Friday, March 6, 2020

Oregon Shakespeare Festival: world class theater offers quality, variety in sublime setting

The 2020 season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival includes ten promising productions in three venues.
Here, the Allen Elizabethan Theatre will present "The Tempest," "Black Odyssey" and "Bernhardt/Hamlet."
OSF celebrates its 85th anniversary with a wide ranging repertoire featuring revered classics and acclaimed new work.


The Ashland Hills Hotel offers a quiet, relaxing place to stay, 
in southern Oregon's beautiful Rogue Valley.



 Cookie samples the healing fizzy waters of Lithia
Fountain, said to contain healthy, healing properties. 

TIME TO BOOK your tickets for the remarkable 2020 season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
A year without a trip to Ashland, to revel in the country's finest repertory venue would be a sad year indeed.
So what to see?  Why not sample the entire docket.  Shakespeare, of course, with "The Tempest," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and more; cutting edge new work; fun music and adventuresome, thought-provoking theater, for OSF pushes the envelope.
 Prepare for inventive staging as the company delivers its engaging 85th season.  "Jubilee"  
A mural near Lithia Park down the steps from the Angus Bowmer Theatre
and Members Lounge.  The colorful artwork is classic Ashland.
year promises the quality and diversity that marked the festival when founder Angus Bowmer had the dream in 1935. OSF's "punch" has a proud heritage since Bowmer staged boxing matches to fund his theatrical vision. His early festivals offered variety and originality. Today's playbill honors that concept through new work and classics with an inventive OSF spin.
 "The Merry Wives of Windsor," won praise for its beautifully 
staged   telling of the Shakespeare favorite. Ensemble.
 -- photo for OSF by Jenny Graham
ALL THIS is delivered by a diverse company of professional actors from across the U.S., in the lovely hill-surrounded setting of Ashland, Oregon.  This pastoral but sophisticated southern Oregon town offers abundant diversions to attract the drama and nature buff -- tranquil Lithia Park, dramatic beauty in nearby Crater Lake National Park, river rafting the beautiful Rogue River, fine shopping with area craftsmen and artists sharing their talents, delightful "First Friday" art walks through the town's many galleries, restaurants with something for every palate and budget, a film festival, movie theater and quaint charm of nearby Jacksonville.
BOTH THE 85th anniversary season of the Festival and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Angus Bowmer Theatre  begin the weekend of Friday, March 6. Tickets are selling out for the historic weekend, with shows opening in the Bowmer Theatre and nearby Thomas Theatre. (The Allen Elizabethan Theatre opens in May when the weather warms.) 
The town of Jacksonville is unique
because the entire village is on
the National Register.
THE THEATER buff with eclectic tastes is in heaven here with world class work performed by a versatile, accomplished company. You'll find  experienced, innovative directors and a wide mix of playwrights.
 The festival's popular Green Show offers free, fun pre-play
 entertainment before evening performances begin.
Memberships begin at a reasonable $35. If you have deeper pockets and the desire to honor a loved one, consider endowing a chair.  We have endowed three through our half-century plus at OSF.
Discussions, back-stage tours,  pre-show entertainment, and other enhancements are part of the draw.
Live music is offered by first-rate musicians, such as this cellist
  who plays Bach, Mozart and more regularly in Lithia Park.
TICKETS SHOULD be booked now for the landmark 2020 season, which closes Nov. 1, with a range of 10 plays including intriguing new work, from a festival favorite, the bard's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" cutting edge plays with a message and a family musical, "Peter and the Starcatcher." (Prepare for pirates, swashbucklers, mermaids and a ticking crocodile.) "Bring Down the House" offers Shakespeare's "Henry VI" trilogy in an ambitious two-part adaptation.  Another classic, "The Tempest," takes viewers into the mystical land of the banished Prospero, with storms, supernatural machinations and OSF's twist on Shakespeare's exploration of the good, bad and gray in human nature.
World premieres are always part of OSF's mission and "The Copper Children" promises social commentary with humor. "Confederates," another world premiere, features stories of two black women 160 years apart.
Ducks dive for lunch on a stroll through  Lithia Park near OSF.
AS A FAN of the festival for more than 50 years, I'm excited to see "Bernhardt/Hamlet," celebrating the great actress determined to play Shakespeare's coveted title role.
"Poor Yella Rednecks" promises humor, pathos and imagination in the story of a young couple relocating from Vietnam to Arkansas. If you loved "Vietgone," you'll look forward to Qui Nguyen's sequel, billed as an autobiographical love story.
"Everything That Never Happened" takes a behind-the-scenes look at  "The Merchant of Venice" exploring the life of Shylock's beloved daughter, Jessica, caught in a collision of religious beliefs and family loyalties.
Many levels of participation are
available, including seat endowment
for a loved one or theater friend.
WE LIKE TO book nine or 10 plays, enjoying the lively Ashland vibe, hiking in Lithia Park, revisiting favorite old eateries and discovering new restaurants.
Humor is part of the OSF tradition, with this production
from a few years back of  Marx Bros. "Cocoanuts,"

Downtown Ashland at dusk on a cool  spring
evening. The Ashland Springs hotel is at the
heart of the small, inviting town.
Playgoers settle in for a production in
the only outdoor venue at OSF, the
 the Allen Elizabethan Theatre here.
We also enjoy Ashland's two fine Neuman Group hotels, the lovely Ashland Springs Hotel, steps from the festival downtown, and Ashland Hills Hotel in the nearby countryside, both pet friendly with fine food and tastefully appointed rooms.
Strolling outside the hotels, it's fun to
recognize actors in two the pubs and on the street. You'll observe them in multiple roles.

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. A
player may headline in one production and join the ensemble in the next, since repertory means the shows run in rotation for the months-long run. There's an intense point each June when all shows on the playbill are either being rehearsed or performed.
Watch the web for specials and discounts, which often appear. or 800 219-8161;;;

A once busy hotel pool is deserted in the wake of the virus.
Next week's column shares tips, trends and warnings on travel.
UP NEXT:  As coronavirus sends the travel industry reeling, we look at the latest information, warnings and changes from cruise, airline and government officials. We also share our personal travel credo and future plans.  In the wake of change and volatility, what should the savvy travel do? We'll try to help.  Then we feature the lively Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland. Plan a visit to this first-rate dinner theater on Hargadine. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature, family and more:


  1. San Francisco FansMarch 7, 2020 at 1:40 PM

    Happy to see this tribute to a great part of our country.

  2. Baton Rouge Drama LoversMarch 8, 2020 at 9:07 AM

    Lovely look at a lively town. Thanks.