Oregon Shakespeare Fest Opens with Country-Western Tunes and Hollywood Glam

And also some Dickens.

By Rebecca Jacobson February 16, 2016

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K.T. Vogt goes country in The Yeomen of the Guard.

Image: Jenny Graham

At age 81, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival hasn’t lost its knack for reinvention. Last year, we reported how OSF “has become a national instigator of bold contemporary drama,” with 29 world premieres over the last decade. Then, in the fall, the festival announced it would be giving the Bard a facelift, commissioning 36 playwrights to translate 39 Shakespeare plays into contemporary modern English. (Freakouts ensued.)

As OSF prepares to open its 81st season—instantly transforming Ashland from a sleepy southern Oregon burg to a bustling hive of blue-hairs and teenagers on school trips—let’s zoom in on the first four shows hitting the stage.

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Gina Daniels and Sara Bruner in Twelfth Night.

Image: Jenny Graham

Twelfth Night
Shakespeare’s comedy of shipwrecks, twins, and cross-dressing goes glam, with the kingdom of Illyria reimagined as 1930s Hollywood. Director Christopher Liam Moore has called Twelfth Night his favorite Shakespeare play—he’s tackled it at three other theaters. This time around, expect sparkling costumes and some clever cinematic tricks.
Feb 19-Oct 30
Angus Bowmer Theatre 

The River Bride
If the Brothers Grimm had grown up in the Amazon rather than in Germany, The River Bride might have been the result. In this world premiere by poet-turned-playwright Marisela Treviño Orta, a man is mysteriously pulled out of a river in a sedate Brazilian town, disrupting the lives of two sisters. Orta, who’s working on an entire series of plays that blend fairy tales with Latino folklore, has described it as a dark, cautionary story.
Feb 21-July 7
Angus Bowmer Theatre

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Bodhi Johnson, Al Espinosa, and Erica Sullivan rehearse Great Expectations.

Image: Jenny Graham

Great Expectations
Orphan Pip and eccentric spinster Miss Havisham just took their final bows at Portland Center Stage, but there's more Dickens on the way in Ashland. OSF veterans Penny Metropulos and Linda Alper have written their own adaptation of Great Expectations, getting its world premiere in Ashland this month. Metropulos, who directs, has collaborated with Alper several times, and they’re promising plenty of mist, fog, and ghostly premonitions.
Feb 20-Oct 20
Angus Bowmer Theatre

The Yeomen of the Guard
And then there’s this: a Gilbert & Sullivan opera—widely considered their weirdest, featuring a man wrongfully accused of sorcery, attempted land grabs, prison escape schemes, and numerous broken hearts—refashioned as a country-western extravaganza. With ample room for audience interaction. At the helm is Sean Graney of Chicago-based theater company the Hypocrites, best known for productions that kick down the fourth wall and invite the audience to take a seat onstage.
Feb 24-Oct 30
Thomas Theatre

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