ashland.news
June 13, 2024

Curtain Call: Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s new artistic director anticipates a theatrical resurgence

New OSF Artistic Director Tim Bond in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre in September 2023. Bond says he's excited to see the OSF stages come back to life as the opening of the 2024 season approaches. Bob Palermini photo
January 26, 2024

With a 10-play season opening in March, Tim Bond looks forward to an exciting year at OSF

By Jim Flint for Ashland.news

With casts announced, rehearsals just around the corner, and previews to start March 19, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival approaches its 2024 season in an electric atmosphere of anticipation and enthusiasm.

Many of OSF’s patrons and fans share in the excitement, looking forward to twice as many productions on stage as in 2023 and a diverse and eclectic lineup of plays.

Count OSF’s new Artistic Director Tim Bond among the enthusiasts.

“Our crews, artisans, and designers are working diligently as we prepare to welcome our performing company to campus for the start of rehearsals,” Bond said.

“I’m looking forward to having our spaces come to life within the next couple of months. The period between the closing of a season and the start of the next always feels so long,” he said, “so I’m ready for the creative energy and spirit that will make all of our 10 productions come to life.”

Bond and OSF actor Kevin Kennerly, right, engage with audience members at an OSF donor event. OSF photo

Previews begin the third week in March. First to hit the boards will be “Macbeth” March 19 and “Born with Teeth” March 20, both in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. The Thomas Theatre opens March 21 with a preview showing of “Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender,” followed by a preview of “Smote This, A Comedy About God … and Other Serious $H*T” on March 22.

As the nation came out of the pandemic shutdown, some theatergoers were immunocompromised and still a little nervous about attending live events. So last year OSF added some masked weekends for its indoor theaters and received a lot of positive feedback.

Some mask-required performances will be offered again this year. The one difference is that OSF announced them well in advance of tickets going on sale so that people can opt in or out of those performances. There will be mask-required performances in April, June and September and only at indoor shows. Check the calendar for specific dates at osfashland.org.

An early start

OSF’s new artistic director became a theater kid in the fourth grade. It was the spring of 1968 when Bond discovered the transformative power of theater. He was playing Marc Antony in an abridged version of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

That epiphany 55 years ago in an elementary school cafeteria occurred in the play shortly after Caesar’s assassination. Bond strode onto the stage and uttered Antony’s famous line, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

“I recall that a hush came over the audience,” Bond said. “It seemed that everyone leaned in a bit to listen more closely. I suddenly felt the power of oratory, of history, of political theater.”

He remembered in that instant that only days earlier, his hero, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., had been assassinated.

“And there I was, a young Black child orating in front of a crowd still reeling from the abomination. My eyes welled with tears. And then I had to speak my next line.”

An OSF homecoming

Bond is not new to OSF. In 1996, he was hired as an associate artistic director, working with Artistic Director Libby Appel and her team, which included Penny Metropulos, the other associate artistic director.

During his 11 seasons with OSF, Bond directed 12 productions. He also created FAIR (Fellowships, Assistantships, Internships, Residencies), a professional development program designed to provide opportunities for the next generation to learn best practices across all administration, artistic, design and production disciplines.

He came back in 2022 to direct OSF’s production of August Wilson’s “How I Learned What I Learned.” Bond is a devoted Wilson enthusiast and has directed seven of the 10 plays in Wilson’s cycle celebrating Black culture.

“I have a deep love for jazz, the blues, and for all the rich language, music, food, humor and human rights concerns of Black folk,” he said. “August was first a poet, and I always follow the meter of his dialogue, like it’s a blues song, and then find the jazz rhythms of how the dialogue unfolds between characters.”

For “How I Learned” at OSF, Bond worked with Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero.

“She served as my dramaturgical consultant and costume designer,” Bond said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Bond also enjoyed working with Wilsonian veteran actor Steven Anthony Jones on the one-man show.

“It was a dream. We ate together, laughed, cried and shared our love of August, and recounted our personal stories that related to the ones in the play.”

Memorable moment

Bond says he will never forget the first time he and Romero saw Jones in costume in the theater.

“He emerged from the vom (vomitorium, a stage entrance passageway) and was backlit,” Bond recalled. “In silhouette, he looked just like August. Constanza and I both gasped and teared up.”

Bond is committed to presenting the last three plays of the 10-play cycle at OSF.

Bond says he wants to increase OSF’s involvement with the local community. OSF photo

With OSF’s 90th season coming up, might one of those Wilson plays be on the menu?

Bond said it’s too early to talk specifics about 2025, but he offered a hint of what’s in store generally for the milestone season.

“There will be at least three plays by Shakespeare, some comedy, new work and something with music,” he said.

Bond described his approach to curating a season’s offerings at OSF.

“Selecting plays has many different components beyond aesthetic concerns,” he said, “but for me, offering a broad variety of genres, styles, themes, and atmospheres each season is important. My eclectic taste includes a huge range of plays and musicals,” he said.

Public involvement

Community engagement is important to Bond. Initiatives are under way in Ashland and around the region.

“We are already reinstating some of our educational engagement efforts,” he said, “by bringing back our school visit program. We also will be continuing our relationship with students from SOU as acting trainees.”

OSF hosted the Rogue Valley Symphony for its first holiday pops concert in December, and the orchestra will be back in the Angus Bowmer Theatre for a Valentine’s Day pops concert as well.

“There are other possible cultural organizations and events we hope to engage with,” Bond said. “Right now, I am taking time to meet local arts leaders and experience as much as I can around town and in our neighboring communities.”

Bond began his career with Seattle Group Theatre in 1984, where he directed more than 20 productions.

Since then, he has worked with companies all across the country and around the world in South Africa, Europe, the former Soviet Union, Beijing, Hong Kong and Japan.

He also has taught at the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornish College of the Arts and Juilliard.

As a writer, director, teacher, and administrator, Bond finds much to enjoy in the business of theater. But sometimes, just sitting in the audience is a great place to be.

Energy of school visits

“My favorite time to see a play is when there is a large audience of students,” he said. “It is immensely satisfying knowing we are exposing the next generation to these amazing stories, and that for some it may be the first professional theater they have ever witnessed.”

What floats his boat when he’s not around the theater? He likes spending time outdoors — camping, fishing, hiking and riding his hybrid mountain bike. He’s also an amateur meteorologist, passionate about dealing with climate change, enjoys reading science fiction and has a knack for working the grill.

“I am a non-dairy pescatarian,” he said, “but I still love to barbecue meat for other folks.”

The grilling may have to wait. Currently, his plate is pretty full as he gets ready to open a very busy season.

For information about 2024 shows and events, and to purchase tickets, go to osfashland.org.

Reach writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Picture of Jim

Jim


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