ASHLAND, Ore. — “All the world’s a stage” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The plays produced on OSF’s stages are captivating audiences across the country, and while the demand is increasing, it really comes as no surprise to the cast and crews who call OSF home.
“Really exciting time for the work that we’re doing. Outside of Manhattan we have the highest density of high qualified performers in any one area,” said Heath Belden, the “Into the Woods” Stage Manager. “This is a hotbed of creativity. Especially under Bill Rouch it’s driving a lot of the theatrical conversation across the country right now.”
7 years ago, Artistic Director Bill Rauch established a project called “American Revolutions”. The goal was to commission 37 plays on great moments in American history. More than half way through, the most notable play “All The Way,” went all the way to a little place know as Broadway.
“From here it was picked up by the resident theatre at Harvard University and then from Cambridge it went down to New York where it was the big hit on Broadway last year. Which was very exciting and a little bit fun,” explained Julie Felise Dubiner, the Associate Director of American Revolutions.
It’s the first half of the story behind Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. Part two of LBJ’s story, “The Great Society”, wraps this weekend, and hits the road.
“Both parts are headed up to Seattle in the next couple of weeks to run together,” said Dubiner.
“The cast and designers are meeting up in Seattle starting next week to put that production into that theatre,” said Associate Artistic Director, Christopher Acebo.
It’s a fast turnaround, and requires a single set to cover all the needs of two plays.
“The logistics of that and getting all of that up to Seattle is pretty complicated,” explained Acebo.
American Revolutions productions are not the only plays moving on. OSF’s “Into the Woods” is heading out of the woods and down to Los Angeles. With more than 300 costume pieces, the move is a big undertaking. One piece was so huge, OSF staff had to build a specialty box to ship it.
The fairy tale musical is not an OSF original, but the company’s adaptation quickly drew attention, specifically of the interim artistic director of a theatre in L.A.
“She was in the audience this year and told her theatre that this is the show that should fill their empty slot in their season,” Belden explained.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is opening the curtain on high demand creations for several reasons.
“[The leadership] has made this a really viable place for art to happen and then for art to go outside of this valley,” said Acebo.
“The craft here is off the charts good,” said Belden.
“We are kind of out in the middle of nowhere and so if you are making the commitment to come here we have a responsibility to really produce plays that are really worthy of that effort,” said Acebo.
Before the curtain falls on the 2014 season, OSF finds itself beyond Ashland.
“That is a wonderful situation to be in in American theatre,” said Belden.
This coming Wednesday, a truck arrives to move all of the “Into The Woods” costumes, set pieces and props down to L.A. – that show opens for previews in mid-November. The final performance for “The Great Society” is Saturday night, and the move to Seattle will be so fast, the costume and stage crew will be pulling an all-nighter to get everything packed and ready for shipping.