Bill Rauch was picked in August 2006 to be the new artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the country's oldest and largest regional theaters.
The buzz was that Rauch was a hot director and a change agent. At the artistic helm of Cornerstone Theatre in Los Angeles from 1992 to 2007, he brought diversity to the theater and live drama to a wide, sometimes nontraditional audience.
When Artistic Director Libby Appel retired at the end of the 2007 season, she guessed Rauch would produce more dangerous, edgy plays.
The first season with the Rauch signature on it (ending Nov. 2) did nothing to dispel that notion. It included an adaptation of an ancient Sanskrit play, two new plays, a world premiere that traveled in July to the Kennedy Center inb Washington, D.C., and the first 20th-century play ever produced on OSF's outdoor Elizabethan Stage.
At the end of the 2007 season, Rauch laid off several high-profile artistic faces at OSF in a major shake-up. Before the 2008 season he listed several goals:
- Expand OSF's new-play development efforts to include an ambitious cycle of 37 new plays based on U.S. history.
- Increase the variety of directors.
- Place a designer in a top artistic job.
- Spread producing responsibilities more widely.
- Diversify the Green Show with rotating acts.
Rauch hired six new-to-OSF guest directors for 2008. He hired Cornerstone pal Alison Carey to head American Revolutions, the history cycle. He hired scenic designer Christopher Acebo as associate artistic director. He hired Jacob Padrón as an associate producer. He hired Associate Producer Claudia Alick to revamp the Green Show, the free performances before evening plays. He sat in the OSF's first-ever town hall meeting with dramaturg Lue Morgan Douthit.
He picked the 2008 plays and directors and casts. He directed two plays himself, "The Clay Cart" and "The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler." He spoke of trying to "gently stretch the boundaries" of what OSF does, and he promised that Shakespeare would always be the theater's anchor.
— Bill Varble