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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
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: www.rnh.com.
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 it “as 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
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 fishercenter.bard.edu/visit/transportation 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
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
Tickets start at $25
Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, Aug 2
Ottaway Film Center
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: fishercenter.bard.edu/transportation.
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 www.fishercenter.bard.edu. 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 fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
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This event was last updated on 05-04-2015