Friday, September 15, 2017

Tippet Rise: Majestic arts venue unfolds in the hills of Montana



An Alexander Calder sculpture welcomes concert goers to an unforgettable experience merging art, music and nature.
Tippet Rise, six years in the making,  is gaining international acclaim for its invention, talent and originality.

GLORIOUS CONCERT HALL, SCULPTURES, WORLD CLASS ARTISTS COMPLEMENT NATURE'S OWN GRAND STAGE AT TIPPET RISE

Each piece of sculpture at Tippet Rise contributes an evocative voice to the complex.
Here in the Olivier Barn, Stephen Talasnik's large wall sculpture gives a striking effect.
Talasnik, born in Philadelphia and New York based, is one of the world-class contributors.



















STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WHEN PETER and Cathy Halstead began their search for  the perfect place to build their dream, they had one unifying goal.
The place must inspire, with landscape that would enhance both the music dear to musician Peter's heart, and the visual arts which have long inspired Cathy's painting.
  The property they ultimately settled on is a few miles above the tiny Montana town of Fishtail.  Still a working cattle ranch and once inspiration for well known Stillwater County painter Isabelle Johnson, the wide and sweeping landscape stirs the imagination and lifts the spirits.

Marco Polo "Mark" di Suvero's looming piece is one of the stunning
abstract expressionist sculptures gracing Tippet Rise.
NOW WITH millions of dollars worth of sculpture -- and a concert hall whose impeccable acoustics delight the world's top musicians -- Tippet Rise indeed inspires.
The project pays fitting tribute to the working ranch's late resident rancher and painter, Isabelle Johnson.  Some believe her ghost is riding high, waving her paint brush, smiling down on the Halsteads' unique endeavor.
A world traveler, ahead of her time, Johnson studied in Europe, merging cutting edge technique with her own energy, curiosity and undeniable talent. So, too, do the Halsteads.
Peter Halstead's own poetry entertains at Tippet Rise,
where pre-concert talks and readings prepare viewers
for an evening of enticing delights.
Married for decades and friends since their teen-age years, the couple shared dreams and goals as their relationship and artistic tastes matured. They traveled the world, and studied at both Columbia University and New York University.
Peter is an accomplished pianist and well published poet, with a wry wit and broad tastes.  He also possesses
Pianist Anne Marie McDermott, interviewed by Peter Halstead,
shares spirited anecdotes before her weekend concerts of Haydn
and Mozart recently.  Halstead also writes erudite program notes.
an enviable collection of Steinways which he plays, stores and shares at the art center.
Cathy is a respected visual artist, who has shown in top galleries. Tippet Rise pays homage to both of their lifelong passions.
'MAJESTIC' describes their collaboration -- grand artwork and enchanting concerts on 11,500 acres where cattle roam and sheep graze. As season two of the venture caps, one listens to Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn -- along with new-age percussion works -- performed on perfectly tuned instruments by artists who play the world's great concert halls.
The concert goer ponders beauty on several levels -- both man made and wondrously spawned by nature.  Outside, seemingly at peace with the practiced sounds from within, deer graze beneath the cottonwoods, framed by the Olivier Barn's showcase windows.
 http://www.whereiscookie.com/2016/07/tippet-rise-magic-arises-from.html
TOURS TO the sculptures are available, and a delightful restaurant serves healthy western fare created by Nick and Wendy Goldman of Wildflower Kitchen and Catering.

Peter  Halstead shares his grand pianos, including
Vladimir Horowitz's personal piano, which
Eugene Istomin also played.  It resides at
Tippet Rise, and is kept tuned for visiting artists.
Beyond the summer concerts, specialty films, plays and operas are shared via cinema. Area university ensembles and community arts groups are invited to perform. Neighbors are invited to barbecue.
Workshops are held throughout the season and an outreach director insures the community participates in and is kept abreast of the center's endeavors and global reach.
Tippet Rise, named after Cathy's mother, merges landscape with the couple's lifelong commitment to the arts.
The Halsteads' unique merger would surely please their ancestors -- philanthropists with a love of nature.

http://www.whereiscookie.com/2016/06/tippet-rise-philanthropists-love-of.html

Sweeping vistas draw the viewer in -- rolling hills, clouds 
straight out of a fairy tale, and sculptures,
each in its own space, not visible from the other.





