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Bard SummerScape 2015 Presents Entirely New Way to Experience Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

“Bard summer drama has been consistently of the highest order.” – New York Arts

Image Credit: Thomas Hart Benton, 1934
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY: The Bard SummerScape festival presents an entirely new way to experience Oklahoma!, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s quintessential celebration of the American frontier. Starring Damon Daunno, Amber Gray, and two-time Tony nominee Mary Testa, Bard’s production is directed by Daniel Fish – “a magical manipulator” (New York Times) – with new musical arrangements for a six-piece Americana band by Henry Hewes Award-winner Daniel Kluger, and new choreography by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award-winner John Heginbotham. This intimate, revelatory production brings audience and artists together in the round, sharing food and telling the story of a young nation forming its identity. Oklahoma! will be mounted in 25 performances between June 25 and July 19 in the LUMA Theater of the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center. SummerScape also presents Fernando Rubio’s Everything by my side, an alfresco performance-installation that takes place outdoors under the trees in Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley landscape (July 9–12).

Oklahoma!, directed by Daniel Fish

As in previous seasons, SummerScape follows the theme of the Bard Music Festival, which this year explores “Chávez and His World,” celebrating the life and works of Carlos Chávez. Close contemporaries of the Mexican composer, Richard Rodgers (1902–79) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960) shared his concern with the forging of a new relationship between popular music and national identity. Revolutionizing the authentically homegrown art form of musical theater, their first collaboration, Oklahoma! (1943), is set in the Territory of Oklahoma during the years before statehood, and investigates America’s cultural identity through her frontier roots. Like Lynn Riggs’s Green Grow the Lilacs, the play on which it was based, Oklahoma! combines the sunny romance of farm girl Laurey Williams and cowboy Curly McClain with the darker story of a community rising up against a reviled outsider, Jud Fry. These strands are bound together by Rodgers’s exuberant and complex score, which, besides the title song, includes such favorite numbers as “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “Many a New Day,” and “I Cain’t Say No.” Introducing an unprecedented depth of psychological realism to a form better known for light comic entertainment, when it premiered in 1943 Oklahoma! overturned the conventions of musical theater and went on to win Rodgers and Hammerstein the 1944 Pulitzer Prize.

About SummerScape’s original treatment of Oklahoma!, director Daniel Fish explains:

“For me, Oklahoma! is about the relationship between the individual and the community: what people gain and what they sacrifice when they decide to form a community, whether the union of a married couple, a state, or a nation. It explores the need for that community to create an outsider and the cost of doing so.”

Fish is exploring the timeless qualities of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration by re-setting it in a community hall that could well be from our own era. Rodgers’s gorgeous tunes are performed in new arrangements for a six-piece Americana band, featuring pedal steel, mandolin, and banjo. The experience is true to the spirit of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but theatrically entirely new. 

Fish’s work has been seen at theaters and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe, including BAM Next Wave Festival, Opera Philadelphia, American Repertory Theater, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The New York Times named his True Love treatment the “most inventive directorial effort of the year,” in 2002 and, as Culturebot put it, “He is one of our great auteur-directors; each work bears his signature, his unmistakable trace.” It was at SummerScape 2005 that Fish premiered his staging of Clifford Odets’s Rocket to the Moon, which subsequently impressed the New York Times as “heartfelt, freshly conceived, and rich in moments that illuminate the tenderness of Odets’s vision.”

For his upcoming production, Fish has assembled a stellar creative team. The original musical arrangements for the six-piece band are by Lucille Lortel and Barrymore Award-nominee Daniel Kluger, who will be joined by music director Nathan Koci (War Horse) and Drama Desk Award-winning sound designer Drew Levy. New choreography by John Heginbotham, founder of Dance Heginbotham, will complement Agnes de Mille’s original dances. Based on an original concept by John Conklin, scenic design is by Laura Jellinek, whose work on SummerScape’s hit production of The Imaginary Invalid prompted the Financial Times to state: “I have never seen a designer … use the Frank Gehry space more imaginatively.” Bard’s costumes are by Terese Wadden, whose credits include Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and BAM, with video projections by Bard College alum Joshua Thorson, and lighting by Scott Zielinski, winner of the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lighting Design.

Anchoring Bard’s first-rate cast is Mary Testa, as Laurey’s indomitable Aunt Eller. A Broadway regular also seen in TV shows like Nurse Jackie, Whoopi, and Sex and the City, Testa has been recognized with a Drama Desk Award, two Obies, and two Tony nominations. Damon Daunno, familiar from Fox TV’s The Following and Broadway’s Brief Encounter, stars as cowhand Curly, opposite the Laurey of Amber Gray, who impressed the New York Times with her “startling emotional veracity” in the title role of last year’s Obie Award-winning production of An Octoroon. Also vying for Laurey’s hand is hired hand loner Jud Fry, played by Patrick Vaill, whose New York credits include Broadway and Lincoln Center. Allison Strong, known for roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and at the Metropolitan Opera, portrays the irrepressible Ado Annie, with James Patrick Davis, who “delivers the kind of organic performance that leaves acting behind and is a metamorphosis” (Stage magazine), as her cowboy suitor Will. Benj Mirman, whose past credits include Mara Wilson’s Sheeple and Eric Schaeffer’s award-winning film Boy Meets Girl, completes their love triangle as Persian peddler Ali Hakim, with Mitch Tebo as Annie’s farmer father Andrew Carnes, and John Carlin – hailed as “one of NYC’s better-kept secrets” (Time Out New York) – as cowboy Cord Elam. 

