Oregon and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Days of Wine and Roses and Shakespeare
We were going to visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Though many years ago, the pain of skimming through Cliffs Notes study guides in an attempt to understand the Bard’s “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar” and “Hamlet” still resonated and I looked forward to viewing the plays and hoping the plays would convey what the study guides could not.
But first we flew into Portland, called “The City of Roses” because of its lush greenery when even on its legendary rainy days, people enjoy the outdoors.
One of first visits was to the International Rose Test Garden, the oldest public rose test garden in the United States.
Across from the Rose Test Garden is the acclaimed Japanese Garden, which boasts that it is the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. It is perched high above Portland on 5 ½ tranquil acres. The meandering paths, bonsai trees, Japanese tea house, streams and Koi pond are medicine for the soul and a balm for fast-paced lives.
Food and Wine
Oregon is well-known, too, for it wine. The coastal, temperate environment and great soil produce wines with award-winning pinot noir and pinot gris, two of the main grapes grown here. However, Oregon’s wineries grow 72 grape varieties in 17 American Viticulture Areas. Head out in any direction and you’ll run across one of the state’s 450 wineries.
A group of Portland winemakers even established the PDX Urban Wineries (PDX is the airline code for Portland) who make wine from syrah, tempranillo, pinot blanc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and others.
Restaurants emphasize menus with farm-fresh vegetables and a 20-bottle wine list can be found at the smallest café, where quality wine is served by the glass.
After a few days we took a flight to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) located in Ashland, a charming city of about 20,000 people, located 285 miles south of Portland and just 15 miles north of the California border. The hotels, boutiques and restaurants cater to the 400,000 visitors who descend on the quaint town during the eight-month theater season. Theatergoers combine their theater-going experience with nearby whitewater rafting, hiking or park adventures to more sedate art gallery and wine tours.
The festival attracts 400,000 visitors during the theater season. In 2014 11 plays—four by Shakespeare and seven by classic and contemporary playwrights were presented and 90 actors delivered an astounding 791 performances on three stages, including performances on the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, which is modeled after the Fortune Theatre in London.
The festival remains relevant through a combination of Shakespeare plays and a diverse selection of plays.
“The Sign in Sidney Bernstein’s Window” by by Lorraine Hansberry, “Water by the Spoonful,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes played. Interestingly, two women, Sofia Jean Gomes (Valentine) and Christiana Clark (Proteus) starred in Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” (Clark is pictured above).
In 2012, Robert Schenkkan’s “All The Way” opened here before moving on to Broadway, where actor Bryan Cranstorn (from television series “Breaking Bad”) won a Tony for his role as President Lyndon B. Johnson. “Great Society,” part two of the story of LBJ’s presidency, runs at OSF until Nov. 1.
The 2015 season will begin previews on Feb. 20 and open the weekend of Feb. 27 to a schedule of four Shakespeare plays, as well as other classic and contemporary plays, including “The Happiest Song Plays Last” by Quiara Alegría Hudes.
Tickets for the 2015 season will go on sale in November 2014 for members, and general sales will begin in early December.
If you go:
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival