Meet some of the visionary artists who create the worlds of the plays.
Any theatre artist will tell you that bringing a director’s vision for a play to the stage is a deeply collaborative effort. Yet a designer’s vision, artistry and commitment to serving the play are unique gifts. OSF audiences have benefitted from the genius of many resident artists. Below we highlight the careers of:
RICHARD L. HAY (1950-present)
In 2009, “we have aspired to create a kaleidoscope of plays that reflects Richard’s lifelong love of our art form, his visionary artistry and his deep commitment to our company and audience.” —Bill Rauch, Artistic Director
There are some places so intricately connected to a person that they are uttered in the same breath. Take Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: An architect, philosopher and horticulturalist, Jefferson brought the totality of himself to bear on the design and building of his famed home. Skip ahead a few centuries, and one could argue that Richard L. Hay’s imprint on the place we know as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival resonates in a similar way.
Though the Festival’s principal scenic and theatre designer, now in his 53rd season, is too modest a personality to encourage that analogy, his is an undeniable mark on OSF’s unique sense of place and the art it produces. Our three beloved theatres and all the spaces that connect them have emerged in good part out of the synergistic blend of Hay’s artistic philosophy, creative energy, study of engineering and architecture and, not least of all, his passion for theatre.
It is no wonder that, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the current Elizabethan Stage (now the Allen Elizabethan Theatre), Artistic Director Bill Rauch dedicated the 2009 season to Richard L. Hay, who designed the stage in the late fifties (in collaboration with architect Jack Edson). He also created the plans for the Angus Bowmer Theatre in 1970 (with architect David McKinley), the conversion in 1977 of a downtown Chevrolet dealership showroom into the intimate black box theatre known as the Black Swan (collaborating with technical director Duncan MacKenzie), and finally, the innovative, state-of-the-art Thomas Theatre that replaced the Black Swan in 2002 (within the architecture of Thomas Hacker). In fact, all the spaces at OSF—indoors and out—have Hay’s handprint all over them.
Though heavily guided by then Artistic Director Angus Bowmer’s preferences, when it came to designing the
1959 Elizabethan Stage, Hay didn’t budge on his bottom line: creating a theatrical space that was liberated from the 19th century traditions—proscenium stages, the use of curtains, elaborate pictorial backdrops—that were influencing the Elizabethan staging revivals of the time. To that end, the curtains between the main stage pillars (supporting the penthouse) and scenery within the inner spaces were abandoned and an open stage platform with two side entrances, inner stages and a balcony supported the fluidity of dramatic action and the uninterrupted flow of Shakespeare’s text.
Hay’s progressive bent carried into his interior designs for the Angus Bowmer and Thomas Theatres as well. He was clear about one thing in particular: that actor and audience share the same big room. In both houses, the seats wrap around or to the sides of the stage and the playing spaces are open to the audience. There is little to waylay the audience-actor connection. Even the pitch of the seats allows audience members in the back rows of the Bowmer to feel closer to the drama. Maybe it’s Hay’s insistence on these matters that allows and, yes, requires the engagement of the audience that, in turn, leads to a richer theatrical experience. If that is true, we can say that Richard Hay’s influence is both deep and wide. Consider this: The number of individual experiences of live drama in each of Hay’s spaces is roughly as follows: 474,911 in the Thomas Theatre; 747,423 in the Black Swan; 4,989,360 in the current Allen Elizabethan Theatre; and a whopping 6,439,579 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre.
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Not incidentally, there are stage sets for a “mere” 220-plus Ashland productions, beginning in 1953, that also mark Hay’s career at OSF. Known as a director’s designer, Hay is strong on listening, problem solving and details, details, details. His sets are as varied as the plays he designs for, and he seems just as comfortable in conceptual theatrical worlds as in realistic ones. Reputed for his versatility and ability to solve scenic problems in creative ways, Hay is a rare breed, having designed sets for the entire Shakespeare canon—many plays multiple times. Chances are if you have attended the Festival in the past six decades, you have been well treated many times over to his enchanting array of scenic imaginations.
As a child growing up in Wichita, Kansas, Hay experienced the genesis of his life’s work in the cardboard stage and construction paper sets he built and viewed in a mirror as he changed scenery to music played on a windup phonograph. It seems a long journey between then and now, but the artistic philosophy that grounds all of Hay’s theatrical endeavors—theatre houses and set designs—is simple, rock solid and not particularly subject to temporal cultural shifts. The short and sweet of it is this: Space matters; the connection between actor and audience is tantamount; details make a difference; it’s all in service to the art.
