Oregon Shakespeare Fest Opens with Political Charge and Period Drama

Head to Ashland for Julius Caesar, a modern-day Medea through a Latino lens, and more.

By Rebecca Jacobson February 20, 2017

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Daniel José Molina plays Prince Hal in Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Henry IV, Part One, opening this month.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is 82 years old and still kicking, with both playfulness and purpose. Ashland’s annual theatrical bonanza officially kicks off its season Friday, February 24, opening the curtain on three politically potent productions and one sumptuous adaptation of a beloved film. (Seven more productions are in the pipeline, including a world premiere musical based on the poetry of August Wilson and OSF's first play by a Native American playwright.) Here’s what to expect of the first crop: 

Julius Caesar

Thru Oct 29, Angus Bowmer Theatre
It’s all too easy to see shades of 2017 in Shakespeare’s tragedy of ego, ambition, and power. Director Shana Cooper plans to tap into these parallels, and has said she’s especially interested in exploring the role of violence in politics. What happens in times of uncertainty and unrest? What can Shakespeare’s Rome teach us? (And how can we book a row of seats for the current administration?)

Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles

Thru July 6, Angus Bowmer Theatre
OSF’s resident playwright, Luis Alfaro, transplants Euripides’ drama to Los Angeles, with Medea—wronged wife turned vengeful murderer—now an undocumented Mexican immigrant working as a seamstress. Alfaro has retold several Greek tragedies through a modern-day Latino lens (Portland’s Milagro Theatre did a bang-up job with Oedipus El Rey in 2012). Mojada got strong reviews in both LA and Chicago—it “exposes the soul destroying costs of assimilation,” wrote the LA Times, while “freely mixing comedy with drama”—and Alfaro has continued to hone the script since those earlier productions. Given the current tumult over immigration and national borders, it’s another timely entry in OSF’s season.

Henry IV, Part One

Thru Oct 28, Thomas Theatre
The second work in Shakespeare’s War of the Roses cycle will run in tandem with Henry IV, Part Two (opening July 4), offering audiences the chance to see Prince Hal make his full transformation from stein-guzzling slacker to serious, sober soldier. Additional jolly carousing comes courtesy of Sir John Falstaff.

Shakespeare in Love

Thru Oct 29, Angus Bowmer Theatre
Yes, this is a stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning movie, meaning it’s a play based on a film based on the theater. The show, with a script adapted by Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall, premiered on London’s West End in 2014 with backing from Disney, and it's as lavish as you’d expect. This US premiere boasts 20 actors, three musicians, and a canine (the role will be shared by two pups: retired show dog Candy and pound adoptee El). Brace yourself for romance and backstage antics—the Guardian called it “witty and warm-hearted”—and some 60-odd costume changes. 

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