July 13, 2010

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Brings Ashland to Life

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon!  You don’t want to miss this!

I recently cooked up a plan with Mary, a college roommate who lives in San Rafael, CA, to meet halfway, in Ashland, to take in a play and visit.  This seemed like a momentous year to go! I have been, many summers in the past with friends and family, but it’s been several years now.  We each had about a 5 hour drive through gorgeous country.  I rolled down Interstate 5 for 280 miles through farmlands, forested hills and abundant roadside sweet peas….lovely.  The hot mid-July summer weather felt good.

Ashland is a delightful little vacation town full of fun restaurants and interesting shops.  We had a delicious dinner Saturday night at Chateaulin, with all its French charm, and breakfasted the next morning at Munchies, sitting at an outside table perched alongside Lithia Creek.  There are innumerable crafts tables to explore.  Such creativity!  And speaking of creativity, we ran into a woman on a bike that was out of this world.  No pedals, a bar that rose above her head, supporting a seat suspended by adjustable straps.  Tiny thick wheels.  You run and glide up and down hills, getting a great low impact workout.  They may be very up-and-coming!  Wish I had taken a photo.

But, I’m intending to inform you about Shakespeare in Ashland, so, more on that!  We saw, in the outdoor Elizabethan Theatre, on a beautiful warm summer night, The Merchant of Venice, a Shakespeare comedy teeming with complexity.  Good to read a synopsis prior to viewing!  The director successfully portrayed 16th century Italy with contemporary overtones.  I can imagine the characters in their elaborate costumes when it was performed the first year of the festival, in 1935.  In the rendition we saw, the main character was dressed in jeans!  In one scene a court clerk was accessing a computer!   The old and new were well integrated.

[caption id="attachment_562" align="alignnone" width="614" caption="The oldest existing Elizabethan Stage in the western hemisphere, built on the site of the old Chattaqua Theater, established in 1893, in Ashland, OR."][/caption]

There are 11 plays to choose from, 4 Shakespearean and 7 written by classic and contemporary playwrights, acted out in 3 theatres.  The festival is among the oldest and largest repertory theatre companies in the country, with approximately 550 theatre professionals and nearly 600 volunteers involved.  It’s a huge production well worth experiencing.

I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time (we ordered online) and taking the backstage tour (which we didn’t know about, therefore didn’t do).  In addition to play-watching, you’ll need to shop and talk to the many artists selling their creations (jewelry, photographs, paintings and other unique things).  When you tire of shopping, you can walk through Lithia Park and head up the back trails, all readily accessible behind the theatres.

Mary and I had such a good time at the festival that we plan to rendezvous there annually.  I’m already looking forward to next Summer’s trip to Ashland.  The season starts in February and stretches into early November.

When are you going??  And what Shakespearean witticisms will you hear?

Jane Lee is a Real Estate Broker with eXp Realty in Lake Oswego, Oregon



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