Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Theater at its Finest

I’ve traveled my entire life, the benefit of being a military brat and working in entertainment, travel and tourism. My globetrotting ventures have taken me from Spain to Fiji.

The unique cultural experiences of each destination fuel my desire for global discovery. For those who know me, my passion to see the world is legendary. The night before my scheduled departure to a new destination, I typically never sleep, my heart races bordering on hypertension, my palms become unbelievably sweaty—it’s a bundle of nervous energy that six miles of jogging and weight training does little to abate.

A chance trip to Ashland, Oregon was one of those pre-travel tension-filled trips. My Ashland adventure turned into an awesome discovery—The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Little could prepare me for the quality of the performances, the diversity of cast and crew, and the friendliness of the local community.

Located just minutes from the California state line, just off Interstate 5, few places compare to the natural beauty of the Rogue Valley—a quaint town surrounded by rolling hills with mountains out in the distance. The community is built around great theatrical performances and some of the world’s best wines.

Don’t assume every performance is about the bard, I guarantee you there are plays for everyone.

The 2018 season features such wonderful plays like The Way the Mountain Moved. It’s the

The Way the Mountain Moved
Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (Actors: Rodney Gardiner & Christiana Clark)

powerful journey into the genesis of the Transcontinental Railroad. This story explores the often-untold perspectives on an iconic chapter in American History and the events that shaped the country’s moral and environmental future. In a remote desert in the 1850s, four men—a U.S. Army lieutenant, a sharpshooter, a botanist and an artist—set out to survey a route for the new continent-spanning railroad. After being scattered on separate odysseys, they cross paths with lost pioneers, cautious Native Americans, and an African-American Mormon couple unsure whether to befriend, fight or flee the newcomers. Whose dreams will prevail?

Othello is Shakespeare’s most intimate tragedy. Director Bill Rauch explores racism, religious bias, xenophobia, and the more disturbing aspects of relationships in the context of our society’s ongoing struggle with polarizing differences. Consumed by their bigotry, those who praised the Moorish general Othello’s military successes now reject his marriage to Desdemona. The newlyweds are determined to overcome all obstacles, but Othello’s assignment in an exotic new location draws them into the web of his lieutenant Iago, whose resentment and demons know no bounds. A powerful cast of twelve actors includes Chris Butler (Othello), Alejandra Escalante (Desdemona), Danforth Comins (Iago) and Amy Kim Waschke (Emilia).

2018 Othello
Photo by Jenny Graham – Oregon Shakespeare Festival from Othello (Actors from left: Derek Garza, Chris Butler, James Ryen)

These are just two of eleven plays performed throughout the season, which runs from late February through late October.  The plays run concurrently at the many theaters on the grounds, including one beautiful outdoor arena that gives performing under the stars a whole knew meaning. Many of the performers and behind-the-scenes players go on to have stellar careers on Broadway, or in Hollywood.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival outdoor stage
Photo Courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The easiest way to get to Ashland is to fly to Medford, Oregon and take the short 20-minute ride south. There are plenty of shuttles available.

To learn more about the festival go to osfashland.org.

Michael Gordon Bennett
Michael Gordon Bennett

Founder & CEO, Sepia Lifestyle

Bennett is an accomplished entrepreneur, journalist, television and radio producer, actor, speaker, noted travel expert and author of two books, including the critically acclaimed 7-10 Split. He has worked in both media, travel and tourism for over 20 years, and previously served as manager of the Travel Channel's west coast operations. He's written for numerous magazine and The Huffington Post.

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