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) into contemporary, modern English 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.