- by Jacob Coakley
in Theatre Buzz
Thanks to a $303,000 grant from the Performing Arts Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Luis Alfaro will become the first resident playwright at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Alfaro will collaborate with OSF to create a three-play cycle about the Latino immigrant experience in the United States. He will serve as dramaturg on at least one production over each of the three years, starting with Tanya Saracho’s world premiere, The Tenth Muse, opening in July 2013. He also will be an integral part of OSF’s leadership team and assist OSF in connecting with local Latino communities and strengthening outreach efforts in the Rogue Valley.
MELLON’S PERFORMING ARTS PROGRAM FUNDS OSF PLAYWRIGHT RESIDENCY
Project will support writer Luis Alfaro for three-year residency program
Ashland, Ore.—The Oregon Shakespeare Festival recently learned that it is among a select number of national theaters to receive playwright-in-residence grants developed for producing theaters by the Performing Arts Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The grant of $303,000 will support American playwright Luis Alfaro for a three-year residency. Alfaro is OSF’s first Resident Playwright, and he will be integrated into every aspect of OSF’s life. He will collaborate with OSF to create a three-play cycle about the Latino immigrant experience in the United States. He will serve as dramaturg on at least one production over each of the three years, starting with Tanya Saracho’s world premiere, The Tenth Muse, opening in July 2013. He also will be an integral part of OSF’s leadership team and assist OSF in connecting with local Latino communities and strengthening outreach efforts in the Rogue Valley.
Alfaro worked with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch at Cornerstone Theater, Rauch’s former artistic home, and Alfaro also wrote Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, which was produced at OSF in 2008.
“Luis’ appointment as OSF’s first-ever Resident Playwright is a major event in the life of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” said Rauch. “OSF’s founder Angus Bowmer, inspired by the example of William Shakespeare, first articulated the dream of a resident writer many decades ago. The idea has gathered momentum as the Festival has increased its commissioning and production of new work in the 21st century. Luis has a vital, poetic, adventurous and ambitious voice as a dramatist. He is also one of the most charismatic ambassadors for the art form of live theater of anyone I have ever met. His impact on our company, our audiences and our community will be immeasurable. I am especially grateful for the Mellon Foundation’s unflagging leadership in our field for this residency and many others that put writers at the center of theater companies—where they belong.”
Commenting on the residency, Alfaro said, “For years I have longed for the experience to work with a theater that can provide a space where I can dream, write and create, and one that has the resources that can take advantage of my own desires to connect community in ways that go beyond building audiences and are essential to how we make our work. When it happens with colleagues and friends, like Artistic Director Bill Rauch, who share in your vision of the theater, then there is alchemy in these moments. I am so grateful to the Mellon Foundation for the generosity and innovation in their thinking about these relationships and I am so proud to be one of the inaugural playwrights.
“Working in the theater can sometimes feel like the most ephemeral experience. One writes in an interior solitary of creativity, and then, if we are lucky, we get our work produced and off we go to the next adventure. But what if we playwrights could stick around and help define the life of the theaters we work in? This is immensely exciting because this is an old and a new idea at the same time. How exciting to be part of a company and imagine what a playwright’s creativity might bring to the mix. I am honored to be part of one of the most important theaters in the U.S. to help in such dreaming.”
OSF’s Commissions and New Work
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival continues to expand its ongoing commitment to the development and production of new work. Its major initiative American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle, launched in 2008, looks at moments of change in America's past, helping to establish a shared understanding of our national identity and illuminate the best paths for our nation's future. To date, OSF has commissioned 21 projects for American Revolutions.
