Ashland, nestled at the foot of the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountains in Oregon, might not seem like a likely place to establish a major theater. But since 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has drawn eager audiences and top-notch theatrical artists from all over the world, offering productions mounted in three adjoining theaters - including an open-air venue modeled after Shakespeare's own legendary Globe Theatre.
But 'Shakespeare Festival' is really a bit of a misnomer. Sure, they produce plenty of The Bard's work here, in interpretations both traditional and experimental - you might attend, for instance, a production of 'Comedy of Errors' set in modern Las Vegas. But there are also plenty of other plays presented, both classical and contemporary, including premieres.
Informative tours conducted by actors involved in the productions offer you a chance to peek backstage, ask questions, and learn interesting tidbits about the festival. Between performances, there are sometimes free outdoor musical presentations. And while we normally think of a festival as a weekend or perhaps week-long event, this festival runs for most of the year, from February to October.
Although Ashland is small, there are plenty of other points of interest to occupy you between performances, including bookstores, cafes and gift shops - the theater complex features a gift shop with unusual items specifically relating to Shakespeare and his age. There are even spas to soothe out any tension generated by excessive drama.
IF YOU GO: There are a number of convenient accommodations, including picturesque bed-and-breakfast options. Street parking can be a challenge, but there is a parking garage next to the festival venue. Most points of interest in Ashland are within easy walking distance of each other. Be prepared for chilly weather, especially in spring and fall.
WHEN TO VISIT: The festival is in progress from mid-February to mid-October. During the early part of the season, skiing is available nearby, and during the summer there is local access to white-water rafting.
JURISDICTION: Oregon Shakespeare Festival
INFORMATION VERIFIED BY Dennis Goza –Web site as of 09/27/10
ADDRESS: 15 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland, OR 97520