North Bay Shakespeare fans – thousands of whom reportedly make the annual trek to Ashland between February and October – have long prepared themselves for the eventual departure of Artistic Director Bill Rauch, who’s held the post for the last 12 years. Since taking over for Libby Appel in 2007, he’s elevated the already renowned company to even loftier heights of national attention, including commissioning OSF’s first-ever Tony Winning play, ‘All the Way,’ which Rauch directed for its world premier in Ashland before taking the show to Broadway.
In other words, his star has been rising along with OSF’s reputation, and it was only a matter of time till an opportunity came along that offered even bigger and better challenges for Rauch.
That offer was finally arrived.
Rauch has been appointed the Artistic Director of the new Ronald O. Perelman Center for Performing Arts at the World Trade Center in New York City. The center, still under construction, is being designed to become a world-class destination for theater, with a strong focus on the development of new works, new artists, and the broadening of theater in all its forms.
According to a press release made public on Friday, Feb. 16, Rauch will become the company’s first Artistic Director, and will be instrumental in guiding its vision from day one.
“The opportunity to move to New York to lead the Perelman Center is tremendously exciting,” Rauch is quoted as saying. “I’m honored to be able to create transformative art and cultivate a community gathering space at a site that has such powerful emotional resonance for our country and the world.”
Rauch will remain with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival until August of 2019, departing for New York after the opening of the company’s final show of that season.
The announcement comes a week before the 2018 season opening of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, on February 23. His production of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello,’ which he is directing, will open his penultimate season, and later in the year, he’ll direct Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’ already stirring up national conversation with its announced inclusion of two same-sex pairings in the roles of Curly and Laurie (both women in this version), and also Will and Ado Andy. It’s a typically bold and inventive choice for Rauch, who, during his time in Ashland, has established OSF as one of the most innovative and pioneering such festivals in the country.
“What we have collectively accomplished in the past 12 years at OSF exceeds my wildest dreams of what was possible when I first started the job,” Rauch said. “An ever-diversifying universe of actors, artisans, administrators, board members, audience members and so many more have led this Festival boldly forward to the forefront of the American theater.”