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Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Portland Center Stage at The Armory Team up After 24 Years

Many people don’t realize Portland’s largest theater company was founded as a branch of OSF. This year, the companies reunite for a special co-production.

Presented by Portland Center Stage October 24, 2017

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles will have a 3-week run at The Armory starting November 4. This powerful adaptation of Euripides’ Medea is the first OSF production to be presented at Portland Center Stage at The Armory since the two theaters separated in 1994.

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Members of the cast of Mojada reenact the arduous crossing of the desert from Mexico to the United States (L-R: Nancy Rodriguez, VIVIS, Sabina Zuniga Varela, Jahnangel Jimenez, Lakin Valdez).

Image: Jenny Graham

Portland Center Stage at The Armory was founded as a branch of Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1988 under the name OSF Portland. To this day, it is still the only major regional theater company in the country to be founded in this manner. In the early years, OSF and its Portland branch would each create stunning, high quality theatrical productions. Some of them would be transferred to Portland or Ashland respectively, so audiences in both regions could enjoy the productions. The theaters operated this way for 6 seasons before the Portland branch became independent in 1994.

Since then, Portland Center Stage at The Armory has worked with OSF on a number of occasions – from renting costumes to having OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch direct productions in Portland – but the transfer of a production from Ashland to Portland was a perfect way to celebrate its 30th anniversary season this year, to pay tribute to its roots. It’s also a perfect time to recap some of the company’s fascinating history. 

  • 1988 – OSF Portland is successfully launched with the opening of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House; five shows are produced in the first season.
  • 1993 – The Illusion is the last production transferred between Portland and Ashland.
  • 1994 – Elizabeth Huddle becomes artistic director as Portland Center Stage separates from OSF; Arms and the Man (another play by Shaw) is the first show produced by the newly independent company.
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The cast of Arms and the Man.

Image: Rick Adams

  • 1996 – Comfort and Joy opens as the company’s first commissioned world premiere. New work development becomes a major focus for the company, resulting in a total of 23 world premieres to date.
  • 1998 – JAW: A Playwrights Festival is launched. The company will celebrate 20 years of JAW this summer with free events July 27-29. 
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Wes Guy and the New Birth breakdance crew captivate audiences before a play reading at JAW: A Playwrights Festival.

  • 2000 – Elizabeth Huddle retires and Chris Coleman is named the new artistic director. After 17 years, Chris Coleman is still the current artistic director.
  • 2001 – The first musical is produced: A New Brain directed by Chris Coleman.
  • 2004 – Ground is broken to renovate The Armory into a gorgeous new home for the company featuring two stages.
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Construction phase of The Armory, 2004 - 2006. Approximately 79% of the original 1891 building is still intact today.

  • 2005 – The Stage Door program is launched, offering K-12 schools free or deeply-subsidized tickets and complimentary educational programs. In its first year, the program served 1,985 students. Currently, more than 5,200 students see productions at The Armory through the program each year.
  • 2006 – The Armory opens to the public. More than a million people have since attended plays, concerts, classes, visual art showings, public meetings and other community events at The Armory. 
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West Side Story in the 2006-2007 season, the first production in The Armory.

Image: Owen Carey

  • Cabaret, featuring Storm Large and Wade McCollum, kicks off the season and breaks all attendance records (and still holds the highest attendance record!).
  • 2009 – The world premiere of Storm Large’s autobiographical musical Crazy Enough becomes the longest-running production in the company’s history, completing a total of 143 performances in a nearly five-month run in the Ellyn Bye Studio.
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Storm Large and the band in Crazy Enough.

Image: Owen Carey

  • 2011 – The world premiere of One Night with Janis Joplin opens. It later becomes the first show to go to Broadway after having a premiere at The Armory.
  • 2017 – Portland Center Stage at The Armory celebrates its 30th Anniversary. It offers 12 productions in its 2017-2018 season, including the OSF production of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles, which was hailed as "an important, soul-nourishing play" by The Daily Tidings. 
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Josefina (Nancy Rodriguez, left) shares a happy moment with Tita (VIVIS) in Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.

Image: Jenny Graham

Mojada Ticket and Performance Information

When: November 4 – 26, 2017

Where: On the U.S. Bank Main Stage at The Armory. 128 NW Eleventh Ave., Portland, Oregon 

Showtimes: Tuesday through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. (excluding Nov. 23); Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. (excluding Nov. 4, 5 and 11); and a Thursday matinee at noon on Nov. 16.

More Info: www.pcs.org/mojada