AS HEIRS to the Grey Goose vodka fortune and other successful investments,  the Halsteads hired the world's best talent to shape their vision. We are the beneficiaries of their largesse.  The Halsteads' belief -- that art enriches the human experience, and that nature inspires both artists and aficionados -- will outlive us all. Meanwhile, we anxiously await season three.





NEXT UP: Oregon's lighthouses have long inspired, with their remarkable 
architecture and time honored history of helping sailors, commerce
and tourism.  We take you on a tour of some of the finest. 
Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays
when we post for each weekend a novel spin on the arts,
nature and whatever else catches our eye!







Friday, September 8, 2017

Home on the range: deer, antelope, birds, beautiful light and that sky


Big Sky Country on the Stillwater River -- looking from our friends' home, John and Laurie Beers, toward High Chaparral. 

 BIG SKY COUNTRY OFFERS MULTITUDE OF GORGEOUS SIGHTS, EVEN IN FIRE SEASON


A prairie grouse poses out our front door, enjoying the late summer sun.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

MUCH HAS been written about Montana's sky and mountains.
Although the state Highway Department used the phrase "Big Sky Country" in a 1960s promotion, the moniker traces back to writer A.B. Guthrie's 1947 novel.
"The Big Sky" is considered by the late writer and critic Wallace Stegner "the best" of Guthrie's six novels dealing with the Oregon Trail and the development of Montana from 1830 to the 1880s.
The Fishtail Store is an institution.
The sweeping saga spans the time of the Mountain Men to the cattle empire of the 1880s to the time of the book's writing, post World War II.
Up the draw toward the artesian
well, High Chap colors are turning.
MY NATIVE state offers a bounty of beautiful sights:  the aspen trees are just beginning to turn.
Wild fires surrounding us give an even
more golden glow to the sunsets.
Birds are loading up on berries.  The sunsets are a glorious blend of crimson, orange, pale blue and golden hues, accentuated by smoke from 19 wild fires surrounding us.
Tourists and natives alike also love Montana's mountains.  Writer John Steinbeck said they were the kind of mountains he'd make if mountains were ever put on his agenda.
RETURNING to the mountains this year has special meaning for us. When we left nearly 13 months ago, for our winter base in San Diego, we were climbing slowly up the list for Keller's liver transplantation.  We did not know if we would be back this year, so even the sometimes smoky view at the Beartooths is a blessing.
High Chap's mountain at the "top of the prop" provides a
setting for an annual picnic and saxophone serenade.
We're reveling in reunions with our dear friends here -- some locals and others summer people such as are we.
We crossed paths by only days with the "Georgia contingent," a group of Atlanta based sojourners and like-minded friends, who closed up their places just after we all met by the river for a "no labor Labor Day party."
Gooseberries, chokecherries and
elderberries are favorites with deer.
OUR FRIENDS are an eclectic group -- well traveled, well educated, avid readers, activists,  thinkers, global in their politics.  It took us a while to find them.  The party hosts, for instance, recently built on the Stillwater and sold their home in St. Croix. Others are from Pennsylvania, Washington state, California and many other parts of the world. We met a couple recently who live in Spain and visit Montana a couple times a year.

Sandhill cranes greeted us on our drive up the valley to home.
Wild roses are still blooming, albeit
only a few.  They are glorious.












WE'RE thankful to celebrate our return with these friends who have had their own losses, illness and accidents during our absence and challenges with the transplant. We're planning an encore climb up the hill behind our home, to the "top of the prop" as we call it, for me to offer a picnic serenade with my saxophone.
And while little things are frustrating -- a few trees lost to winter -- we feel the same love we always feel when we land in Montana with its beauty and staunch pals. There's no place like it. As Steinbeck put it, "For other states, I have admiration, respect, recognition, even affection. But with Montana it is love. And it's difficult to analyze love."


The Ariel String Quartet thrills a sell-out crowd at an earlier Tippet Rise event.
NEXT UP:  Tippet Rise, that magical art and concert venue near Fishtail, Montana, is in its second fantastic season. On tap this weekend are world renowned pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.  Each weekend, world class musicians thrill crowds in a unique setting, always a sold-out venue, with tickets kept cheap to encourage a wide audience range. Join us at Tippet Rise, remembering to explore, learn and live. We post our novel look at nature, the arts, health and travel each Friday, for the weekend.





