Led by Producing Artistic Director Peter Alzado, and Board Chairman William Sauers, Oregon Stage Works was established as a tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit performance group in October 2002 in response to an outpouring of community support for the creation of a professional theatre company focusing on the staging of developing and master American playwrights.
Since its days as a nomadic theatre company, producing shows at various venues ranging from hotels and restaurants to rental space at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and with support of community members, theatre artists and foundations, along with the construction of a new theatre in Ashland’s Railroad district, the evolution of Oregon Stage Works was unique.
In 2004, Oregon Stage Works established Ashland Children’s Theatre—directed by Kate Sullivan and Eve Smyth—as a vibrant and important part of its programming. Twenty-six classes including summer camps were offered throughout the year serving over 250 students with 25% of those children participating in its scholarship program, along with the showcase performances produced after each class session. Now a stand-alone company, Ashland Children’s Theatre continues under the direction of Eve Smyth and Kate Sullivan to be a significant educational resource for our community. Year after year, Oregon Stage Works produced a Main Stage six-play subscription season, at times highlighting original works by local playwrights as well as socially relevant plays including “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen” which won best off-Bardway play of 2006.
In 2006, Oregon Stage Works established its Playwrights’ Unit for the development and production of new American plays. This group consists of seven local playwrights, two of whom have won the Oregon Book Award for Drama and one who is a recipient of the Oregon Book Award for fiction. The first project to be mounted out of the Playwrights’ Unit was Richard Moeschl’s “Arthur’s Dreams,” which garnered the 2006 Oregon Book Award for Drama.
In 2008, Oregon Stage Works won best off-Bardway play for “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” Also in 2008, OSW was the recipient of the 2008 USLBA Best of Ashland Award in the theatre category. The US Local Business Association (USLBA) Best of Business award program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local communities and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community. Other note worthy productions include “Things We Do,” four plays dealing with the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and Bill Langdon’s production of “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
In its short history, Oregon Stage Works established itself as a powerhouse theatre company and an important cultural resource for the region. The company, reminiscent of New York City’s best Off-Broadway theatres, is a unique example of what can be done when people with passion and commitment come together towards a common goal. In 2010, we lost our lease and stopped producing. However, the company remained registered with the state of Oregon as a 501(c)(3) not for profit theatre company.