Monday, August 23, 2010

Ashland, OR

Ah, Oregon. It’s population still insists on tie-dying their clothes (at least those which didn’t come straight from Guatemala), and appears to be existing primarily on raw goat milk. Never before have I seen a more fashion-generic population than during the three days I spent in Ashland. I’d always wanted to go to Ashland to see the plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – an odd name for the venue given that plays run for nine months of the year, and only a fraction are by Shakespeare. 2010 is the 75th anniversary of the fest, which is one of the oldest and largest professional non-profit theaters in the nation. It employs 325 people full-time, 175 part-time, and utilizes 600 volunteers. One of the most impressive things about the festival is that they produce so many plays during a season. In 2010, eleven plays will have run on the three stages, often overlapping on the same stage, meaning one play might run on the Elizabethan Stage one day as a matinee, but the techs will break down the set before evening and a different play will run on the same stage that night. Even more impressive is the fact that actors may be in three different shows during a season. We saw Twelfth Night on Saturday, a play with two female leads (one of whom was embarrassingly dreadful), and one of the leads (the not-dreadful one) had the second lead in the musical we saw on Sunday night. Peter and I (critics that we are) determined that while the actress whom we saw twice wasn’t dreadful, she was a one-trick pony and her performance as Lady Olivia in Twelfth Night wasn’t particularly different from her performance as Miss Ritter, a 1930s shopgirl, in She Loves Me. We thought the performances in general were good (better in She Loves Me than in Twelfth Night), but not particularly stellar compared to performances we’ve seen elsewhere in the country. Those actors work hard though, and I’m sure the OSF is a great gig to get for an actor starting out. We also took a backstage tour given by one of those hard-working actors. Our guide, Kate Hurty, told us she started out as a scientist doing cell research after graduating from Swarthmore, and did community theater on the side before deciding to ditch her lab coat to pursue an MFA in acting. She was very vivacious and cute and gave a very interesting tour. She was starring in Pride and Prejudice which we didn’t see, but also had a small role in She Loves Me (in which she got to wear absolutely beautiful 1930s-style dresses, hats, and coats – the costumes in this show were wonderful).
I got a little bored with the Shakespeare, which I expected, but She Loves Me was delightful. It’s based on the movie Shop Around the Corner, which takes place in Budapest pre-WWII, and is the movie that You’ve Got Mail was based on.
Ashland is a very nice, tiny village, with nice shops, decent restaurants, and a lovely park on the edge of town. Peter and I also drove the two-and-a-half hours to Crater Lake to check out the azure blues, and they were as advertised.

The B&B where we stayed was very nice, we had a big room and big bathroom and the breakfasts were good. I was sort of expecting extraordinary, but I’m sticking with good. The ladies who ran the place were very nice, helpful, friendly, etc., and the other guests we dined with at breakfast were the same. Really nice weekend.