Ashland – A Magical Place

Ashland, the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is a magical place for writers, artists, crafters, book lovers, theatergoers, gardeners, shoppers, lovers, street musicians, just about everyone. (And, oh yes, wandering, aimless, jobless teens with nothing better to do than panhandle, pet their pooches, or sometimes protest.) We who love Shakespeare or theater in general head there from March through October, like lemmings, to see whatever plays and musicals have been billed for the season.  I just saw the most fabulous and energetic “Pirates of Penzance,” the beautifully-costumed but basically boring “Henry IV,” and the hysterically funny but ultimately pathetic “August: Osage County.”  All were so well performed. Some folks are such well-informed Shakespeare aficionados that I quake at getting into a conversation with them. They know the entire canon, who played what roles when, and what costumes were worn. I used to know some of that when I studied it in school but now get no pleasure in spouting off about it. My pleasure comes from the magical moments of watching the performance in the here and now and chatting about it afterwards. While the OSF dominates Ashland, it’s Shakespeare who sets the tone and decor of the entire town, from the decorative light pole banners and window displays, to the court jester-costumed tots walking around with their parents, to the hotels and B&B’s (Stratford Inn, Shakespeare this, Will that). It’s a thrill to run into an actor from a play the night before and tell him how excellent he was; and he’s genuinely happy to hear you say it. The magic, too, is in the talent that is drawn to the OSF; you haven’t made it as a stage actor until you’ve won some roles there. Some actors arrive and never leave, auditioning year after year for a couple of parts. Some come for a year or two, get some good roles, leave to hit Broadway or other theaters, and then return.  The allure is palpable, both for actors, their families, and just plain ordinary folks. Southern Oregon State University is in Ashland, too, producing many of the fine young actors, lighting experts, and stage designers who at some point intern and perhaps land permanent jobs at the OSF. There’s a Craft Faire every weekend during the summer and fall season, and a newish Farmers’ Market with all local organic produce. Did I mention restaurants? Every kind, every price level, every ethnic food, from the very casual to the more formal and chi chi. I sound like the Chamber of Commerce, don’t I? Would I live there? Yes. I’d continue writing and be inspired by the surrounding mountains, the misty mornings, the native plantings, and Will.

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About writersandy

Writer, Gardener, Crafter
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