Friday, September 1, 2017

Living with a new liver yields surprises, challenges, delights;


Bruce Keller, known by family and friends, by his surname, and Christene "Cookie" Meyers, reveling in
smooth sailing after two years of dealing with hepatitis C, the cure with Harvoni and the decision to transplant. 


 TRIUMPHANT TRANSPLANT: 'Patient Patient' is poster boy for miracle of science, reclaimed health

Bruce Keller, aka "Patient Patient,'  
left Scripps Green Hospital after 
only three days, a record for a
transplant at the renowned hospital.
Editor's Note: In May, we offered a three-part series on Bruce Keller's liver transplant in San Diego. Several thousand readers followed our story and have asked how we are doing now, three-plus months after the surgery. Thumbs up all around, and here's how:

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Keller's recovery was so swift -- knock wood -- that Cookie and Keller
have the green light to return to southern Spain for their annual fall trip. 
Here, their traditional tapas spread, on their Maloaga trip November of 2016.
A YEAR AGO, we were climbing up the transplant list at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego, wondering how long our lives would hover in this state of waiting, wondering and anxiety.
Would we have to wait years?  How would Keller be feeling during the wait?  Could we travel?
Keller and Cookie on Friday date night
at La Jolla Shores, on the beach.
How far from home? How long to recovery? What after-effects might he feel? When could he return safely to work? How would Cookie cope with care-giving for an extended period?
One by one, these questions have been answered, and we're thrilled to share the good news that after 15 weeks, all systems are go.
We'll not rehash the "before" tale.  The back-story is in the three pieces, whose links we include in this story.  At your request, we'll focus on life after the transplantation.
WE'VE HAD moments of joy and a few moments of terror. Confused by mixed messages from the pharmacy, we put aside one of the primary anti-rejection drugs and did not take it for 11 days.  'Nurse Cookie" also reduced the dosage of another of the meds for a few days, attempting to adjust the tremor that Keller developed. Bad idea for a patient (or his well meaning partner) to take such matters into one's own hands. 
Our fabulous physician, Dr. Catherine Frenette, cautioned there would be bumps in the road. 
Keller on his bike, heading into the stretch toward four months post transplant.
Ours were minor, compared to other patients, some of whom spend weeks, even months, hospitalized post transplant. Cookie admits she erred in playing doctor -- and was relieved she did not lose her metaphoric nurse's cap, getting off with only a well deserved scolding.
DESPITE DAUNTING numbers of pills those first few weeks, the number of meds is decreasing.  We realize we will have to take a couple critical anti-rejection drugs for the rest of Keller's life.  This is a small price to pay for the magnificent gift of a new liver and a new lease on life.
Nick and Nora are welcome at the Omni Hotel Los Angeles.
We were able to drive  to Los Angeles, to see plays and concerts at the Ahmanson Theatre and Disney Concert Hall. We stay at our favorite downtown hotel, the Omni, which is "Yorkie friendly" and a splendid, all-service venue, walking distance to the theaters.
Caregiving is exhausting.  Here Cookie follows orders:
take time to relax and replenish yourself.
Keller helps new nephew-in-law, Mike Hill, at his wedding to our niece Kira.
We've had fun weekend get-aways at friends' homes celebrating Cookie's month-long birthday celebration which begins August 1 and -- by tradition -- ends on Labor Day.
DAILY BIKE rides and a return to Keller's construction foreman jobs have helped us return to normalcy. And Cookie's beloved Jazzercise has helped her maintain most of her composure -- with occasional lapses, she says.
She loves our sailing trips from San Diego.   
Green light for cruising:  we have
the okay from "Dr. F" for a return to
southern Europe a couple weeks shy
of the six-months originally suggested
for a return to international travel.
http://www.whereiscookie.com/2017/06/transplant-tale-continues-with-look-at.html
Travel is once again a constant in the lives of travel writers
and photographers Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers,
here at Lake Tahoe with their Yorkies Nick and Nora.

WE WERE  thrilled when the doctors approved a trip in late July to our niece's wedding on the Oregon coast.  "Dr. F," as we affectionately refer to her, had estimated a three-month minimum three months before domestic travel and six before we could safely venture across the pond.
During my long wait outside the ICU, the night of the surgery, I did the math, wondering if we would be able to make our annual autumn trip to southern Spain.  It is a ten-year tradition.
Playing piano, lecturing
and part-time teaching are
again part of Cookie's life.
"We'll see," said Dr. F.  "Be patient." We were.
We are delighted to be able to make our Montana pilgrimage which this year involves a return to our mountain home and a few weeks of repair to the damage done by a bear who broke into the place as we were leaving late last summer.

