Play On Shakespeare, the not-for-profit organization dedicated to exploring the world of Shakespeare in performance through translation and adaptation, today announces a multi-year residency with The Magic Theatre. The partnership focuses on the development of new plays – filling the world with bodies and beings not typically acknowledged in Shakespearean theater history. This is to say, productions populated with Women, People of Color, Queer and Trans folx not as directorial concepts but as citizens and denizens of the plays, and creators and performers in our contemporary theater world. The partnership also focuses on what happens when artists who have skill and experience in developing new work apply that focus to these translations – embodying them without changing their stories.

It all begins with a week-long, beta workshop (to model the future) on December 18, 7 p.m. at the Magic Theatre with heralded writer Naomi Iizuka presenting portions of her version of Richard II, alongside sharings of two brand new plays from Iizuka. This model of these new Shakespeare translations directly alongside new works by the same author – with the same casts – is the template for the partnership in sharing, exploring, and presenting new works and Shakespeare anew at the same time! This initial workshop will showcase how writers lead in both new play creation and new translations of original Shakespeare texts. In addition to the writer being at the center of both a new play and also a new production of a Shakespeare translation, the goal is to develop a performance company that will eventually perform in both plays as a Premiere Repertory Production. The Magic Theatre’s Lead Director Sean San José, Iizuka, and new Magic Theatre Home Resident Company Campo Santo previously collaborated with California Shakespeare Theater to premiere a modern version of Hamlet, led by Iizuka and San José titled Blood In The Brain.  

A second piece will come to fruition in April 2023. The Blueprint (an educational organization dedicated to training a new generation of BIPOC multi-hyphenate artists led by Nemuna Ceesay, associate director of A Strange Loop) & the Magic Theatre will work together with all-BIPOC artists alongside Migdalia Cruz on one of her two Play On Shakespeare translations and a new play of hers. This multi-year collaboration will culminate with a third piece to premiere in 2024 with Virginia (Vicki) Grise (recent winner of the prestigious Herb Alpert Award) featuring a production of her All’s Well That Ends Well in repertory with a brand new play of her own. Both pieces will be performed by the same company of WOC – all women, non-binary, femme presenting, and trans folx. This element is key to the ethos of the partnership, process, and production – to have these classic plays translated in language but also by who embodies them. By producing, presenting, commissioning, and creating Repertory Productions of the Play On translations alongside in repertory with a brand new play by the same writer and with the same company of actors, a new way of experiencing the Shakespeare library can be etched out and at the same time living in a new play atmosphere.

In addition to the Magic Theatre’s extensive relationship with Play On Shakespeare’s President and Creative Director Lue Douthit, Sean San José is one of the writers of the Play On translations. San José’s version of Coriolanus has been produced, workshopped, and published, including a recent workshop at Portland Center Stage, an upcoming production in 2023 at Actor’s Shakespeare Theatre, an audio podcast production for Next Chapter Productions, and productions at University of North Carolina School of the Arts and a workshop at the University of San Diego at Old Globe.

Play On Shakespeare President and Creative Director Lue Douthit is influential in the Shakespeare and new play development universes. She previously served as the Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy for Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland for 25 seasons and also as Lead Dramaturg and Producer of The Black Swan Lab for New Play Development for 9 seasons. Lue has a long connection with new play development with the Magic Theatre, having helped develop and dramaturg many new plays through the decades.

The Black Swan Lab was a fertile and intensive laboratory for developing new plays with the same company of actors who were performing the Shakespeare plays at OSF. In the Black Swan Lab, the keys to immersing in language and story were felt in both the Shakespeare and the new plays. Having the two elements coexist made clearer the connectivity as opposed to thinking of them as two separate worlds. Similarly, Campo Santo, the first Home Resident Company of the Magic Theatre, has for more than 25 years developed a method creating new works in their “Open Process” model, which emphasizes a new play development process that creates a ‘two trains running’ where the themes and questions of the play are explored with folx in society that the issues actually affect, and at the same time informing a new play making process and premiere production. These are the foundational components in developing this residency and these workshops and eventual repertory premiere productions.