Oklahoma! is presented through special arrangement with R & H Theatricals:

Performance-installation: Everything by my side

SummerScape 2015 also features an outdoor performance-installation created by contemporary Argentinean theater maker and visual artist Fernando Rubio. Everything by my side takes place in seven pristine white beds ranged under the trees in the beautiful landscape outside the Fisher Center, where audience members individually experience a quiet and dreamlike performance that evokes vivid childhood memories. A meditation on loneliness, intimacy, and the shifting boundaries between public and private, Rubio’s creation has already won praise in multiple cities around the world; when the event appeared in the Crossing the Line Festival in NYC last year, the New York Times depicted it as “seven little islands of intimacy,” and counseled: “If you can, give it a try.”

Full production details of Oklahoma! and Everything by my side are provided below.

* * * * *


SummerScape’s theatrical track record is a stellar one. Last season, when the festival presented the world premiere of Love in the Wars, an adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s romantic drama Penthesilea by the Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville, the Huffington Post declared itas strong a metaphor of the battle of the sexes as literary history has produced.” The New York Times admired Banville’s considered and quietly modern adaptation,” Time Out New York praised Bard’s “stark and stunning production,” and New York Arts concluded: “Bard summer drama has been consistently of the highest order.”

Theater at Bard SummerScape 2015

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Music by Richard Rodgers

Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Based on the play "Green Grow the Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs

Original Dances by Agnes de Mille


Artistic team:

Director: Daniel Fish

Music supervisor and arranger: Daniel Kluger

Music director: Nathan Koci

Choreographer: John Heginbotham

Scenic designer: Laura Jellinek

Costume designer: Terese Wadden

Lighting designer: Scott Zielinski

Sound designer: Drew Levy

Projections designer: Joshua Thorson

Production stage manager: Megan Schwarz Dickert

Assistant stage manager: Kelly Hardy



Curly: Damon Daunno

Jud Fry: Patrick Vaill

Ali Hakim: Benj Mirman

Will Parker: James Patrick Davis

Andrew Carnes: Mitch Tebo

Laurey: Amber Gray

Ado Annie Carnes: Allison Strong

Aunt Eller: Mary Testa

Cord Elam: John Carlin

Gertie Cummings: To be announced



Eleonore Oppenheim, bass

Joseph Brent, mandolin and guitar

Hilary Hawke, banjo

Brett Parnell, pedal steel and electric guitar

Blake Allen, violin and viola



Thurs, June 25, 7:30pm

Fri, June 26, 7:30pm

Sat, June 27, 7:30pm

Sun, June 28, 2pm*

Wed, July 1, 2pm

Thurs, July 2, 7:30pm

Fri, July 3, 7:30pm

Sat, July 4, 2pm

Sat, July 4, 7:30pm

Sun, July 5, 2pm

Sun, July 5, 7:30pm

Wed, July 8, 2pm

Thurs, July 9, 7:30pm

Fri, July 10, 7:30pm

Sat, July 11, 2pm

Sat, July 11, 7:30pm

Sun, July 12, 2pm*

Sun, July 12, 7:30pm

Wed, July 15, 2pm

Thurs, July 16, 7:30pm

Fri, July 17, 7:30pm

Sat, July 18, 2pm

Sat, July 18, 7:30pm

Sun, July 19, 2pm*

Sun, July 19, 7:30pm

(Tickets start at $25)

Special support for this program is provided by the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, and by Rebecca Gold.

Round-trip bus service from Manhattan is provided exclusively to ticket-holders for the matinee performances on June 28, July 12, and July 19. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900 or by selecting this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40, and the bus departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets, at 11am (June 28) and 10:30am (July 12 & 19). Visit for more information.


This season’s SummerScape theater performances are held in LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region.

Fernando Rubio: Everything by my side

Thurs, July 9, 5pm–7pm

Fri, July 10, 2pm–4pm and 5pm–7pm

Sat. July 11, 12pm–2pm and 5pm–7pm

Sun, July 12, 12pm–2pm and 5pm–7pm

(Tickets: $5, not discounted in subscription packages)

Individual performances for seven audience members at a time begin every 15 minutes. Spanish language performances are available.

This performance-installation will take place outside on the Fisher Center lawn.


SummerScape 2015: other key performance dates by genre


Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “The Musical Voice of Mexico” (Aug 7–9)

Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Mexico, Latin America, and Modernism” (Aug 13–16)



Ethel Smyth: The Wreckers

Sosnoff Theater

July 24* & 31 at 7:30 pm

July 26*, 29 & Aug 2* at 2 pm

Tickets start at $25



Pam Tanowitz Dance & FLUX Quartet

June 27 at 8 pm

June 28* at 3 pm

Sosnoff Theater

Tickets start at $25



Reinventing Mexico”

Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, Aug 2

Ottaway Film Center

Tickets: $10



Live Music, Cabaret, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon

Dates, times, and prices vary



SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Hall, Oklahoma! is in LUMA Theater, and Everything by my side takes place out of doors. The Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.

New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:

To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Street. Find additional details at:


Bard SummerScape Ticket Information

For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates. For further information, visit


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This event was last updated on 05-04-2015