Dr. Jonathan Fisher was chief surgeon -- one of three who assisted on Keller's
liver transplant May 13 at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego.  Clowning
behind him is Joe Murillo, one of several delightful  physician's assistants.  


WE'VE SEGUED from Scripps' brilliant, highly ranked "liver team" back to our regular physician, "Dr. F."  
Back in Big Sky Country, Cookie and Keller are enjoying time to rest.
We'll feature a photo montage and some insights about this lovely
part of the Northern Rockies in a Montana girl's whereiscookie.com  
Our visits to Scripps have decreased from two and three times a week to once a week, to twice monthly, and during our Montana stay, to monthly, keeping in touch with Dr. Frenette as needed, checking in with the helpful transplant team if we have concerns. (It is available 24-7.)
We will have blood labs taken during our Big Sky visit, which is possible with a form that is simply handed to the participating clinics,


http://www.whereiscookie.com/2017/06/transplant-tale-continues-with-look-at.html 

with the myriad results emailed back to Scripps.  If  adjustments are needed, they'll be made, thanks to the magic of the Internet.
WE ARE GRATEFUL, but not foolish or deluded. We know problems can arise quickly; conditions change, thus the need for vigilance and monitoring.  We take an informed approach to our situation. We love Scripps -- ten minutes from our house.
We've written a detailed letter of thanks to the donor family -- using the hospital as a screening conduit. They approved of and forwarded our letter and we're hoping to hear back.
(Cookie is convinced that Keller received Don Rickles' liver, because his level of sarcastic humor has increased.  Keller was hoping for the liver of a jazz pianist, so he could play duets with Cookie.)
Cookie and Keller a couple weeks
ago on the Oregon coast.
Some donor families relish communicating with the recipient.  Others find it too painful to respond to a note of appreciation.  We'll see. Meanwhile, Keller says he feels better than he has in years, which makes Nurse Cookie very, very happy.
Stay tuned; we'll keep you in the "liver loop."


Summer at our Montana hideaway with a corner of the Big Sky, top right..





NEXT UP: Big Sky Country is gorgeous in late summer -- even with the wild fires.  The days are dry and sunny, the evenings are cool and breezy.  High in the mountains, the stars are brilliant. And the bird life is abundant.  We saw a mountain lion today. Come with us, remembering to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at the arts, travel, nature and the lives of two people who live life by the "carpe diem" creed. 
   







Friday, August 25, 2017

Oregon's Coos Bay delivers food, fun, forests and lovely water

Yorkshire terrier Nick enjoys the sun on a late-summer hike with us near Coos Bay, Oregon, a splendid retreat.
This quiet but active corner of Oregon offers fine food, a paradise for nature lovers and a pampering hotel casino.



If you are fascinated by bridges, make a drive through southwestern Oregon. 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

OREGON HAS a special place in my family's heart.
And, like memories of family, Oregon's coastal towns have a timeless quality.  Coos Bay evokes happy memories of a bygone time. It's retained that small-town charm that means the cafe waitress greets you and knows how you like your coffee.
Yet it has big-city attractions and amenities -- a lovely resort hotel staffed by friendly folk, proud of the area and eager to share their knowledge. Fine shopping. Nature.
Mill Casino Hotel is a beautifully built, handsomely
 landscaped get-away in southwestern Oregon. Thumbs up!
PEOPLE GREET one another on the street. Yards are neatly groomed.  Pets are well behaved, there's an active artistic life. The scenery is lush.
We'd heard from writer friends about the Mill Casino Hotel and loved our gorgeous bay view from the hotel's pretty tower. There's also a cozy lodge with lovely woodworking.  My half-amphibian partner particularly enjoyed the water life, for the harbor is the largest deep-draft coastal harbor between San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound, and is Oregon's second busiest maritime commerce center after Portland, four hours north.
A variety of water activity unfolds from a room at Mill Casino Hotel. Pleasure
boats, freighters with lumber, sand, gravel and other goods provide activity.
The hotel offers free shuttle, parking and valet services, an attractive fitness room and welcoming spa, arcade and business center. We felt pampered with comfy pillows and some of the best hotel coffee we've had in hundreds of hotel stays -- Red Wagon Organic Coffee.  Were it not for my gambling penchant and desire to try a few of Coos Bay's fabled seafood restaurants, we'd have little need to leave the room, but we ventured downstairs to squander some fun money in the pleasant casino, and check out the hotel's excellent eateries -- one casual, one more formal.
THE VILLAGES of North Bend, Eastside, and Charleston cluster together near Coos Bay. You can satisfy your seafood yearnings in this picturesque part of southwestern Oregon.  It has more fish restaurants than one can
 Captain's Choice Family Fish House
offers pleasant, homespun ambiance,
friendly service and delicious seafood.
shake a pole at. Blue Heron, Shark Bites, Fisherman's Grotto all serve tasty fare and we made a second trip to Captain's Choice for its superb fish and chips. 
Keller, here, and Cookie, hiked
around and under several bridges. 
What we appreciated 
 about this pretty, quietly busy
part of Oregon was the mix of
sophistication and "laid back".
Oregonians, like my fellow 
Montanans, enjoy a lovely meal, and a top hotel.  They also love  nature.  Hiking, biking, birding are favorite hobbies in this little corner of Oregon. We also noticed posters for art and jazz festivals, and sampled many homemade goodies, from a fantastic berry pie to gooey cinnamon rolls. And, like my native Montana, there's no sales tax, so bring home a piece of Oregon's famous handmade pottery -- and some of her delightful wine and beer! www.themillcasino.com; coosbay.org

