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