July 2, 2004
Head to Ashland for theatre
As many as four plays run daily in a town that has many entertainment
LAURI DONAHUE SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH BULLETIN
For a theatre lover, Gan Eden (Paradise) looks a lot like
Ashland, Ore. Ashland's a lovely resort town in the foothills of
the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges, just off U.S. Interstate 5 (which
connects to B.C. Highway 99), 966 kilometres south of Vancouver.
The town's biggest draw is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF),
recently named one of America's top five regional theatres. It attracts
around 400,000 visitors annually.
This year's season includes five plays by Shakespeare and six others,
which range from modern classics like The Royal Family and
A Raisin in the Sun to a world première of Oedipus
Complex (based on the works of Sophocles, Sartre and Freud).
During the height of the season, as many as four plays run daily
in three venues offering patrons the theatrical equivalent
of a cruise ship buffet pig-out.
Lithia Creek flows through the town and into Lithia Park (designed
by John McClaren, who also created San Francisco's Golden Gate Park).
Several restaurants and inns are situated along the creek banks,
including the Plaza Inn and Suites, which manages to be both elegant
and family friendly, with a grand lobby, designer touches in the
rooms and complimentary cookies and peanut butter sandwiches
as well as free Internet service.
Also creekside is Pilaf (541-488-7898 or www.globalpantry.com),
Ashland's only all-vegetarian restaurant, with a global assortment
of dishes, including an Israeli plate and a Palestinian platter.
Ashland is made for strolling, and it's easy to avoid using the
car. Most of the businesses are located along Main Street (mercifully
almost free of chain stores) and encompass boutiques and bookstores,
cafés and coffeehouses, fine arts and crafts, spas and antiques,
a first-run movie theatre and purveyors of bicycle rentals and white-water
A sample of the fare
Henry VI, Part One was one of Shakespeare's earliest plays.
Many critics (including Harold Bloom) have a low opinion of it,
and some think that it wasn't even the Bard's original work, but
merely his patched-up version of an earlier play.
The director of the OSF production, Scott Kaiser, has streamlined
the complicated tale of war, politics, witchcraft and lust, with
a cast of 12 playing 22 roles (cut down from the original 40-plus).
The Lord of the Rings-inspired staging uses cinematic devices
such as characters appearing in "visions" and "flashbacks"
to add clarity and visual interest.
The revamped script puts the focus on the heroic Sir John Talbot
(Jonathan Haugen), the English champion, and on Joan La Pucelle
(Joan of Arc, played by Tyler Layton), who inspires (and, in this
version, fights for) the French. The French Dauphin compares Joan
to the biblical prophetess: "Thou art an Amazon, and fightest
with the sword of Deborah." The titular king (played by Cristofer
Jean) is a wimp, spending much of the play praying and urging his
feuding relatives to hug and make nice.
It's a highly engaging production that ends on a cliffhanger of
political and sexual intrigue that compels the audience to return
for the combined parts two and three, performed in Ashland's outdoor
Elizabethan Theatre. (Part One runs through Oct. 31; Parts Two/Three
run through Oct. 9. Both can be seen on the same day.)
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which began Feb. 20, runs to Oct.
31, 2004. Tickets are $14.50 US to $65 US. For tickets and more
information, call the box office at 541-482-4331 or visit www.osfashland.org.
Lauri Donahue is an award-winning playwright and the rebbetzin
of Beth Tikvah Congregation in Richmond.