Getting ready for Oregon Shakespeare Festival

This has been gradually composed over a period of several months starting in November 06: It turns out that when you donate a certain amount of money to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival they invite you to special events, like opening nights in late February in the mountains of southern Oregon. Hmm. Not the wisest thing to be doing, at least for us but I suppose a pretty good deal for them.

A guy from rural Wisconsin can’t be put off by a winter storm, right?

I enjoy poring over the play brochure sometime in early November, imagining what would be a nice pairing or perhaps a sequence of three plays to see on a weekend, trying to avoid the weekends that our Symphony performs or the Rimrock Opera is singing, or one of our grandchildren has something important going on.

Our habits have changed over the years: we used to go for a week and saw a play every evening and sometimes a matinee on the same day; then we switched over to long weekends but still took in 3 or 4 plays. This doesn’t work out very well these days: perhaps we process more slowly or less surely with too much input. Instead of plays on Thur, Fri, Sat and Sun evening we usually have a nice dinner and early bed on Thur, and then maybe a matinee on Fri and an evening performance on Sat or Sun but not both if we can help it. Lately just two plays on a weekend seem to be even better. Sic transit middle age. We are scheduled for two matinees on this Opening Weekend. Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard on Saturday afternoon, and then a new play by David Lindsay-Abaire called Rabbit Hole on Sunday afternoon.

We are taking the afternoon Horizon flight to Portland on Thursday, 22 Feb 07, and then driving to Ashland, we hope on Friday, though it still is winter in the northwest and weather is changeable. Which is why we try to keep some hours or a day in hand when we have to be somewhere at a particular time. For us, this is a lecture on Saturday morning in Ashland and a play that afternoon. I wonder if the desire for matinees increases as we age because we tire more easily in the evening, or is it because we look forward to some good food and drink after the theatre? It is very embarrassing to fall asleep during a play.

We are still undecided about staying in Portland or somewhere nearby Thursday evening. There usually is something going on in Portland worth seeing or hearing. Arriving early in Ashland is not a problem as there are several worthwhile places to while away any excess time we may have.

We have never been to Ashland this early in the season. The drive down the I5 was as expected: the road was crowded and it rained most of the way. I am ready to declare I5 full and no more vehicles should be allowed on it, especially when I am driving up or down it. The visibility was hampered more by big trucks throwing up their spray all around them than by the verticaly falling rain.

We did manage to find a decent restaurant in Salem for a late lunch though we thought that after we passed the usual cluster of fast food places near the Big Highway we would easily find a decent place to eat. Not so easy as we thought: we had to look fairly hard to find the Best Little RoadHouse on one of the main streets that run through Salem. Good food, especially some nice fish and chips with a very light and flaky covering on the fish. Didn’t need to use any sauces which usually means pretty good stuff.

We arrived in Ashland just as it was getting dark: we saw a surprising amount of snow on the ground. Apparently the snow was fairly fresh and had caused power shortages in the valley. A light supper at the Oak Tree was not that good. Windsor Inn was quiet and fairly cheap, a long way from downtown, and once again revealing the wisdom of the old adage about getting what you pay for.

Saturday I went to a lecture in the New Theatre by Lou Douthit, one of the main dramaturgs at the OSF. Funny and sensitive and insightful, both the woman and her talk, mostly about how she has worked with Libby Appel for a long time and the complexity of putting on regional theatre in Ashland OR. She gave it on the set of Rabbit Hole. Then in the afternoon, we went to the Bowmer to see the magic of Libby Appel and the OSF as she directed Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. All good people and done extremely well, even on the opening performance. The director had a seat just down the row from us. A nice contrast with the more recent play to come the next day.

Stone Street Brewery put on a pretty good spread for dinner. Some very good soup. Very quiet there as it was all over town, at least compared to most days in spring and fall and certainly all of the summer.

Sunday afternoon we saw Rabbit Hole, a modern story of loss that compared and contrasted nicely with The Cherry Orchard’s losses. We eventually find out that Howie and Becca had lost a 4 year old son to a traffic accident 8 months before the play started. Becca’s sister, their mother and a high school boy who was driving the car that struck the boy are the rest of the characters. We get to look at 5 different ways of grieving and their interactions. Very nicely done by some of my favorites. Tyler Layton is really an all around actress.

A few new things noted in Ashland, like a totem pole near the Square, next to a new building that looks like it has been there for a long time. And some old things were nice too like Paddington Station for the shopper in all of us. The space between Medford and Ashland seems to be gradually filling up. They now have a Home Depot and a WalMart out in Phoenix, or is it Talent?

I trust all my readers will have noted that this post marks a certain technical accomplishment of mine, which is to figure out how to link things in the above text to other pages. It feels good.

So Monday morning we find a snow storm in the mountains of southern Oregon such that all the trucks had to put on their chains, and it took us over an hour to get to Grant’s Pass, and then another hour to Roseburg where the snow finally turned to a light rain. I doubt that we will be back this way in February again if we can help it.

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