Keller and Cookie celebrate his rebound from liver transplantation
aboard Hornblower, a favorite outing when they are based in San Diego. 

NEXT UP:  Answering the request of more than 5,000 readers, we bring you up to speed with our transplant saga.  All systems are go, including the green light to visit Montana this year, and make our  
autumn trip to southern Europe.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays
when we post our novel look at travel, nature and the arts. And
click this link to refresh your memory of the transplant story: 

http://www.whereiscookie.com/2017/06/transplant-tale-into-light-with-merging.html


Friday, August 18, 2017

Beautiful Barcelona scarred in latest result of bigotry, racism, ignorance

A few blocks from Las Ramblas, tourists usually take in Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia.

GLOBAL CITIZENS MUST STAND TO HALT TERRORISM, CONTINUE TO TRAVEL


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

SINCE I BEGAN traveling internationally, as a young girl, I've been lucky. I travel cautiously -- as much as one can -- but I've been fortunate in my timing.
San Franciscan Jared Tucker was not so lucky. He is among the dead in Thursday's terrorist attack in Barcelona.
Jared Tucker and Heidi Nunes Tucker
on their belated honeymoon in Spain
.
He was among the Las Ramblas victims.
Tucker was celebrating a belated honeymoon, enjoying Las Ramblas with his wife, Heidi, strolling, toasting, taking in the sunshine of a perfect late summer day.
A visit to Las Ramblas usually includes a stoll,
street buskers, flowers, cafes and music.
Also known as "La Rambla," the street in central Barcelona is among Europe's most beautiful.  I've strolled it dozens of time with tourists from dozens of countries, buying trinkets and flowers, sipping cafe con leche or vino blanco. Just as Tucker and his wife Heidi were doing when he went to use the men's room. They were separated as the van plowed into pedestrians; he died.
THE STREET-- popular with tourists and locals alike --is known as Las Ramblas. Its Catalan pronunciation is "La Rambla" but since the tree-lined pedestrian mall includes many smaller side streets, the plural has become common.
Cookie and a Spanish guide visit, with tourists from Italy
Austria, Australia, Israel and the Netherlands two years ago.
We've had pleasant lunches and dinner along the picturesque 1.2 kilometer-walkway, which connects Plaça de Catalunya in town center with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell and the sea where Columbus set off to discover the new world. I've been mugged on Las Ramblas, but, thank the gods, not injured.
I HAVE BEEN so traumatized by this latest attack that I am losing sleep.  While my grief isn't personal, I mourn with the Tucker family for the turn of fate and timing that took their loved one.
I lost my first husband on a Valentine's week trip in 1992.  I know the sorrow and trauma of leaving for a joyous romantic time then returning home with a canister of cremains.  "How could this happen?" Tucker's stunned father asked. "This was my son's first big trip to Europe."
Watch the crowds around you and be aware of suspicious movement. Don't
 hesitate to stop a policeman or make a phone call, here in downtown Barcelona.
The purpose of this departure from our usual travel-arts-nature pieces is to share my thoughts since yesterday, hoping in some small way I can contribute to a more peaceful planet.
FIGHTING TERRORISM is an overwhelming concept, but I'm wondering if we are doing as much as we can to protect ourselves and contribute some measure of good will and brotherhood to our troubled world.
Most of us know that ignorance and fear are responsible for today's terrorism.  Whether the Islamic State, ISIS,  the resurgence of the Nazi symbol, the shameful Virginia and North Carolina incidents with racial epithets and death, we are surrounded by intolerance, fear and ignorance. 
I may be naive in thinking that being more "global" could help.  It gives me a modicum of hope to write a check to a charity that fights global poverty.
MY PERSONAL CREDO -- to do what I can to prevent terrorism -- means fostering better social conditions and banging the drum for inclusion and tolerance.
Beautiful Las Ramblas from a hotel room perch.
When family and friends asked me today if we are still planning our annual Spain trip, I said, "absolutely."  We consider ourselves unofficial ambassadors, traveling proof that Americans are decent, good, people, that we are generous, polite, broad minded, curious, accepting.
As we go, we will be aware of potential threats, and alert to activity around us. 
My late husband, Bruce, and I were at the Athens Airport in 1973 when Arab gunmen opened fire in a nearby lounge, killing three tourists and wounding 55. We heard the shots and hit the ground.
I FLEW OUT of Incheon Airport in Seoul in October of 1979, the day President Park Chung-hee was assassinated. 
I left the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem in 1997 moments before a bombing that killed several people.
Keller and Cookie on a recent Barcelona trip.
Keller and I visited Cairo's Tahrir Square weeks after the uprising in 2011.
We were in Sydney, Australia, during a 2014 terrorist attack at Lindt Cafe.  We'd dined there the day before.
After Spain, we've booked a concert in Paris at the Bataclan, home of the horrific 2015 massacre. It's a gorgeous 1865 building and I've heard several fabulous concerts there.
WE MUST NOT stop traveling, as open-minded, curious citizens of the world.  That's giving in to the terrorists' dearest hopes: to disrupt and frighten. We must be vigilant, too. 
  


Coos Bay affords beautiful water views, here from a plush jacuzzi
at Mill Casino Hotel, which offers elegance, fine fare and gambling. 

UP NEXT: Oregon's wonders extend to the beaches, dunes and bays.  Coos Bay is on Cookie's list of favorite places, with its mix of scenery, sun, wildlife and a gambling resort, Mill Casino Hotel, to exorcise her demons! Join us for the fun, remembering to explore, learn and live.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bold, beautiful, sometimes brash, Oregon Shakespeare Festival charms

Outside the Allen Elizabethan Theater, people take the summer night's air between acts. Next door, the Bowmer
Theater has a play underway, too, and across the street the smaller Thomas Theater also has a production. 

ASHLAND WORKS ITS WONDERS WITH FABULOUS THEATER, FINE FOOD, GORGEOUS HOTELS AND MORE


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


A back-stage tour takes one behind the scenes, here into the Bowmer Theater where
 two of Cookie's seats are pictured in the foreground, and the bed frame from "Shakespeare
in Love" awaits viewers. Patrons may purchase a chair plaque to honor a loved one.
AS A CHILD, theater cast a spell on me.
Its user-friendly witchcraft opened doors to travel and daring, shaping my imagination and enhancing my life.
For decades I've enjoyed the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, viewing hundreds of plays of every genre. Contemporary theater and Shakespeare's classics -- with the fest's famous gender bending, age defying, multi-racial, shake-it-up, spin.
Here in this small, village-like but hip
southern Oregon town, the festival and its three distinctly different theaters offer more than the bard's brilliant works.  A beautifully staged potpourri unfolds: new challenging work, time honored classics of both the American and European stages and the occasional musical take bows as well. This year's festival was a thrilling, exhilarating mix.
THE LINE-UP REFLECTS Ashland's blend of sophistication and earthy appeal, its ability to satisfy town and gown tastes, to bring together in the love of fine
Ashland Hills' Luna offers delightful fare and a fun happy
hour, with perfect small plates for before or after a play.
theater, both city folks and small-town dwellers who have chosen Ashland for its culture and proximity to the outdoors.
Nick and Nora enjoy the dog-friendly
atmosphere of the Neuman properties. 
To find a place that offers diversions both soothing and exciting render Ashland a jewel of America and the globe.
The renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival reaches an audience approaching a half-million and its budget is creeping near $40 million. The fest is the crown jewel
 Ashland Hills Hotel, just a pleasant few minutes from town
center and the plays offers tranquility, pretty landscaping
and attentive service, plus a fun restaurant, Luna. 
Ashland's main street at night shows off the beauty of
Ashland Springs Hotel, once the tallest building between
San Francisco and Portland. It is steps from fine theater.
of Ashland's attractions, which includes two splendid sister properties artfully run by the Neuman Hotel Group. Ashland Hills on the fringe of town offers a tranquil, rural setting, and Ashland Springs downtown offers old-world charm, sophistication and proximity to the action.  Both properties exhibit ambiance aplenty, friendly, efficient service, and fine dining in Larks at the Springs and Luna at the Hills.
THE FESTIVAL, now a world class enterprise, was founded by a Scotsman, Angus Bowmer, who called Rogue Valley home.
In 1934, Bowmer organized boxing matches to fund his deeper passion, theater.
Cookie strolls in the Allen Elizabethan
Theatre grounds, a beloved venue.