Chief in their mission to make the Magic Theatre home to more people by rightfully centering People of Color throughout, they now host more organizations of Color than anywhere in the Bay Area. Adding to their stellar roster of Resident Companies – which includes the first Home Resident Company Campo Santo, the legendary Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, the experimental Black Artists Creative Cultural Experience, Ellen Sebastian Chang / Sunhui Chang, Native American led TigerBear Productions, SF Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin, Playwright-In-Residence Star Finch, Resident Curator Juan Amador (in addition to our numerous individual Resident Artists) – and the newly announced historic Saint John Coltrane Church – The Magic Theatre is thrilled to announce this multi-year Residency with Play On Shakespeare, a residency that will be groundbreaking in its approach to developing and presenting Shakespeare and new works together.

Sean San José, The Magic Theatre’s Lead Director: “This new Residency will uniquely place Shakespeare and new play development in concert together. The new repertory model is the future of coupling new plays with new Shakespeare productions filled with representative artists of the Bay Area.”

Lue Douthit, President and Creative Director of Play On Shakespeare: “All plays are new plays to me. And should feel that way to the artists who embody them and the audiences who experience them. Hard to do with Shakespeare often. The central question we are examining here is how can the skills and experience of artists dedicated to the development of new plays apply to how we think about and work on Shakespeare? And conversely, what can the old teach the new?”

ABOUT THE MAGIC THEATRE

The Magic Theatre has now entered a new Golden Age with the appointment of Sean San José as the new Artistic Director in June, 2021. San José is the first Person of Color to fully lead the organization in its 50+ year history. With this new leadership, Magic is dedicated to making itself a home to more people by rightfully centering People of Color throughout the organization. Magic, while continuing to premiere bold and new plays as it has done for 54 years, has expanded its vision and programming with these new Programs: new Residency Program – which includes Home Resident Company Campo Santo and the historic Lorraine Hansberry Theatre (Artistic Director Margo Hall), along with Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience (Co-Artistic Directors Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe and Rotimi Agbabiaka), Ellen Sebastian Chang / Sunhui Chang and the newly announced Saint John Coltrane Church; new Performances Program, telling theatrical stories in dance, poetry, and music led by San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin; and Resident Artists, which is highlighted by Playwright In Residence Star Finch and Resident Curator Juan Amador, and artists Russell Champa, Tanya Orellana, Joan Osato, Christopher Sauceda, and Brittany White.

The Magic Theatre: Official site / Facebook / Instagram

ABOUT PLAY ON SHAKESPEARE:

Play On Shakespeare is a non-profit company promoting and creating contemporary modern translations of Shakespeare’s plays. Since its inception in 2015, Play On has commissioned dozens of contemporary playwrights and translators to translate 39 Shakespeare plays into modern English, with a majority of the commissions being helmed by BIPOC and womxn playwrights. Far from a paraphrasing exercise, each playwright was tasked with matching Shakespeare’s linguistic rigor as they approached the text, preserving rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, meter, imagery, symbolism, rhetoric, and the structure that make Shakespeare’s plays engaging and accessible to today’s audience. Play On partners with artists and organizations across the globe to deliver and advocate for these translations through different channels, including theatrical productions, podcasts, publications, and film. For more information, visit playonshakespeare.org. Play On Shakespeare is made possible through generous support of the Hitz Foundation.

Play On Shakespeare: Official site / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook 

ABOUT PLAY ON SHAKESPEARE’S SPONSOR, THE HITZ FOUNDATION:

The Hitz Foundation has projects in science, the arts, and the environment throughout the world. In addition to Play On Shakespeare and Play On Podcasts, the foundation also supports several archaeological projects in northern Guatemala and funded the largest LiDAR mapping ever undertaken for archaeological research to support these projects (discovering 60,000 new Mayan structures). The foundation funds Global Digital Heritage which captures state-of-the-art 3D models of museum collections and heritage sites and shares them with the world at no cost. The foundation also supports several environmental projects including the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which protects the ecosystems and biodiversity of East Africa through conservation efforts that directly benefit wildlife, wilderness and the local Maasai communities.

