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  • Writer's pictureShawna Reppert

Cool Stuff Series: Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Environs

Published October 5, 2014 | By Shawna

So the manuscript for Raven’s Wing is awaiting crowdsource funding to pay for the final edit (look for the Indiegogo campaign soon), so it’s time to return to the Cool Stuff blog series.

Today’s Cool Stuff topic is Ashland/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Anne Hathaway B&B and Garden Suites, which has been on my mind since I wrote a scene where Cass and Raven reminisce about their visit to the same.

Yes, I know it’s barely within the parameters I set, as Ashland is about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Portland, longer if you’re like me and get bored easily with driving and keep finding excuses to stop. You could day-trip it—I’ve known people who have—but for the full experience I highly recommend taking a couple days (hence the addition of my favorite B&B to the blog entry.)

If you live anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, you have undoubtedly heard of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but unless you’ve actually gone, you probably don’t fully grok how truly amazing it is. Nine months of plays, three theaters, including the seasonally open replica of the Globe itself. Shakespeare’s plays are, of course, remarkable in and of themselves. The actors, the sets, the costuming, are all top class. As is the directing, even if I may have a differing opinion of some of the directors’ interpretations. (A Winter’s Tale a few years back was absolutely amazing, taking the play from its one-dimensional, nearly-folktale interpretation many English teachers give it and taking it up to the level of a multi-faceted, realistic psychological drama. An interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice done as a romantic comedy, not so much. And I could have done without Puck in fishnet, although many theater-goers enjoyed him.)

They do a varied selection of modern plays, as well, presented with an equal level of quality.

I usually organize my visit around a couple plays I really want to see, and then add one or two more that fit into my schedule. Often I find myself liking the ‘extras’ I threw in the best, so don’t hesitate to add a play you’ve never heard of.

Do take the backstage tour. It’s totally worth it.

Also take some time to check out the quirky little stores in the shopping district well within walking distance of the theater. Don’t be surprised if store clerks and wait staff engage you in a knowledgeable conversation about the plays, the productions, and past seasons. It’s part of the magic of the place (and experiencing a whole town so thoroughly dedicated to a long-dead writer gives the rest of us some hope.) You might even pass on the street one of the actors from the previous night’s play.

Don’t forget to take a wander through Lithia Park, a 93-acre park just behind the OSF complex. It boasts a Japanese garden, a formal rose garden, a century-old bridge and two duck ponds, but best of all it has acres and acres of woods so old you feel like you could come across Oberon courting Titania around the next bend. Though this part of the park is largely undeveloped, you will come across the occasional bench where you can sit a while and contemplate Ashland Creek as it rushes on its way.

Now, as I mentioned, there’s far more to Ashland and OSF than you can possibly do justice to in one day. I recommend eschewing boring hotels in favor of one of the many lovely, unique B & Bs in the area. With no slight meant to the many fine establishments I have not had the privilege of trying, let me suggest my favorite Ashland home-away-from-home, Anne Hathaway’s B & B and garden suites. An easy walk from the theater, this historic lodging house has lovely and fragrant gardens, and is uniquely furnished with bits and bobs brought home from world travels. The hospitality is above and beyond all expectation. The three-course breakfast includes house-made scones or muffins (if you are very lucky, you may encounter their ginger scones or gingerbread muffins, but every offering is a treat). The breakfast is huge. . .I rarely eat lunch when I’m staying there. They also set out a small, informal afternoon tea and an after-theater snack including port, sherry and/or Irish cream.

The hosts are fellow alum from Penn State’s English program, and so are able to spark intelligent table conversation about the plays. Although it sounds like a cliché, they really do make every effort to make guests feel welcome, comfortable, and completely at ease. Fellow eco-geeks will appreciate the house’s efforts to run a ‘green’ business.

I haven’t been back in a few years due to budgetary constraints, but when checking out their website to see if there were any changes to note, I was amused and pleased to discover the addition of a list of unusual discounts offered. Among those who may qualify: Penn State alumni (I perked up at that); Peace Corps volunteers, staff and parents; left-handers; classroom teachers; anyone born in 1941.

If you go, tell Deedie and David I said ‘hi’!

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