A Tale of Two Bills
By Amrita Ramanan
Equivocation brings together two innovative American artists – playwright Bill Cain and Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch.
For Bill Cain, exploring the life and times of William Shakespeare has been a consistent milestone through his career. As artistic director of the Boston Shakespeare Company during the 1970s, Cain directed many plays from the Shakespearean canon during his tenure. In the late 1980s, he expanded his passion for the Bard across the coast, directing Two Gentleman of Verona and Twelfth Night on Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Stage.
In 1989, Cain set his sights on playwriting and wrote Stand-Up Tragedy. Inspired by his experiences teaching high school students in the Lower East Side of New York, Stand-Up Tragedy narrates the trials and tribulations of students and teachers as they battle through the everyday frustrations of “urban” education. First produced at Mark Taper Forum, the play received rave reviews and transferred to Arena Stage and Broadway, winning six Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, four Helen Hayes Awards, and the 1990 Joe A. Callaway Award for Playwriting along the way.
Equivocation marks Cain’s second play and another foray where personal experiences align with his writing. During a trip to London in 2004, Cain encountered a sign from the British government by a rack (a torture device in the Tower of London) saying, “No prisoner was ever tortured in the Tower of London because of religion.” With his familiarity of Shakespearean England – and a Jesuit priest himself – Cain decided to investigate the origins of the infamous Gunpowder plot and thus birthed the idea for Equivocation. First workshopped at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto and the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Equivocation caught the eye of Artistic Director Bill Rauch, who produced the play’s world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2009.
Curious to hear more about Bill Cain’s Equivocation? Check out the video below from Oregon Shakespeare Festival on the origins of Equivocation from the source himself!
A director with familiarity in both the classics and contemporary work, Bill Rauch became the fifth artistic director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2007 after several seasons at the festival as a guest director. In a total of nine seasons at the festival, he has directed two world premieres and 10 additional plays. Among his initiatives at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Rauch committed to commissioning up to 37 new plays to dramatize moments of change in American history through the American Revolutions: the U.S. History Cycle, now in its second year of productions.
Before his tenure at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Rauch co-founded Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, where he directed more than 40 productions and served as its artistic director from 1986 to 2006. He has directed a number of world premieres, including The Clean House at Yale Repertory Theatre; Living Out and For Here or to Go? at Mark Taper Forum; and My Wandering Boy and The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at South Coast Repertory. Work elsewhere includes productions at Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Great Lakes Theater Festival, and En Garde Arts.
Eager to learn more about Rauch’s passion for the arts? Enjoy his conversation in the video below from the 2011 Governor’s Conference!
Amrita Ramanan is literary manager at Arena Stage. Her dramaturgy credits include Trouble in Mind, Ruined, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, and Crowns (Arena Stage); Skywriter (2009 Cap Fringe Festival); and Cymbeline (Great River Shakespeare Festival). She’s editor and regular contributor to Arena Stage’s blog, Stage Banter, and Sub/Text: Your Virtual Dramaturg.
Extras & Insights is funded, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.