Oregon Shakespeare Festival to stage five new works in '12

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will stage a record-breaking five new works next year, Artistic Director Bill Rauch said in announcing the 2012 season.

Two works, "All the Way," by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan, and "Party People," by the writer/actor ensemble Universes, take simultaneous looks at the 1960s and were commissioned by OSF for its American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle.

American Revolutions Director Alison Carey provides a new adaptation of a classic, "The Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa," and Rauch brings a new version of a work he created as a college student, "Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella," which is co-adapted and co-directed by Tracy Young.

"The White Snake," a Chinese fable adapted and directed by Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman, makes its worldwide debut at OSF.

"This season celebrates the adventurous spirit of our company and our audience," said Rauch, who will be in his fifth year as artistic director, in a press release.

Rauch will direct "All the Way," in which Schenkkan ("Handler," "By the Waters of Babylon") turns his gaze to Lyndon B. Johnson from his ascendancy to the presidency through the passage of the Civil Rights Act and his victory in the 1964 presidential election.

"Party People" explores the Black Panthers and Young Lords movements, taking inspiration from interviews, public history and reminiscences. It will be performed by Universes, an ensemble of multi-disciplined writers and performers who fuse poetry, theater, jazz, hip-hop and politics, alongside members of OSF's acting company. It will be directed by Liesl Tommy, who staged "Ruined" last season.

In "The Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa," Carey translates Shakespeare's characters to a contemporary setting that includes a failed presidential candidate, gay marriage and the Iowa State Fair. It will be staged by Christopher Liam Moore, who directed this year's "August: Osage County," as well as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Dead Man's Cell Phone" in previous OSF seasons.

"Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella" takes from Euripides, Shakespeare and Rodgers and Hammerstein and represents the weaving together of three character studies in royal ambition. The three stories are performed on one stage simultaneously, three-ring-circus-style.

In Rauch's self-described "lifelong passion project," full productions of all three plays are intercut and played together, creating surprising moments of synchronicity and revelation.

It was first created by Rauch in college and mounted professionally in 1998 by Cornerstone Theater Company and The Actors' Gang and remounted in 2002 at Yale Repertory Theatre. It will tour to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival after it closes in Ashland.

"The White Snake" is based on the classic Chinese fable in which a young scholar falls in love with a beautiful woman, unaware that she is a white snake who has taken on human form.

"This world premiere is part of OSF's ongoing commitment to classic stories from around the world," Rauch said.

The Shakespeare plays on tap for next year include "Romeo and Juliet," directed by Laird Williamson; "Troilus and Cressida," directed by Rob Melrose; "Henry V," directed by Joseph Haj; and "As You Like It," directed by Jessica Thebus.

Former OSF Artistic Director Libby Appel will direct her adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," which premiered at Marine Theatre Company this year.

Rounding out the season is a musical comedy made famous by the Marx Brothers, "Animal Crackers," by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. The play opened in New York in 1928 with the four brothers and was quickly made into one of their most popular films in 1930. The production will be directed by Allison Narver, who recently headed up Seattle Repertory's "Three Tall Women" by Edward Albee.

The 2012 season will begin previews on Feb. 17 and open the weekend of Feb. 24-26. The previews for performances on the Elizabethan Stage will begin June 5 and opening weekend is June 15-17. The season will run through Nov. 4.

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