Shakespeare and more
I have been to the Shakespeare Festival before but having the Road Scholar classes and meeting the members of the company added immensely to my understanding and enjoyment of the plays. This program focused on three Shakespeare plays, but there are others that cover the more modern works as well. Besides Road Scholar, the OSF has its own educational programs and I’m sure there are others.
Wednesday morning we were privileged to meet another great young actor, Wayne T. Carr. Wayne has played off Broadway and many regional theaters, and once made a movie in Slovenia called Who’s Afraid of the Big Black Wolf? In the afternoon, we saw him star as Pericles in an amazing production in the new Thomas Theater.
The Thomas is one of the new “black box” theaters–it’s literally a big black box where seats can be arranged in any configuration such as theater in the round, traditional, or in this case “three quarter thrust,” meaning the seats go around three sides and the stage thrusts out from the fourth side of the box into the middle of the seats. Lights and speakers can be mounted anywhere, entrances and exits are also flexible. I can’t show you the most astounding scene in the play (no photos allowed!). It’s hard even to describe–you really have to see it! All I can say is a storm at sea is recreated by a huge, hand painted, billowing sheet of silk.
Those of you who have the opportunity to go to Ashland should definitely see this show–it’s an incredible production, one of the best I’ve ever seen. And Pericles isn’t even one of Shakespeare’s best or most popular plays! And good news for my Minnesota friends and family–mark your calendars for this coming January and February! Joe Haj, who created this production of Pericles, is about to become the new director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and he is taking Pericles on the road, with the same staging, cast and crew. Don’t miss it!
On Thursday morning we met Barzin Akhavan, another OSF actor who generously shared his life story with us. His family brought him from Iran to Seattle, where he earned his MFA at the U. of Washington. He played several parts in Pericles and shared a touching story of his audition for his dream role as Caliban in The Tempest.
We had a free afternoon today and decided to spend it in the nearby Gold Rush town of Jacksonville. Many small towns have National Historic District designations for their downtown areas, but the entire town of Jacksonville is a National Historic Landmark. Jacksonville was once a thriving county seat but when the railroad passed it by and went to Medford instead, it went into decline. That turned out to be a good thing in a way, because Medford and other towns grew and modernized, while Jacksonville stayed the same!
After lunch at one of the many good restaurants, we strolled up and down the main streets, and checked out the grounds of the Britt music festival that brings visitors here all summer. Then we hiked up the trail to Panorama Point, where we were treated to lovely views of the valley and Mt. McLaughlin.
In the evening we returned to Ashland for our last play, Much Ado About Nothing. Before the theater each evening, people gather on the green outside the theaters to watch a variety of acts in the free Green Show.
Our old friend Christiana Clark starred as Beatrice in the hilarious Much Ado, set in the present time but with Shakespeare’s language. We appreciated the set even more after Tyrone showed us a video of how dozens of volunteers helped to attach thousands of flowers to the hangings above the stage.