For nearly eighty years, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has been the centerpiece of Southern Oregon tourism. This critically acclaimed and Tony Award winning venue runs from February to November and attracts audiences worldwide.
Beginning in 1935 with a grant of $400.00, Angus Bowmer, a teacher at the local college (now Southern Oregon University), produced and directed two Shakespearean plays – Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice, in an outdoor setting on two consecutive hot July evenings. The plays sold out, the crowd was enthralled and Ashland’s main attraction was born.
Until 1970, only the outdoor Elizabethan Theater was available for the festival. Shakespearean plays were staged exclusively.
Today, eleven plays on three stages are held. Typically, four plays by the Bard are featured and seven more by modern or classic playwrights. Musicals and world premiers are common, as well.
The Elizabethan Theater, with 1200 seats is still the hallmark of the festival, is the outdoor theater. Running from June until mid-October (or too cold or rainy), the Elizabethan is an experience like no other. With the stars overhead, wrapped in down blankets and sipping a hot chocolate, Shakespeare becomes a magical moment. This stage, with a distinctive English Tudor look, hosts three plays each summer.
The Angus Bowmer Theatre is the largest of the indoor stages. Seating 600, this theater hosts five plays. The modern, contemporary and musical selections are held in this venue and runs February to November.
Opening in 2002, the Thomas Theatre is small and intimate. With flexible seating designs, this indoor stage holds up to 360 audience members. Newer, edgier and energetic plays run here through November.
OSF loves the audiences and community. Despite constant demands of rehearsals and performances, OSF members take time for backstage tours, play readings and post-matinee discussions. Classes are on ongoing part of each season.
The ethnically diverse Green Show, held outdoors and free to any audience member, runs during summer evenings before show times. Held in the outdoor square in front of the Elizabethan and Bowmer Theatres, these high energy performances showcase talents of all genres; from jugglers, to high school violinists to hoe-down banjo pickers, these shows are good.
The 500 plus members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival are hoping you will make the trip to see them soon. They promise you the time of your life.
For productions, show times, and prices, visit www.osfashland.org or call 800-219-8161.