Shakespeare and Film Festivals in Ashland, Oregon
Most festivals are held over a weekend, but the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is held between February and October. Originally, only plays of Shakespeare were performed, but now classic drama and new plays are also included in the season.
The festival’s roots go back between 1893 and the 1920s when the Chautauqua society, a nation-wide organization promoting education and self-improvement, held a ten day festival featuring concerts and lectures and so on featuring the likes of John Phillip Sousa and William Jennings Bryan. The current day Elizabethan stage in Lithia Park is built within the 12’ circular walls of the original domed Chautauqua theater.
The first Oregon Shakespearean Festival – a four day event - was held in July of 1935 when Angus Bowmer, an Oregon university, staged productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. Today, the Tony Award winning festival takes place on three stages. Based on the 1599 London Fortune theater, the 1,190 seat, open-air Elizabethan Stage / Allen Theater opened in 1950. The indoor, more intimate 600-seat Angus Bowmer Theatre opened in 1970. The third and smallest theater, aptly named The New Theater, opened in 1970 with the flexibility to be arranged in three different configurations offering between 270 -360 seats.
While in its beginnings the Festival theater offered only Shakespeare, the eleven offerings for the 2009 season range from Macbeth to Dead Man’s Cell Phone to Don Quixote. Full price tickets for a play range from $65 to $83 with discounted tickets for youth, season members, and those attending in the off-seasons of February – May and October – November.
The festival offers many opportunities for entertainment and for learning about the festival. For example, the Backstage Tour is a walking-tour that visits all three theaters to discuss history and design.
Don’t let ticket prices stop you from roaming the festival grounds. From June through October, you can attend a Green Show, a 35 minute, free presentation by a variety of entertainers in the Festival courtyard prior to evening theater performances. You might also enjoy attending the free informal talks given by members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
For more information, visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Make your reservations early.
Ashland Independent Film Festival
Sponsored by the Southern Oregon Film Society, the Ashland Independent Film Festival is held in April at the downtown 1937 Art Deco-style Varsity Theater.
Multiple showings of documentaries, features and shorts by filmmakers and students from around the world are shown on five screens. In 2008, its seventh season presented 87 films and general admission tickets were $8. For more information, visit the Ashland Film Organization.
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