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Shakespeare’s Collaborators: Sean San Jose & Rosa Joshi

By Kamilah Bush, PCS Literary Manager and Dramaturg
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Playwright Sean San Jose (left) and Director Rosa Joshi

This production of Coriolanus was first commissioned by Play On! Shakespeare — an organization that began at OSF in 2015 and has blossomed into a company, helmed by Lue Douthit, that has commissioned 39 translations of Shakespeare’s plays. The mission of Play On! is to “enhance the understanding of Shakespeare’s plays in performance for theater professionals, students, teachers and audiences, by engaging with contemporary translations and adaptations.” 

The playwright who translated Coriolanus, Sean San Jose, is a multi-hyphenate artist who currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Magic Theater in San Francisco. In 1996, he also founded Campo Santo, a multicultural theater ensemble which premiered 100 new performance pieces. New work has been central to San Jose’s career and it is through that lens that he approached Shakespeare’s text. 

“That’s what’s so interesting and amazing about doing Coriolanus” Sean San Jose said in conversation with dramaturg Kamilah Bush, “It sounds like we’re doing something old but because of the way Lue Douthit and Play On! work, it’s actually the same approach as a new play. That’s the only reason someone like me is invited into the room to work on it.” 

Joining San Jose in updating Coriolanus for today’s audiences is director Rosa Joshi and upstart crow collective. Founded in 2006 by Joshi, Betsy Schwartz, Kate Wisniewski, upstart crow collective is a theater organization committed to “including artists who have been traditionally marginalized by the very male Shakespearean canon”.  Joshi’s approach necessitates the same “New play lens” that San Jose and Douthit bring to the work:  “Shakespeare is my great passion -- I'm always looking for what is relevant, fresh and immediate in the classical cannon for a contemporary audience: as a director who loves classical work, I'm obsessive about asking: why this play, why now? " 

The answers to that question as it pertains to Coriolanus are vast and varied and Sean, Rosa and the many artists, including Shakespeare, who collaborated to bring this production to life, do not simply rest on Shakespeare’s original text. They excavate it for all that we as a community may find useful, engaging and relevant to where we are in our own journey to build, as the characters in Coriolanus attempt,  a society worth living in.

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