday. Or Friday and Saturday for the next two previews. Or Sunday for the official opening. Or anytime during the next three months as SWEAT runs in rep at OSF.
A new play by one of America’s leading playwrights at one of America’s (and the world’s) great theatres – which just happens to be right here in Oregon? Hello?? That’s like a Ducks game in Autzen Stadium or Sleater-Kinney at the Crystal Ballroom or the Pendleton Roundup on Saturday night (including a bonus visit to the Let’Er Buck Room). It’s BIG stuff. The biggest. In the American theatre today, it doesn’t get much more exciting than a new play by Lynn Nottage.
Especially this play. In this place. At this time.
The latest from OSF’s flagship American Revolutions commissioning program, SWEAT is coming in hotter than a blast furnace at Bethlehem Steel. Written by Nottage and directed by Kate Whoriskey, the show features a galaxy of OSF talent. Here, feast those heat-dazed eyes of yours on this lineup:
Cast for SWEAT
Tracey >> Terri McMahon
Jason >> Stephen Michael Spencer
Cynthia >> Kimberly Scott
Chris >> Tramell Tillman
Brucie >> Kevin Kenerly
Evan >> Tyrone Wilson
Stan >> Jack Willis
Jessie >> K. T. Vogt
Oscar >> Carlo Albán
Whaaaaaaaaaat?? Yeah – see? You with me? If I didn’t have your attention before, surely I do now.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty happy to just sit in the audience and see that group walk out on stage and stand there and do nothing. But they’re going to do a lot more than that. It sounds like their task is nothing less than acting out a new story of and for our time.
If the past is prologue, look for this show to sell out once the news hits the wire. Remember what happened to ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY? While there will be other chances to see SWEAT at other theatres later on – no production is ever going to be better than this original one on the home field.
It’s only on for three months as it is. Only a few thousand people can see it.
And you definitely want to be one of them.
So buckle down, Ashland. And get ready. Maybe bring a fan or an ice cube or something.
Because the drama is coming. And it’s going to be hot stuff indeed.
Very little rings true here. From mountain of sub plots, current day events and social/familial themes, nothing much of substance is milled. Many familiar pitfalls of new play dramaturgy on display: over use of technology, fascination with social media, too many cuts. Bonus: Implausible homeless guy with heart of gold.
Ever since it was announced on March 14, 2014 that a new play by Lynn Nottage would be coming to Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, I’ve been counting down the days. A new play by this savvy and supremely human writer is a cause for celebration – even when the material she may be dealing with is some of the toughest and heaviest there is.
If you saw RUINED at OSF in 2010, you know what I’m talking about – the kind of unbearable heightened intensity that a playwright like Nottage can imprint into your brain. Forever.
The kind of drama so real and powerful it caused an audience member to jump on stage to try to stop what was happening.
Well, she’s at it again and the project this time sounds about as relevant and important as it could possibly be. The countdown until opening night is rapidly dwindling toward 0. And the closer it gets, the better it sounds.