ABOUT NAOMI IIZUKA: 

Naomi lizuka’s plays include 36 VIEWS, POLAROID STORIES, ANON(YMOUS), LANGUAGE OF ANGELS, ALOHA, SAY THE PRETTY GIRLS, TATTOO GIRL, SKIN, AT THE VANISHING POINT, CONCERNING STRANGE DEVICES FROM THE DISTANT WEST, and SLEEP (adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami and in collaboration with RipeTime). Her plays have been produced at theaters across the country including BAM’s Next Wave Festival, Berkeley Rep, the Goodman, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, the Guthrie, Cornerstone, Children’s Theater Company, the Public Theater, and Campo Santo + Intersection for the Arts. lizuka is an alumna of New Dramatists and the recipient of a PEN/Laura Pels Award, an Alpert Award, a Joyce Foundation Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Stavis Award from the National Theatre Conference, a PEN Center USA West Award for Drama, a Hodder Fellowship, and was Berlind Playwright-in-Residence at Princeton University. In television, Iizuka has written for THE TERROR: INFAMY (AMC), TOKYO VICE (HBO Max), BOSCH: LEGACY (Amazon), and THE SYMPATHIZER (HBO) which is in pre-production. She currently heads the MFA Playwriting program at the University of California, San Diego.

ABOUT THE BLUEPRINT:

The Blueprint is a network of professional, working artists who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color, dedicated to providing comprehensive, holistic training to emerging artists from their communities. They examine and create work centering BIPOC stories, skills, and the richness of BIPOC heritage. Their curriculum is created according to the students’ needs as opposed to the students conforming to curriculum. They cultivate a space where BIPOC artists can feel safe, nurtured, challenged, and free to explore all of their multidimensional identities.

ABOUT MIGDALIA CRUZ:

MIGDALIA CRUZ is a Bronx-born, award-winning, multi-platform, playwright, lyricist, translator, and librettist of more than 60 works for stage, radio, film, TV, and podcast, performed in 150 venues in 40 cities in 12 countries. Her plays include: MIRIAM’S FLOWERS, FUR, SALT, FRIDA & EL GRITO DEL BRONX. An alumna of New Dramatists, her awards include: NEA, McKnight, NYSCA, TCG/Pew, and she was named the 2013 Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwright. María Irene Fornés nurtured her at INTAR and Latino Chicago gave her a home as their playwright-in residence. She is a master teacher of playwriting with the Fornés Institute and various universities and colleges, and was also a Berlind-Playwright-in-Residence at Princeton. She is co-chair of the DGF Playwriting Fellows 2020-21; mentors the NYC Latinx Playwrights Circle; and was recently commissioned by Clubbed Thumb, The Flea, INTAR, and Kitchen Dog (Dallas).

2021-22 productions: Dinner With Dee @ Kitchen Dog (Dallas), June 2022; a Play On Shakespeare translation of Macbeth (Sunderland, England) @ Theatre Space North East, Aug 2021, and in 2022 @ USD / Old Globe (San Diego), and is now a podcast @ Next Chapter Podcasts; YORICK’S LAST LAUGH @ Shakespeare Dallas, 2021. Her translations of Macbeth & Richard III were published by ACMRS Press. Migdalia was featured in “Fifty Key Figures in LatinX and Latin American Theatre,” published by Routledge, February 2022.

ABOUT VIRGINIA GRISE:

Virginia (Vicki) Grise is a recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts, Yale Drama Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, Princess Grace Award in Theatre Directing, and the Playwrights’ Center’s Jerome Fellowship. Her published work includes Your Healing is Killing Me (Plays Inverse Press), blu (Yale University Press), The Panza Monologues co-written with Irma Mayorga (University of Texas Press), and an edited volume of Zapatista communiqués titled Conversations with Don Durito (Autonomedia Press). She is a founding member of a todo dar productions, an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the Women’s Project Theatre Lab & the NALAC Leadership Institute. In addition to plays, she has created a body of work that is interdisciplinary and includes multimedia performance, dance theater, performance installations, guerilla theater, site specific interventions, and community gatherings. Virginia has taught writing for performance at the university level, as a public school teacher, in community centers, women’s prisons, and in the juvenile correction system. She holds an MFA in Writing for Performance from the California Institute of the Arts and is the Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Cara Mia Theatre and a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. 

For more information, tickets, and registration on the events, please go to MagicTheatre.org or call 415.441.8822, boxoffice@magictheatre.org.