You could say that, at OSF, we’ve been spoiled by Richard Hay, whose work at the Festival has spanned the leadership of all five artistic directors. He is a creative powerhouse in sheep’s clothing; it’s never been all about Richard Hay. His gift of four theatre spaces and hundreds of scenic designs is about the extraordinary vessels that have held more than 50 years of theatrical magic for so very many of us.
In 56 seasons at OSF: Was the principal influence or created the design for all Festival theatres; has designed 229 productions (including the entire Shakespearean canon), most recently, Animal Crackers and Henry
Associate artistic director for design at Denver Center Theatre Company for seven seasons; Portland Center Stage, Mark Taper Forum, American Conservatory Theater, PCPA Theaterfest, The Old Globe Theatre, Missouri Repertory Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Guthrie Theater, Kennedy Center.
Theatres designed include, among others, Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, new Old Globe Theatre (both in San Diego), and The Source and Space Theatres for Denver Center Theatre Company. Scenic designs for OSF have been included in the Prague Quadrennial Scenography Exhibition in 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995 and 2003. The New Theatre was shown in the Prague Quadrennial architectural exhibit, 2007.
Recipient of a Fulbright Grant to England; an Oregon Governor's Award for the Arts, 1989; USITT Distinguished Achievement Award, 1999; USITT Fellow of the Institute, 2007.
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TODD BARTON (1969-2012)
In 1969, Todd Barton joined the Festival as a musician and actor. He was promoted to Composer and Music Director in 1973 after spending two seasons as assistant to W. Bernard Windt (Composer and Music Director 1953-1973). In his 40 seasons with the Festival, Todd has worked under the leadership of all five of OSF’s artistic directors. His invaluable contributions to the history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival include: overseeing all aspects of music and sound design, teaching classes as part of the Festival’s educational programming, and composing music for over 200 productions including completing the Shakespearean canon twice. His retirement at the end of the 2012 season wascelebrated with a display in the Angus Bowmer Theatre galleries.
Other theatres: St. Joan (Denver Center Theatre Company), The Tempest (The Shakespeare Theatre), The Sea (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), The Merchant of Venice (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Copenhagen (Seattle Repertory Theatre), Oedipus Complex (The Goodman Theatre), Throne of Blood (Brooklyn Academy of Music).
Other credits: Concert work performances by the Kronos Quartet, the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, the Cavani String Quartet, and the Rogue Valley Symphony; music composition instructor, Southern Oregon University.
CD releases: Music of the Kesh and Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, with author Ursula K. Le Guin.
Awards: ASCAP Special Award in Popular Music, Drama Logue Critics Awards, Jeff Award nomination.
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DEBORAH M. DRYDEN (1979-2012)
Deborah Dryden began her career at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as guest costume designer for The Play’s the Thing
in 1979. She went on to become Resident Costume Designer in 1995, and has created a stunning portfolio of work in her 33 seasons with the Festival. Before retiring as Resident Costume Designer at the end of the 2012 season, Deborah will design Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella, All the Way,
Her retirement at the end of the 2012 season was celebrated with a display in the Angus Bowmer Theatre galleries. All original designs on display were chosen by Ms. Dryden to show the breadth and depth of her design career.
In 32 seasons at OSF:
To Kill a Mockingbird; The Pirates of Penzance; Hamlet; Henry IV, Part One; Equivocation; Don Quixote; The Clay Cart; Coriolanus; A View from the Bridge
and many others.
Arena Stage, San Diego Opera, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, Kennedy Center, American Conservatory Theater, Alliance Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Asolo Theatre Company, Minnesota Opera Company, Guthrie Theater, Portland Center Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Alaska Repertory Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Denver Center Theatre, Alley Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Intiman Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse.
Professor Emerita of Design at University of California, San Diego. Author of "Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre." Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence, Arts Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2010). Exhibited work includes 2003 Prague Quadrennial Scenography Exhibition and "Curtain Call, Celebrating a Century of Women Designing for Live Performance," New York Public Library of Performing Arts, Lincoln Center (2008).
Michael Merritt Award for Design and Collaboration (1999); USITT Distinguished Achievement Award (2000).
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