Grab a blanket and a sweater and head for the theatre. It’s time to see a show under the stars.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor schedule begins in June, highlighted by performances on the outdoor Elizabethan Stage. It’s a different environment for audiences unaccustomed to theatre under the night sky.
But that’s only part of the festival’s summer-long series of events. Free Green Shows on the festival courtyard stage start June 5 and the Festival Noons speaker series follows beginning June 19.
“We think of the (theatre) season as a whole with the rhythms of opening four productions at the top of the season, one in March and another in April,” says Oregon Shakespeare Festival spokeswoman Amy Richard. “There are three Elizabethan Stage productions that open in June. The last two shows open (in other theatres) in July.”
“Summer means we’re in high gear with a number of shows on stage and in rehearsal. From the end of May until June 22 when Seagull closes, we have 11 shows in either performance or rehearsal. It’s a busy time.”
The signature outdoor events are performances in the Allen Pavilion, home of the Elizabethan Stage.
“Seeing a play outdoors on the Elizabethan Stage is truly unlike being inside,” Richard says. “It has a definite festival feel to it with a certain buzz and expectation that is different than what occurs in the indoor theaters.”
For starters, don’t think of this as you would an outdoor concert with on-theground festival seating. There still are tickets and seats. The blanket is for comfort.
“We do have seats, not blanket seating, and concessions you can bring into the theatre are available for purchase,” Richard says.
“Of course weather may be a factor, and people should be prepared for the temperature to dip from the beginning of the show to the end so hats and blankets are in order.
“And the outdoor theatre is larger and open to the sky, and it invites audience members to pay closer attention. All in all, it’s a very unique and fun experience.”
While summer rain in Ashland is rare, there is a rain policy, Richard says. If rain is threatening, the policy is explained before the show begins. You also can check with the Box Office in advance.
There’s more to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival than what you see on stage. Organizers take advantage of the great weather to do something extra.
“There are many events throughout the summer months,” Richard says. “There is a free Green Show before every evening show on the courtyard stage. We feature a variety of entertainment.”
Audiences can check the Green Show schedule online or pick up a brochure once they arrive on the theatre campus.
Meanwhile, the festival’s education department hosts a number of events through its Festival Noons series. These lunch hour sessions feature lectures, park talks, panel discussions or pre-show talks with actor-teachers. These get-togethers help provide some insights on the plays and productions as well as the work that goes on behind the scenes, Richard says.
“There also are backstage tours led by Oregon Shakespeare Festival company members that provide great insights and looks at what is necessary to bring a play from the page to the stage,” she says.
Schedules for all these events are posted online at www.osfashland.org.
Like the city of Ashland itself, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a gateway of sorts to Southern Oregon. Theatre-goers come to Ashland for the stage and discover so many other things to do in the region.
“Southern Oregon is a great cultural and recreational destination. If you want to see nine plays in five days, interspersed with great food and shopping, you can do that,” Richard says. “Or you can see one or two plays and get out in the Applegate Valley to taste wines, ride whitewater, trip up to Crater Lake and visit Jacksonville. There are any number of opportunities.”