FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PLAY ON SHAKESPEARE IN ASSOCIATION WITH CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY AND OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL PRESENTS PLAY ON!, A FESTIVAL OF READINGS FROM OSF’S AMBITIOUS SHAKESPEARE TRANSLATION PROJECT, MAY 29–JUNE 30
Festival Marks the First Opportunity to Experience the Entirety of This Groundbreaking Project that Commissioned a Diverse Group of 36 Playwrights to Translate Shakespeare’s Works into Contemporary English
Participating Playwrights Include Christine Anderson, Ranjit Bolt, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Alison Carey, Kenneth Cavander, Christopher Chen, Migdalia Cruz, Amy Freed, Marcus Gardley, Virginia Grise, Lillian Groag, Dipika Guha, Naomi Iizuka, David Ivers, Hansol Jung, Shishir Kurup, Douglas Langworthy, Ellen McLaughlin, Brighde Mullins, Yvette Nolan, Lisa Peterson, Amelia Roper, Sean San Jose, Tim Slover, Octavio Solis, Lloyd Suh, Caridad Svich, Andrea Thorne, Elise Thoron, Mfoniso Udofia, Jeff Whitty, Josh Wilder, and Tracy Young
Play On Shakespeare in association with Classic Stage Company (CSC) and Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) presents the Play on! festival—featuring 39 readings of new, work-in-progress translations of Shakespeare’s plays into contemporary modern English by some of today’s most exciting playwrights—May 29-June 30 at the Lynn F. Angelson Theater at CSC (136 E. 13th Street). In 2015, Oregon Shakespeare Festival launched an ambitious 39-play, three-year commissioning project, Play on!, tasking 36 playwrights—more than half of whom were women and playwrights of color, each paired with a dramaturg—to translate Shakespeare’s canon in celebration of the enduring impact of the Bard’s work. Supported by a generous grant from the Hitz Foundation and inspired by long-time patron Dave Hitz’s passion for Shakespeare, the project was and continues to be led by Lue Morgan Douthit. For more information, visit playonfestival.org.
Play on! grew out of the belief that every age, while hewing close to Shakespeare’s original texts, simultaneously creates a parallel path of experimentation and exploration. Most theaters already make textual choices when they produce Shakespeare: reconciling quarto and folio manuscripts or trimming lengthy plays or rearranging tricky ones. Often, productions modernize Shakespeare’s plays by altering the time, place, and political context in which they exist—while maintaining their Elizabethan English text. Douthit, who has served as a production dramaturg for more than 40 productions in her 24 years at OSF, wondered what might be revealed if the opposite approach were taken—updating the language so often perceived as untouchable. At the time of the project’s announcement, Douthit posed the question: “What could we learn about these these plays if we looked at them at the language level through the lens of dramatists?” The Play on! festival offers audiences the first opportunity to experience collectively the dramatic, diverse results of this generous and open-ended query.
The Play on! translations are not adaptations. Play on! asked of its writers to take all the accepted given circumstances—character, story, action, etc.—and examine Shakespeare’s language line by line, applying the same kind of rigor and pressure that the playwright himself did to his language. The original plays differ enough linguistically from one another that there was no option for codified rules, but every playwright was asked to keep in mind the meter, rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, rhetoric, and theme of the original. Pop-culture references and contemporary slang were discouraged, as was cutting or “fixing” the politics of the plays. In keeping with the open source spirit of the project, the ultimate translations do not belong to OSF, but rather to the playwrights who can, in future productions, call for specific contextual approaches they may want applied. Over the course of its trajectory to date, Play on! has also mirrored Shakespeare’s process of working directly with actors across the creation of a new work, leading to a deeper understanding of how these scripts function structurally and emotionally.
Play on! Director Lue Morgan Douthit says, “I can say, by being in the room over the past several years, how humble, sincere, and full of integrity the playwrights, dramaturgs, and actors have been regarding this project. No one felt they’re going to out-Shakespeare Shakespeare; that wasn’t the project. Instead, the project asked what would happen if we weed and weave the language a little bit? If anything, pound for pound, I think we have even more respect for Shakespeare than we had when we entered this.”
John Doyle, Artistic Director of Classic Stage Company, says, “The crux of the mission at CSC is to reimagine classic stories for contemporary audiences. Naturally, this project fits into that mold seamlessly, allowing audiences to experience the works of Shakespeare in a more modern form than they may traditionally expect—and who better to take on this project than 36 of the most daring playwrights penning new works today.”
Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, says, “I am honored for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to be in partnership with Classic Stage Company and the visionary leader John Doyle to share the full breadth of the Play on! series with New York audiences. There are so many potential useful applications for these dynamic companion translations, but hearing the words aloud in the mouths of gifted actors is the most thrilling of all. Launching Play on!, giving this extraordinary group of writers the excuse to have a deep dive with a play by William Shakespeare, is one of the proudest achievements of my dozen years in Ashland.”
Tickets for the readings featured in the Play on! festival are $26 and can be purchased at classicstage.org. Please see below for a complete schedule.
About Lue Morgan Douthit (Executive director, Play On Shakespeare)
During her 25 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Douthit oversaw a full service literary department as Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy. Play on! began in 2012 as a pilot program under her direction and recently became its own non-profit in 2019. She was the Production Dramaturg for more than 50 productions, including 15 world premieres including: Hannah and the Dread Gazebo; Head Over Heels; Family Album; The Unfortunates; Throne of Blood; and Equivocation. She has also worked on over two dozen Shakespeare productions. She is the co-adapter of a six-actor Macbeth and seven-actor Measure for Measure, which were both produced at OSF and elsewhere. She was the co-producer of the Black Swan Lab in 2009, going on to produce the lab from 2010 to 2016. Douthit is the recipient of the 1999 Literary Manager & Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) Prize in Dramaturgy: The Elliott Hayes Award. She received a PhD at the University of Washington, an MFA from Trinity University, and an MA from University of Arizona.
About Play On Shakespeare
In the fall of 2015, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced a new commissioning program called Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare. The project was simple yet enthusiastically ambitious in its original conception: to commission 36 playwrights (with one lucky playwright taking on all three Henry VIs) to “translate” 39 plays attributed to Shakespeare (including Two Noble Kinsman and Edward III) over the course of three years (last drafts were submitted December 31, 2018), with a commitment that the commissioned group comprised at least 51 percent women and writers of color. In its three-year tenure at OSF, Play on! worked with nearly 1,000 actors, directors, stage managers and producers on nearly 80 readings, workshops, productions and demonstrations in 19 different cities, collaborating with 24 different theatres and academic institutions around the world.
At the end of Play on!’s three-year tenure at OSF, energized by its overwhelming scope and success, the project’s producing team secured funding to form their own, new not-for-profit company. On January 1, 2019, they established Play On Shakespeare, whose mission is to enhance the understanding of Shakespeare’s plays in performance for theatre professionals, students and audiences by engaging with contemporary translations and adaptations. The Play on! Festival is the first of many undertakings planned by the company.
About Classic Stage Company
Classic Stage Company (CSC) is committed to reimagining classic stories for contemporary audiences. It is a home for New York’s finest established and emerging artists to grapple with great works of the world’s repertory that speak directly to the issues of today.
In 1967, director Christopher Martin founded CSC Repertory in a 100-seat theater at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on West 73rd Street. Following short stints in small spaces, CSC grew to the point where it needed a permanent home. In 1973, the theater moved to its present premises on 13th Street, an intimate space that was formerly an East Village carriage house.
In the 50 years since, CSC has become a leading Off-Broadway theater that is a home for new and established artists, as well as audiences seeking epic stories intimately told. Productions have been cited by all major Off-Broadway theater awards including the Obie, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Body of Work.
About Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has grown from a three-day festival of two plays to a nationally renowned theatre arts organization that presents an eight-month season of up to 11 plays that include works by Shakespeare as well as a mix of classics, musicals, and world-premiere plays and musicals. OSF’s play commissioning programs, which include American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, have generated works that have been produced on Broadway, internationally, and at regional, community and high school theatres across the country. The Festival draws attendance upwards of 400,000 to more than 800 performances every year and employs 400 to 600 theatre professionals.
OSF invites and welcomes everyone, and believes the inclusion of diverse people, ideas, cultures and traditions enriches both our insights into the work we present on stage and our relationships with each other. OSF is committed to equity and diversity in all areas of our work and in our audiences.
About the Hitz Foundation
The Hitz Foundation has projects in science, the arts, and the environment. In addition to Play On Shakespeare, the foundation also supports several archaeological projects in northern Guatemala and funded the largest LiDAR project ever undertaken for archaeological research to support these projects (discovering 60,000 new Mayan structures.) The foundation funds Global Digital Heritage which captures state-of-the-art 3D models of museum collections and heritage sites and shares them with the world at no cost. The foundation also supports several environmental projects including the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which protects the ecosystems and biodiversity of East Africa through conservation efforts that directly benefit wildlife, wilderness and the local Maasai communities.