The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore., has opened its outdoor Elizabethan Stage with three new productions running through mid- October.
"Cymbeline," directed by Bill Rauch, OSF's artistic director, creates a punch-card opportunity for Shakespeare canon completists. The rarely produced "Cymbeline" was originally called a tragedy (in 1623's First Folio) but today is considered a romance because of how it blends the tragic and the comic, sometimes in the same scene, and its hopeful ending.
While every season sees three or four productions of the familiar Shakespeare plays such as "Romeo and Juliet" or "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the dark-themed "Cymbeline" shows up maybe once a decade. The story centers on Imogen (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), the daughter of King Cymbeline (Howie Seago) their estrangement and her travails through the perils of lust, love, loyalty and murder. Imogen dresses as the boy Fidele part of the time while hiding in the forest in Wales. In the end disguises are cast off, joyous reunions are made and rightful rulers are restored to their nations.
Also at the Elizabethan, "The Heart of Robin Hood" by David Farr (the Royal Shakespeare Company) and directed by Joel Sass, receives its U.S. premiere with John Tufts as Robin and Kate Hurster as Marion. In this new version, Robin is happy to rob the rich, but giving to the poor isn't really part of his practice until Martin (Marion with some more cross dressing) joins the merry men, adding a progressive consciousness to their swashbuckling.
Finally at the Elizabethan is the new production of the favorite "A Midsummer Night's Dream" directed by Christopher Liam Moore. The comedy, set in a 1964 Catholic prep school, features a series of couples, including Oberon (Ted Deasy) and Titania (Terri McMahon), King and Queen of the Fairies, in various stages of romantic discord. Gina Daniels' Puck, ever the mischievous one, initially doesn't help matters but eventually gives one of the greatest closing speeches in all of theater. Information and schedules are available at www.osfashland.org.
Saclive's favorite family-friendly venue, Fairytale Town, hosts one of its premier events of the summer Saturday with Children's Play Day. The all-day program features games, arts and crafts, and special live performances from John Lee's Fairytale Town Troupers.
The in-house theater-makers are closing their season this month with a Lee original, "Jack & the Meanstalk." The creative retelling of the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story has the young lad Jackson trying to regain his lost family treasure from the Dark Sorcery in the Sky.
He has a magical singing sword at his side as he climbs to adventure in Kingdom of the Clouds. The Troupers will perform at noon and 2 p.m. on the outdoor Mother Goose Stage. "Jack & the Meanstalk" also plays Sunday, next Saturday and June 28 at noon and 2 p.m.
These performances are free with paid park admission: $4 weekdays and $5 on weekends; free for children 1 and younger.
The stage is across from the Sacramento Zoo, 3901 Land Park Drive. More information: www.fairytaletown.org or (916) 808-7462.
Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Folow him on Twitter: @marcuscrowder.