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The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - BY BRANDY MCDON­NELL Fea­tures Writer bm­c­don­[email protected]­la­homan.com

Ok­la­homa Shake­speare in the Park is go­ing back to its be­gin­nings even as it marks its 35th an­niver­sary by sail­ing into new wa­ters.

“‘Twelfth Night,’ if I had to pick a fa­vorite, it would be right up there, and it was the first show we ever did in 1985,” said Kathryn McGill, the com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tive and artis­tic di­rec­tor and co-founder. “So, we thought we would launch this whole new change in pro­gram­ming with the play we be­gan with.”

In­stead of its usual four­show sum­mer sea­son, the theater is launch­ing in 2019 a year-round slate of five shows, start­ing with Wil­liam Shake­speare’s tale of a ship­wreck, a love tri­an­gle and a beloved hero­ine in dis­guise Feb. 7-March 2 in its in­ti­mate Paseo Arts Dis­trict space.

“This year is our 35th an­niver­sary, so we thought, ‘We’ll just go back to our roots. We’ll go back to Shake­speare.’ And then the one con­tem­po­rary play we’re do­ing is kind of a love let­ter to Shake­speare,” McGill said.

In­door-out­door sea­son

Al­though the com­pany has adopted year-round line­ups in the past, McGill said, it’s never opened a sea­son so early in the year.

“When you push all the shows in a three- or four-month pe­riod, it’s stress­ful,” she said. “We’ll al­ways be out­doors … butwe have a lot more con­trol when we’re in­doors.”

The com­pany will head out­side June 6-29 for The Bard’s far­ci­cal “The Com­edy of Er­rors,” to be per­formed on the Myr­iad Gar­dens’ Wa­ter Stage. But then it will move back in­side its Paseo space Aug.

8-31 for Lau­ren Gun­der­son’s “The Book of Will.”

Gun­der­son won the 2018 Stein­berg/Amer­i­can Theatre Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion New Play Award with her tale cen­tered on Shake­speare’s First Fo­lio, the first printed col­lec­tion of his plays.

“It sounds very dry in the telling of it, the idea of Shake­speare’s con­tem­po­raries after his death get to­gether and put to­gether the First Fo­lio,” McGill said. “But it’s a won­der­fully heart­warm­ing, touch­ing play.”

Ok­la­homa Shake­speare in the Park Manag­ing Di­rec­tor Tyler Woods will di­rect the last two se­lec­tions of 2019 in its Paseo space: “The Tem­pest,” The Bard’s mag­i­cal ship­wreck drama, Oct. 3-26, and “Jane Austen’s Christ­mas Cracker,” writ­ten by his wife, Erin Woods, Dec. 5-21.

“The Tem­pest” will star W. Jerome Steven­son, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Guthrie’s Pol­lard Theatre, as the sor­cerer Pros­pero. It is set on an is­land also in­hab­ited by the magic man’s daugh­ter Mi­randa, the sprite Ariel and a ma­rooned party of aris­to­crats.

The in­ter­ac­tive “Christ­mas Cracker” will re-cre­ate a Re­gen­cy­era ball where au­di­ences will get to dance. Adapted by Erin Woods from Austen’s novels and let­ters, it was a sea­sonal tra­di­tion for OKC’s Re­dux­ion Theatre, the clas­si­cal com­pany she and her hus­band op­er­ated from 2007 to 2016.

“I cre­ated it from equal parts love of Austen’s sto­ries, and a love of his­toric Christ­mas tra­di­tions, with a dash of long­ing to live and in­ter­act with her beloved char­ac­ters. It is per­fect for any fam­ily look­ing for a unique and joy­ful hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence,” Erin Woods told The Ok­la­homan.

Prepa­ra­tion for the Plunge

Al­though the non­profit theater has made its home for the past three years in a for­mer art gallery, McGill said its longterm goal re­mains mov­ing down the street into the 30,000-square-foot Paseo Plunge.

The ground floor of the for­mer swim­ming hole and Ital­ian restau­rant has been ren­o­vated and now houses Ho­ley Rollers dough­nut shop and Literati Press book­shop, but the Shake­spearean play­ers hope to put on shows on the now va­cant third floor of the Plunge, per­haps as early as 2020.

The com­pany re­cently re­ceived a $50,000 grant from the Kirkpatrick Fam­ily Fund to as­sist in the de­vel­op­ment of a strate­gic plan for the Plunge, as well as op­er­at­ing ex­penses for the sea­son. The grant sup­ports a con­sul­tant from Chicago to work with the theater to cre­ate a plan over a six-month pe­riod.

After three and a half decades, two fires and two floods, McGill said she is de­lighted that the com­pany is still go­ing, much less look­ing at cre­at­ing a new per­ma­nent home.

“It’s kind of shock­ing and sur­pris­ing and thrilling all at the same time,” she said with a laugh.

[PHOTO PRO­VIDED]

Ok­la­homa Shake­speare in the Park will re­turn to the Myr­iad Gar­dens’ Wa­ter Stage in 2019 for a June pro­duc­tion of Wil­liam Shake­speare’s far­ci­cal “The Com­edy of Er­rors.”

[LOGO PRO­VIDED]

In­stead of its usual four-show sum­mer sea­son, the ven­er­a­ble theater is launch­ing in 2019 a year-round slate of five shows.

[OK­LA­HOMAN AR­CHIVES PHOTO]

W. Jerome Steven­son and So­phie Moshof­sky ap­pear in a pro­mo­tional photo for Ok­la­homa Shake­speare in the Park’s 2012 pro­duc­tion of “Othello.” Steven­son, the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Guthrie’s Pol­lard Theatre, will re­unite with Ok­la­homa Shake­speare in the Park in 2019 to play Pros­pero in “The Tem­pest.”

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