To enhance the understanding of Shakespeare’s plays in performance for theatre professionals, students, teachers, and audiences by engaging with contemporary translations and adaptations.
“The typical Shakespeare production follows an odd convention: a contemporary setting with Elizabethan language. What if we flipped that? Contemporary language with an Elizabethan setting. What might we learn about the plays from putting them through that lens?”
Lue Douthit | Folger Shakespeare’s “Shakespeare and Beyond” Blog | March 2018
Play On Shakespeare History
In the fall of 2015, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced a new commissioning program called Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare. The project was simple yet enthusiastically ambitious in its original conception: to commission 36 playwrights (with one lucky playwright taking on all three Henry VIs) to translate 39 plays attributed to Shakespeare (including Two Noble Kinsmen and Edward III) into contemporary, modern English over the course of three years. The majority of the commissions would be awarded to women and BIPOC playwrights. In its three-year tenure at OSF, Play On! worked with nearly 1,000 actors, directors, stage managers and producers on nearly 80 readings, workshops, productions and demonstrations in 19 different cities, collaborating with 24 different theatres and academic institutions around the world.
At the end of Play On!’s three-year tenure at OSF, energized by its overwhelming scope and success, the project’s producing team secured funding to form their own, new not-for-profit company. On January 1, 2019, they established Play On Shakespeare and their first endeavor saw them producing the Play On Festival – a series of staged readings of all 39 commissioned translations in an action-packed 33 days. The festival engaged hundreds of artists and was produced in partnership with Classic Stage Company and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.