When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival turns it on, theater-lovers across the nation go nuts: frothing and mobbing like Justin Timberlake fans. This weekend, the eight-months-long festival kicks off its 80th season with two re-imagined Shakespeare classics, a world premiere, and cracking bit of musical theater.

"It is on, people! It is so on!" wrote one hyped-up Portland Theatre Scene blogger. Here are four reasons why wise guys and dolls know that the fuss over OSF is definitely not much ado about nothing.

Credit: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

OSF LEADING MEN BREAK BAD BEFORE BRYAN CRANSTON Does

Five-year OSF company member Jack Willis is not only a Broadway veteran, he's one of the few people to share the role of President Lyndon Baines Johnson with Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame. Willis, who plays Leonato in this year's production of Much Ado About Nothing, pioneered that role in OSF's historical drama All the Way, which went on to win a 2012 Tony with Cranston as LBJ. From cold and cruel Prez to impassioned duelist, watch Willis capture the role of hapless patriarch in one of Shakespeare’s darker and more reflective comedies.

Much Ado About Nothing
Feb 20–Nov 1 
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz 

Credit: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

ASHLAND TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

OSF has made it a point to leap across historical and social divides by commissioning new plays that explore the grittier periods of American history. Sweat, a world premiere commissioned through OSF’s "American Revolutions" program, adds balance to the white-guy-in-tights vibe associated with your average Shakespeare marathon. Set in a failing modern-day industrial town, this drama by black playwright Lynn Nottage is the culmination of five years of field work exploring the collapse of industrial labor in America and the experience of struggling workers.

Sweat
Jul 29–Oct 31 

By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Kate Whoriskey 

Credit: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

THERE'S A SKELETON IN THE CLOSET

Eugene O'Neil never intended for his wrenching, semi-autobiographical family drama Long Days Journey Into Night to be produced. In fact, he demanded that after his death it be locked away for 25 years before publication. O’Neil’s wife is said to have heard him weeping almost daily as he wrote the play; after O’Neil’s death she went against his wishes and allowed it to be produced only three years later.

Long Days Journey into Night
Mar 25–Oct 31
By Eugene O'Neill
Directed by Christopher Liam Moore  

Credit: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

THE PREMIERE OF THE YEAR IS HERE

OSF artistic director Bill Rauch is a man with both a theatrical vision and social mission; under Rauch's leadership, the festival is actively striving to widen its audience and acclaim. To that end, Rauch this year bring the festival not only three world premieres, but also the US premiere of Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land. Written by Taiwanese playwright Stan Lai (who also directs the OSF production), Secret Love is the ultimate shake-up of genre, politics, and culture. Two plays-within-the-play collide on a more-than-crowded stage, gathering friction for a grand reaction between Chinese fable, revolutionary politics, and hard-won wisdom. When a foreign play of this caliber premieres in your back yard—and is directed by the playwright himself to boot—you don’t want to miss it.

Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land
Apr 15–Oct 31
By Stan Lai
Directed by Stan Lai 

Filed under
Share
Show Comments

Related Content