Milestones of season include dynamic work, retirement of Executive Director Paul Nicholson and renaming of New Theatre
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
ASHLAND, ORE.—The Oregon Shakespeare Festival wrapped up its 77th season Sunday night with the final performance of Romeo and Juliet, a celebration and dedication of the Thomas Theatre (formerly New Theatre) and farewells to a number of long-time company members, including Executive Director Paul Nicholson, who is retiring in December after 33 years.
OSF announced on August 10 that Cynthia Rider, managing director at Missouri’s Kansas City Repertory Theatre, will succeed Nicholson.
Commenting on the season, Artistic Director Bill Rauch said, “I am so proud of how vibrant and varied all 11 productions were in our ‘season of abundance,’ dedicated to my wonderful partner Paul Nicholson. The caliber of our artists' and artisans' work and the passion of our audience made 2012 a memorable season. We also had an unprecedented number of leaders from other theaters visit us this year, attesting to the keen national interest in what is happening theatrically in Ashland, Oregon.”
The 2012 season, sponsored by U.S. Bank, closed at 87% of capacity. Total attendance was 392,430 and ticket revenue was $18,309,792. The season included 11 productions of 790 performances. Attendance rebounded after last season’s beam crisis, but fell slightly below budget expectations.
Malia Wasson, president of U.S. Bank in Oregon, applauded OSF: “During tough economic times, we count on arts organizations such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to lift our collective spirits. With a broad array of productions and consistently high quality performances, audience members from near and far enjoyed the 77th season tremendously. We at U.S. Bank are proud of our long-standing partnership and look forward to a fantastic 78th season in 2013.”
Executive Director Paul Nicholson said, “The year has proven to be enormously gratifying. We’ve had huge audience responses to our two American Revolutions plays, Party People and All the Way. And of course audiences laughed until they were silly at the antics of the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers. I’m just so proud to have been able to produce this slate of plays in my final season as Executive Director.”
The American Revolutions commissions were hugely popular with audiences. Party People, opening in early July and staged in the New Theatre, was written by UNIVERSES and directed by Liesl Tommy. A dazzling creation of music, dance, history and theatricality, the show was a draw for returning patrons and several groups of new audiences. The play examines the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s through the collective memory of veterans of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, and many members of those parties attended the show. The other AR commission, Robert Schenkkan’s world premiere production about LBJ’s first year in the presidency, All the Way, was directed by Bill Rauch and played frequently to sold-out houses. Director Mary Zimmerman’s luminous world premiere adaptation of The White Snake left audiences awestruck and teary-eyed, and also deeply saddened when the play closed in early July. For those wanting to see it again, the production will be touring to Berkeley Repertory Theatre and running from November 9 to December 23.
Also staged in the Angus Bowmer Theatre were Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, directed with a fresh, youthful take by Laird Williamson, the hilarious comedy Animal Crackers, directed by Allison Narver and featuring a cast whose constantly-changing antics kept audiences coming back for more, and co-directors Bill Rauch and Tracy Young’s sophisticated and surprising adaptation of Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella. Other shows in the New Theatre included an intense production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, directed by Rob Melrose, and a beautiful, accessible adaptation of Chekhov’s Seagull by Artistic Director Emerita Libby Appel, who also directed the play.
On the Elizabethan Stage audiences thrilled to Joseph Haj’s powerful, dynamic production of Henry V, took the wild ride in Alison Carey’s witty, humorous adaptation of Shakespeare’s play The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa, and basked in the beauty and poetry of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by Jessica Thebus.
The renaming of the New Theatre was ensured in March through a generous donation of $4.5 million from a group of donors comprised of The Goatie Foundation, Roberta and David Elliott, and Peter and Helen Bing. The gift answered a challenge issued 10 years ago when Jo Lynn Allen of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the lead donor for the construction of OSF’s New Theatre, passed on the opportunity to name the theatre, issuing the requirement for other donors to make a significant contribution to secure the naming rights. The combined gift from the above group of donors met the threshold for naming rights. At the request of the group of donors, the New Theatre officially became the Thomas Theatre last evening, in honor of longtime OSF Development Director Peter D. Thomas, who died in March 2010.
Each season OSF holds its annual Daedalus Project to raise funds for HIV/AIDS organizations. The total raised at this season’s Daedalus Project was a new record of $110,347 including $58,597 from the afternoon play reading and evening variety show, and $21,260 from the underwear parade. In his email to the company about the amount, Nicholson wrote: “Having participated in or watched every Daedalus event since its inception 25 years ago, I can honestly say that this was among the very best. It really is an extraordinary event – it’s hard to imagine that we could raise over $100,000 in one day in a small town of 20,000 in Southern Oregon. Yet we do, and we change lives because of it. We have much to be proud of, and many people to appreciate. More than 250 company and community members (and two canines) were actively involved in the day’s activities.”
In addition to the departure of Paul Nicholson, OSF bids farewell to long time company members Todd Barton, Deborah M. Dryden and Tom Knapp. Barton, resident composer and music director, arrived at OSF in 1969 to play recorder in the Green Show. Forty seasons later, he had composed scores for more than 250 plays and the entire Shakespeare canon. Dryden, resident costume designer, started designing costumes at OSF in 1979 and was named resident costume designer in 1996. In her 33 years at OSF she has designed costumes for 85 plays. Knapp served as production manager for 32 seasons, overseeing the creation of more than 350 productions. All will be remembered for their rich and deep collaborations and commitment to the company and the work onstage.
The 2013 season will open on Friday night February 22 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. On Saturday OSF will open the American classic musical, My Fair Lady, and August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. Opening Sunday in the New Theatre is William Shakespeare’s towering tragedy, King Lear. In March the world premiere of The Unfortunates, developed in OSF’s Black Swan Lab comes to the stage, and in July an American Revolutions commission, The Liquid Plain, has its premiere. This season in the Thomas Theatre, OSF is trying out a new schedule where all three plays will run in repertory to the end of the season in order to give audiences more play-going options. Also playing in the Angus Bowmer Theatre is the American classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, and a world premiere production, The Tenth Muse.
On the outdoor Elizabethan Stage, opening June 14-16, OSF takes audiences “into the woods” with Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the U.S. premiere of The Heart of Robin Hood.
The 2013 season is also sponsored by U.S. Bank. Previews begin on February 15 and the season runs through November 3.
2013 Presale for membership begins November 9, and general ticket sales for the 2013 season begin November 26. Visit the web site www.osfashland.org to learn about membership presale.
The Box Office will be closed November 5-8. For information, call (800) 219-8161 or (541) 482-4331, or visit www.osfashland.org.