As the play- loving audience grew, so did the town's tourism.
Today's Ashland also offers a delightful dinner theater, Oregon Cabaret; a fun movie theater, the Varsity; many boutiques, pubs, specialty shops, bars, unique clothing stores and art galleries.  Ashland is also a foodie's paradise. We've dined in a bounty of fine eateries with family and friends from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Chicago and Billings, Montana, my home for many years.
Actor Jennie Greenberry
plays Belle in "Disney's
Beauty and the Beast" and
took time for a photo
 with a young fan.
ONE ASSUMES that Bowmer's spirit is blessing the abundance. The clever, play-loving
Temperatures last week topped 110 degrees in Ashland,
Oregon as Cookie and Keller took in a raft of cool plays.
gentleman's dream that Ashland could support live theater came true. The boxing that funded the first plays was phased out, as audiences opted for Shakespeare, contemporary comedy and drama over pugilism.
This year's season has the "something for everyone" credo that Bowmer espoused.
In three complementary venues, and 10 productions, one may span centuries, styles and cultures.
FOR FANS of Shakespeare -- whose eloquence headlined the festival for decades -- four plays run in three venues. The time honored "Henry IV" pair -- parts One and Two -- is on tap in the Thomas Theatre, while in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, a magnificent "Julius Caesar" unfolds. "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is regaling crowds in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. A gifted female actor delightfully renders Falstaff, one of the bard's most colorful creations. "The Odyssey" takes us on an unforgettable journey to ancient lands. The Green Show begins each evening with sprightly music. 
Oregon Cabaret Theatre presents entertaining theater and fine fare
in a beautifully restored old church in Ashland. Because it offers quality
productions and runs Monday, dark day at OSF, it is usually sold out. 
The season includes a memorable pair of world premieres, "Hannah and the Dread Gazebo," in the Thomas, and "Off the Rails" in the Bowmer. The Elizabethan also features a mesmerizing "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" with gorgeous voices. "Unison," with high-tech staging and versatile singers, honors the poetry of August Wilson.
EACH ACTOR  participates in at least two plays with three to five performances a week, usually a major role in one production and a supporting role in one or two others.
It's fun to recognize actors in the pubs and on the street, while on stage, observing them in multiple roles. "Hey, that guy played in 'Caesar' and now he's in an old-west hero." (Cicero is played by a female actor, too.) A player may headline in one production and join the ensemble in the next, since repertory means the shows run in rotation for the February to October season. There's an intense point each June when all shows on the playbill are either being rehearsed or performed. www.osfashland.org; wwwAshlandHillsHotel.com;www.AshlandSpringsHotel.com; www.LUNACafeAshland.com


Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas is perhaps Europe's
best known walking street, beloved by locals and tourists.
UP NEXT:  The terrorist attacks in Barcelona and southern Spain -- beloved by Cookie and Keller, who will soon return -- have left Cookie depressed and determined to do something, even in a small way. What can we do -- as global citizens -- to halt extremism and take a stand against terrorism. Its most recent victims were simply enjoying a sunny summer day on Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas. What is our individual responsibility? Give it some thought, and travel safely -- with savvy and kindness -- remembering to explore, learn and live. Catch us Friday evenings when we post for each weekend, our take on travel, nature, the arts, famous cities, friends, family, pets and food.