The Happiest Song Plays Last Join OSF Rep

The Happiest Song Plays Last at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Quiara Alegría Hudes's final play of the 'Elliot trilogy' to be staged in the Thomas Theatre
 
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will open Quiara Alegría Hudes’s The Happiest Song Plays Last, directed by Shishir Kurup, July 11 in the Thomas Theatre. Preview performances are July 7, 9 and 10.

The third and final play in the ‘Elliot trilogy’ continues the story of Elliot Ortiz, a young Iraq War veteran haunted by his actions in the war. In part two of the trilogy, Water by the Spoonful, staged last season at OSF, Elliot and his cousin Yaz are dealing with ghosts present and past, and seeking ways to forgive, connect and move forward. In Happiest Song, we find them a couple years later. Elliot has landed a new career as a movie star, but shooting a film in Jordan, with the tumultuous Arab Spring rumbling nearby, activates his wartime nightmares. While on location Elliot befriends Ali, a translator, and Shar, an Arab-American actress, who offer him his first real opportunity to get to know the people he once viewed as enemies. Back in Philadelphia, Yaz has her hands full cooking for the homeless and trying to keep her beloved community from crumbling. She develops an unexpected friendship with Agustín, an activist, teacher and musician who infuses the play with música jíbara—traditional music of Puerto Rico.

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s New Groove

Portland Monthly

by AARON SCOTT

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With a new mash-up of Belinda Carlisle and Elizabethan drama, the festival struts into the spotlight of American theater.

“See the people walking down the street Fall in line just watching all their feet They don’t know where they want to go But they’re walking in time....”

No, it’s not Shakespeare, but the saucy new wave bounce of “We Got the Beat” nonetheless rocks into the Northwest’s fortress of iambic pentameter this summer. In the quaint hamlet of Ashland, where we lay our scene, the playwright Jeff Whitty mixes the Go-Go’s “canon” with a tale of royal prophecies, star-crossed lovers, and mistaken identities lifted from The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, a sprawling 16th-century prose epic by Sir Philip Sidney. The Coos Bay–born Whitty, who snagged a Tony for the racy puppet musical Avenue Q, calls his genre- and gender-bending imaginative outing Head Over Heels. (Needless to say, high heels abound.)

“This show is so difficult,” says director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. “People who can act in heightened text, sing in a rock idiom, and dance—that Venn diagram is tiny.”

But vaulting ambition reigns supreme at Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Though the 80-year-old attraction is best known for lavish productions of the Bard and other classics, in recent years the company has become a national instigator of bold contemporary drama. OSF produced 29 world premieres over the past decade; many have gone on to national acclaim, from last year’s Tony-winning production ofAll the Way on Broadway to The White Snake at San Diego’s Old Globe this spring. This season, OSF debuts three diverse works: Head Over Heels; Sweat, Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage’s tale of 20th-century industrial decline; and an adaptation of Sarah Waters’s Victorian thriller Fingersmith by Friends and This American Life vet Alexa Junge.

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