After ten hours of driving, we were all worn out as we arrived in Ashland, Oregon at 10 o’clock at night. While unpacking our luggage and settling into the little cottage (http://www.oakstreetcottages.com/) where we would be staying for the next three days, I could hardly think for excitement! Not for the nice weather (temperatures would reach 100 degrees), or for the amazing masks in the downtown shops, but for the plays! We had driven all the way from Northwest Washington to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (http://www.osfashland.org/index.aspx) and had five plays booked for this trip. As my head finally hit the pillow, I had no way of knowing how wonderful the world of the Festival would be.
Day one: we spent the morning recovering from the long, arduous car trip by eating a delicious brunch at the Morning Glory (http://www.morninggloryrestaurant.com/). After a sumptuous helping of the Lemon Ricotta Stuffed French Toast, I took a picture outside the restaurant with my group of friends.
It was not long aftewards that I found myself taking a seat at the back of the Angus Bowmer Theater for the first time.
Contrary to my previous live theater experiences, the cast for Pride and Prejudice came onstage a few minutes before the doors closed and did a small acting preview. It was after this, as the lights went down, that I entered a different world – the world of Lizzy Bennett and Mr. Darcy, where dancing, touring England, and falling in love happen with the simplicity and swiftness of a Mozart Sonata.
I still had Darcy’s proposal scene running through my head when we again took a seat in the theater for the production of the musical She Loves Me. As I laughed and cried with the employees of Maraczek’s Parfumerie, I realized that the people living in 1930’s Hungary were not so different from me than I had expected. And when Georg finally tells Amalia of his love, I discovered that the two plays for that day really were only different in their authors and eras.
Then came Hamlet. As we walked into the Bowmer auditorium for the final time, Hamlet himself was sitting in a suit amid a crowd of empty chairs, vacantly staring at his father’s casket. As the minutes till show time crept by, it seemed like the audience was intruding on Hamlet’s last moments with the dead king, and I had a strange urge to be silent in the presence of a mourning son. When the doors finally closed, Hamlet slowly walked towards the casket and gently laid his hand on it. The second his hand touched the casket, all the lights went out, leaving the audience in complete darkness as Shakespeare’s tragedy began.
Hamlet’s plight was still pressing on my mind as we settled in to the back of the Elizabethan Theater to watch the Merchant of Venice. The atmosphere of the outdoor theater allowed me to enjoy the pleasure of being out under the stars as Portia cleverly helped and tricked her husband simultaneously. And when the trial finally came to an end, I could not decide if I should rejoice at the victory of the hero, or lament the plight of the enemy.
For our final night, we experienced the world of Twelfth Night, where only the audience knows who is who! With bright colors and swirling action, our last play at the Festival seemed too good and too short. And as we drove home, I dreamt of coming again next year, to again experience the many different worlds of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
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