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Ashland 29 August 2018

1912 : 0

More Smoke than Ash

We made our annual pilgrimage to Noble Coffee for a pair of chai lattes, and then a wander about town and lunch by Lithia Creek. You may note, no foodie pix; that's 'cause there's been no memorable food. (where is Wiley when we need him?) Okay meals – the best thing: strawberries and flan at Agave --  but nothing to write home about. The two best meals of the trip remain dinner at Local Ocean in Newport and lunch at Fountain Café in Port Townsend.



As for today's plays, sadly, the mighty OSF juggernaut fell far below C-level last night, and didn't scramble back with this afternoon's half-hearted, shrill, awkward, mumbled offering of the over-done Sense & Sensibility. Nor was it expected to. The big Bowmer Theater was maybe 60% full, something in all our years of coming, we have never seen. Overheard on our way out, 'Emma Thompson is just not an act anyone can follow.' The staging, while up to the usually spectacular OSF level, was just plain tone-deaf: the girls and their mum lived in a cottage, not a rococo mansion. Elinor was too old, and Colonel Brandon was bow-legged; neither of these facts can be held against the actors (they did okay) but the casting was questionable – is it possible that as with the audience, the players are aging out, and the supply of competent ingenues has dried up?

There was one memorable bit: the invisible dogs with the chorus in the balcony supplying the dog yowls. Well done.

1913 : 0

Due to smoke from the wildfires west of  Grants Pass, tonight's performance of R&J* has been moved from the Elizabethan outdoor theater to the Ashland High School auditorium. We have been reluctant to book Elizabethan tickets for some years, due to the frivolous nature – I think OSF management thinks 'popular' but we disagree – of the plays produced there ...but we love the theater. (Loved it more before the horrid pavillion was added, but so it goes.) It is itself a prominent actor in any production on its stage, from the thrill of the flag being raised from the attic window and the tipping of the intern's hat to the fracturing of the fourth wall so easily practiced therein. Its balconies are built just for R&J. Yah, we know, OSF sez 'Go to the High School [if you can get a seat] and see what our cast does best: adapt.' For our money (not exactly peanuts: $105/ticket) we're not up for a cattle call for general seating in a high school auditorium. We'll have our money back, thank you, and give half of it to Obama's campaign in support of the DLCC.


Next year's OSF offerings look especially unpromising, and so we'll not be back to Ashland anytime soon. We're looking forward to being home tomorrow.

1914 : 0

* A note about R&J as a play. In my view, for relevance, it's Willie the Shake's best, and is particularly well suited to the kind of adaptation and reinvention the OSF tries to apply to its productions (Oklahoma being an extreme example.) But that's not the only reason to see it again and again. The language of this play, and the themes, pluck at my heart and make it grow larger and softer. More than any other Shakespeare play, I see something more, deeper, more applicable to my own life, every time I see it. For me, seeing R&J (for, what? the Nth time?) was set to be the highlight for me for this season at OSF, and not seeing it 'in its native habitat' is especially disappointing. 

In my view, all WS's Greats are all worth revisiting: Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet, Othello! the Histories, taken as a group, map neatly and relevantly to our own lives and current circumstances; The Tempest stands alone in its magical reality; Romeo and Juliet (1597) tells us a lot more about how love makes the world go 'round than anything made or written in my lifetime. Even the little known plays, Coriolanus and Timon, when sensitively produced, do the work we go to the theater to have done. 

It is with great sorrow that I see my so-called 'civilization' losing its capacity to appreciate these masterpieces.

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