In 2012, two American Revolutions plays were produced in one season: Party People by UNIVERSES and Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way. Both plays are among the five finalists nominated for the new Kennedy Theater Prize. Also staged in 2012 was Frank Galati’s The March, a co-commission with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, produced at Steppenwolf. Prior to 2012, OSF produced American Night by Culture Clash and Richard Montoya (2010) and Ghost Light, written by Tony Taccone, and conceived and developed by Taccone and Jonathan Moscone (2011). American Night has gone on to have a number of productions at national theaters, including Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Center Theatre Group and Denver Center Theatre Company. Ghost Light was also produced at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
In July 2013, Naomi Wallace’s The Liquid Plain, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, will open at OSF. This production is a co-commission with Baltimore’s CenterStage. Wallace was one of two recipients of the 2012 Horton Foote Prize, a biennial award named for legendary playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote. The Liquid Plain received the award for promising new American play.
The Edgerton Foundation is supporting the commissions of five new American musicals at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival over the next three years. Those commissioned include Tony award-winning artist Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Michael John LaChuisa, as well as Obie award-winning Michael Friedman. Mr. Friedman’s commission is shared between American Revolutions and the Edgerton Foundation grant.
Other new work produced at OSF in the last four years that has gone on to other regional theaters include Bill Cain’s Equivocation (2009), an adaptation of Throne of Blood by Ping Chong (2010), Tracy Young’s adaptations of The Imaginary Invalid (2011) and The Servant of Two Masters (2009), and a new adaptation by Mary Zimmerman of the Chinese fable, The White Snake (2012).
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2013 season opens Feb. 22-24 with The Taming of the Shrew, My Fair Lady, Two Trains Running and King Lear. In addition to Tanya Saracho’s The Tenth Muse and the American Revolutions commission, The Liquid Plain, OSF will stage a third world premiere, The Unfortunates, by 3 Blind Mice (Jon Beavers, Ian Merrigan, Ramiz Monsef) and Casey Hurt, with additional material by Kristoffer Diaz. Also on stage this season will be Tennessee Williams’ American classic A Streetcar Named Desire, and in the outdoor theater audiences have the opportunity to journey into the woods with Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the U.S. premiere of David Farr’s The Heart of Robin Hood.
Luis Alfaro biography
Luis is a critically acclaimed writer/performer who has been working in theater, performance art, poetry and journalism since 1982. A multi-disciplined artist, he also works as a director, educator, curator, producer and community organizer. A Chicano born and raised in downtown Los Angeles, Luis is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, popularly known as a “genius grant”, awarded to people who have demonstrated expertise and exceptional creativity in their respective fields. He is the only playwright to receive two Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play awards in the same year , and is the 2012 Joyce Foundation Award Fellow.
His plays and performances have been seen throughout the U.S. and Europe. This year they include his Medea adaptation, Bruja (Magic Theatre, San Francisco) which was named one the top ten productions of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and is nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award. His recent productions of Oedipus El Rey (Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago), (Magic Theatre, San Francisco) (Miracle Theatre, Portland) garnered the Bay Area Glickman Prize for production of the year, and the Huffington Post, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Reader and Chicago Tribune’s top productions of the year lists.
Luis was previously a resident artist at the Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group for 10 years where he served as Director of New Play Development and co-director of the Taper’s Latino Theatre Initiative from 1995-2003. He has taught throughout the country, including the majority of University of California and California State institutions. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Southern California (USC) in the MFA Dramatic Writing Program. Previously he taught at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal-Arts)
Playwright Residency, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The residency is one of 14 grants awarded to producing theaters by the Performing Arts Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Beginning this month, the residencies provide three years of salary, benefits, and a flexible research and development fund for American playwrights at selected theaters. The initiative has grown out of Mellon’s longstanding commitment, across disciplines, to provide institutional support to generative artists and to improve both developmental processes and prospects for the continued life of new works.
Mellon outlines the goals of the residencies as follows:
1. To advance the state of playwrights in the American theater by providing them with space, time, and resources;
2. To influence the working environment of theaters by embedding playwrights in them;
3. To help the field (including other funders) understand the value of embedding playwrights in theaters;
4. To work toward an ideal of having writers become salaried employees of all theaters.
For more info about Oregon Shakespeare Festival, please visit www.osfashland.org.