Since Play on! was announced in the fall of 2015 we have so far worked with more than 600 actors, directors, stage managers and producers on 45 readings, workshops, productions and demonstrations in 19 different cities collaborating with 24 different theaters and academic institutions all over the world. And this is only a small fraction of the work we have to complete! If you’d like to receive updates about Play on! direct to your email, please use the sign up tool to be added to our mailing list. Thanks for visiting, and Play on!
What are the logistics?
39 plays attributed to Shakespeare. (including Two Noble Kinsman and Edward III).
36 playwrights. (one lucky playwright is taking on all three Henry VI’s). We are also committing that the commissioned group of writers is at least 51% women and at least 51% writers of color.
3 years (the last draft will be submitted by December 31, 2018).
Each writer will be paired with a dramaturg, so they have the opportunity for extensive dialogue about their choices and about the text’s meaning.
Each play will have a reading and a workshop with a director and actors to provide further insight into the work before the final draft is submitted. OSF will produce readings and workshops of these translations all over the country.
Are we looking to replace Shakespeare’s original plays?
Absolutely not. We view these translated texts as complementary, as companion pieces for Shakespeare’s original texts, not as replacements. Even when the translations get performed on their own, we expect and hope that they will inspire audience members to return to Shakespeare’s original texts, ideally with much greater understanding and enjoyment.
Are we reducing Shakespeare?
We are actually aiming to do the opposite: to celebrate Shakespeare’s masterworks by learning as much as we can about them and allowing our audiences to understand more of the language while watching the play.
Just for clarity, these translations won’t simplify the originals. We are also not asking writers to “fix” the plays, or add their politics. Play On asks 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 he did to his language. The original plays differ enough linguistically from one another that there is no option for cookie-cutter rules; but every playwright will have to keep in mind the meter, rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, rhetoric, and theme of the original.
It is also worth noting that most theaters already make textual choices when they produce Shakespeare; for instance, productions often reconcile quarto and folio manuscripts, trim lengthy plays or rearrange tricky ones, and replace words that have become antiquated past comprehension. In fact, we believe that every age, while hewing close to Shakespeare’s original texts on one path, creates a parallel path of experimentation, exploration, and changing the language. Intrigued by this latter avenue, we want to support the great playwrights of our generation in transforming Shakespeare’s texts through their artistry into the language of our time.
Are we saying “To Be or Not To Be” is not good enough as written?
The writers are empowered to leave any text alone if they want to, and we expect they often will. The goal is not to reinvent the plays, or make changes for their own sake. It will be interesting to see what each playwright does with Shakespeare’s best-known passages; we will engage in deep dialogue with them about all their choices, while of course leaving the final artistic decisions to them.
Does this mean we’ll suddenly be hearing references to Facebook and characters using contemporary slang in these classic works?
Absolutely not. The Play On translations will not be adaptations. Everything to do with setting, time period, references etc. will remain unchanged. As such, pop-culture references and contemporary slang will not be appropriate, and the politics of the original plays will not be cut or “fixed” in any way.
We have asked the writers to limit their efforts to updating the more antiquated language in the plays. Shakespeare’s works are all written in modern English; it’s just that in the last 400 years, many of the words, phrases and references have fallen out of use. So our focus is squarely on translating this antiquated language to increase understanding, while maintaining the vibrancy of the original.
Will these plays be part of the “Canon in a Decade” at OSF?
We are excited to be producing all of Shakespeare’s plays between 2016 and 2026, and all these productions will use the original texts. That said, it will be interesting if one or more of the Play On translations are produced at OSF while we also do the complete original canon.
Is there other impact for OSF?
We hope to gain a great deal from this endeavor, both as a source of new artistic work and an opportunity to join a national conversation about language, the classical canon, the artistic process, and diversity & inclusion. The project is fully funded with the generous support of the Hitz Foundation; it will not affect the festival’s bottom line, nor replace other artistic efforts. We expect to continue doing 3-5 of Shakespeare’s original texts every season at OSF, as we have done for decades.
How does this project advance outreach?
It is our hope that Play On will reach Shakespeare aficionados, providing them another way into beloved texts and new appreciation of this master writer. We also hope to help make Shakespeare more accessible and inclusive, especially to audiences who have little to no experience with early modern English. There are many strands to OSF’s outreach efforts; but we do feel excited about the opportunity to provide a new avenue for a wide variety of audience members to engage with these profound stories.
Lue Morgan Douthit
Director of Play on!
Lue Morgan Douthit is the Director of Play on! at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is the Dramaturg for this season’s production of Hanah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park. During her twenty-one seasons at OSF, Lue has been the Production Dramaturg for more than forty productions, including fourteen world premieres: Head Over Heels; A Wrinkle in Time; Family Album; The Unfortunates; The Tenth Muse; WillFul; Throne of Blood; Equivocation; Don Quixote; Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter;Tracy’s Tiger; By the Waters of Babylon; Continental Divide; and The Magic Fire. She has also worked on over a dozen Shakespeare productions. She is the co-adapter of the 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 (2009) and then soon after produced Black Swan Lab (2010-2016). Lue is the recipient of the 1999 Literary Manager & Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) Prize in Dramaturgy and The Elliott Hayes Award. She received her PhD at the University of Washington, her MFA from Trinity University, and her MA from University of Arizona.
Associate Producer of Play on!
Taylor Bailey spent four years in Chicago where he worked on twelve productions with The Neo-Futurists. He served as Operations Manager and Education Coordinator for The Neo-Futurists, as well as the program developer and coordinator for Neo-Access, a multi-winged strategy for diversity and inclusion as well as accessibility for the differently abled. As a freelance director, performer, storyteller, dramaturg and producer worked with: First Floor Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, American Theatre Company, The Agency Collective, Timeline Theatre, About Face Productions, Collaboration Theatre Company and others. In Dallas, worked with WaterTower Theatre and served as the Associate Artistic Director of Sideman Productions for two years. Additional experience as a teaching artist, IT coordinator and project manager.
Publications: Contributor, New York Times Bestseller It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming
Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living with Dan Savage and Terry Miller.
Education: BFA, University of Evansville
Assistant Project Manager for Play on!
Summer Martin has spent over a decade in domestic and international grant management for non-profits focused on the arts and education. Summer’s continued commitment to community outreach and education has carried her into work with OSF’s Play on! project and Company Management.
Education: BA, Mount Holyoke College; MSc, Maryland University of Integrative Health
Play on! is supported by a generous grant from the Hitz Foundation.