By Sam Wheeler
for the Mail Tribune
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will hire its first-ever resident playwright next season thanks to a $303,000 grant it recently landed from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The grant will support a three-year partnership between OSF and writer Luis Alfaro, who will collaborate with the company to create three similarly themed plays depicting the experiences of Latino immigrants in the United States, according to a news release from OSF.
“It feels like I’m going back to work with family,” said Alfaro, 50, of Los Angeles. “One of my goals is to bring theater people and nontheater people together. To start a conversation with people who might not necessarily be your regular audience.”
Before Bill Rauch became artistic director at OSF, he and Alfaro worked together frequently at Los Angeles-based Cornerstone Theater Company, which Rauch co-founded and where he served as artistic director until 2006, Alfaro said.
Alfaro also wrote “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner,” which OSF produced in 2008, and he served as the dramaturg for Tanya Saracho’s “The Tenth Muse,” which will open at OSF in July.
Alfaro, who learned of the news last week, plans to move to Ashland this summer, he said.
“I want to write this for this town (Ashland), for this time, to talk about something that is going on in this period, for us today,” Alfaro said. “Hopefully, that personal story about whatever we are going to write about has a larger public component. Hopefully, it has a more universal theme to it … think local and produce global.”
For the OSF three-play cycle, Alfaro said, he is working with the themes of spirituality and religion, politics and gender, and the significance of those aspects within a family structure.
“I’m hoping it’s as much about Latinos as it is about the generations of any family. … It’s kind of like three ways of looking at what it’s like to be American,” he said.
The residency grant enabling Alfaro’s partnership with OSF is one of 14 handed out to theaters across the nation by the Mellon Foundation. It will provide three years of salary, benefits and funding for research and development, according to OSF’s news release.
“Luis’ appointment as OSF’s first-ever resident playwright is a major event in the life of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” said Rauch, in the news release. “The idea has gathered momentum as the festival has increased its commissioning and production of new work in the 21st century. … His impact on our company, our audiences and our community will be immeasurable.”
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.