ASHLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Thursday that live performances will return earlier than originally anticipated this year, with the premiere of new show at the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre and a string of weekly concerts.
After coronavirus shuttered OSF for the 2020 season, the theatre company in February outlined a cautious approach to the 2021 season — planning for in-person shows to run from fall into winter, coupled with online recordings of both new and classic shows.
However, Thursday's announcement indicates that the plan has changed somewhat in the intervening months. A new live show, Cheryl L. West’s Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, will premiere July 1 on the outdoor Elizabethan stage.
According to OSF, Fannie is the story of Mississippi-born civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, "painting a song-filled, electrifying portrait of courage, humor, and grit." E. Faye Butler will portray Fannie from July 1 to August 28, with OSF's own Greta Oglesby taking over the role from September 1 to October 9.
“Fannie is a perfect show with which to reconvene in person at OSF after a year of theatre shutdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic, and urgent social uprisings. This music-filled play about a towering figure in the fight for civil rights is an inspiring call to action to continue Hamer’s work,” said OSF artistic director Nataki Garrett.
Tickets for Fannie go on sale June 15 for 2020 and 2021 OSF members and donors, and June 18 for the general public.
A few weeks later, OSF will begin hosting a series of weekly outdoor concerts (also at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre) on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. from July 21 through October 6. Tickets for these concerts go on sale at the same time as Fannie.
With a constellation of COVID-19 restrictions still in place and with venues facing continued uncertainty on what to expect from the state of Oregon, OSF said that it plans to require masks, incorporate distanced seating, and require either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. The organization said that these precautions are being required by its union partners.
“We couldn’t be more excited to open our beautiful Allen Elizabethan Theatre this summer," said OSF executive director David Schmitz. "Our theatres closed on March 12th of 2020, and we have all been yearning for live theatre since then. As the vaccine circumstances in our country, state, and county have improved, we feel now is the time to welcome our audiences back to OSF.”
In late November, OSF plans to move performances indoors for its first-ever holiday special, It’s Christmas, Carol! The show was written by OSF performers Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley, and John Tufts and directed by Geva Theatre Associate Artistic Director Pirronne Yousefzadeh. The show runs from November 23 to January 2, with tickets going on sale in the fall.