The story of theater in Southern Oregon begins in 1893 with the construction of a Chautauqua building in downtown Ashland. The Chautauqua movement swept America in the late 19th Century, bringing adult education, culture and entertainment to rural areas. Early on, the Ashland Chautauqua saw families from throughout the region attending musical performances and political speeches during 10-day seasons every July.
Eventually, so many people came to Ashland that the original building was enlarged and by 1917, a round, dome-covered building was in place. As the Chautauqua movement lost momentum, the building fell into disuse and by the 1930s had been torn down, except for the round cement walls. And it is within these walls that the story of theater really begins in Southern Oregon.
Evidence of this rich cultural legacy is seen throughout the region. Southern Oregon has many more theaters, galleries and fine arts opportunities than one would normally find in such bucolic rural settings as these. Here's a look at some of the theater-going opportunities you'll find here.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), located in charming downtown Ashland, Oregon, is one of the nation’s true artistic gems. Each season, running from February through October, OSF presents 11 classic and contemporary plays on three unique stages in rotating repertory. With tours and fun educational events and an ever-changing free summer entertainment on the Green Show stage, OSF is an immersive cultural experience for the whole family that you’ll never forget. For tickets and information visit our website. Click VIEW to watch an entertaining video series about OSF and the Rogue Valley.
15 South Pioneer Street/PO Box 158
Ashland OR 97520
(541) 482-4331 (800) 219-8161
Theater Arts, Southern Oregon University, Ashland
The university is committed to providing a superior training program for undergraduates through a balance of classroom instruction and hands-on stage production experience. Students gain the theatrical skills necessary to succeed in graduate schools and in professional workplaces. Theater arts majors participate in an intensive program that produces two or more stage productions each academic quarter.
Britt Festival, Jacksonville
Assembled by a group of volunteers in the summer of 1963 (with a plywood stage and tin-can lights), Britt Music Festival featured a small chamber orchestra. Today, the Britt Festival brings world-class musicians to their Jacksonville outdoor amphitheater, with a capacity of 2,200, throughout the spring and summer months.
Who Was Peter Britt? In 1852, Peter Britt (1819-1905) arrived in Jacksonville with $5 in his pocket and a wagon full of photography equipment. A Swiss immigrant, Britt forged a distinguished life and career in the Rogue Valley, and became one of Oregon's most celebrated citizens. Through thousands of photographs, he chronicled 50 years of life and growth in Southern Oregon. From Jacksonville's inauspicious beginnings in the 1850s to Southern Oregon's agricultural prominence at the turn of the century, Britt's images tell the stories of those who settled and transformed our region.
The Rogue Theatre, Grants Pass
This lovely art deco-style theater was built in 1938 and has recently undergone a renaissance, becoming a showcase for national, regional and local performing arts. This attractive, welcoming facility augments the historic charm of downtown Grants Pass' central shopping district. In the past several seasons, music fans have seen such top names as Richie Havens, Mickey Rooney, Donovan, Little Feat and more.
Rogue Music Theater, Rogue Community College, Grants Pass
This venue offers some of the finest regional musical theater in Oregon, especially lovely are July and August shows under Southern Oregon's balmy night sky in a lovely outdoor amphitheater.
Barnstormers Little Theater, Grants Pass
One of the oldest community theaters in Oregon, it presents classic and contemporary plays, leaning heavily toward comedy.
Stardust Repertory Theater, Grants Pass Performing Arts Center
Located in Grants Pass High School, this is one of the nicest performing arts venues in the Northwest. Built in 1999, the GPHS Performing Arts Center houses two theaters and three performance classrooms. The main theater seats 800 and has the largest stage in Southern Oregon. The Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce and local merchants also sponsor a series of free "Concerts in the Park" every Tuesday night, July-September, in Riverside Park.
Ross Ragland Theater, Klamath Falls
The 1939 art deco-styled Esquire Theater in old town Klamath Falls was remodeled into a state-of-the-art performing arts center. Today, The Ross Ragland Theater and Cultural Center serves, educates and inspires more than 100,000 people each year, and is the only year-round, multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary arts center in South Central Oregon and Northern California. The theater provides the perfect venue for large Broadway shows, symphony orchestras, top name artists, as well as smaller chamber ensembles and one-man shows.
218 North 7th Street
Klamath Falls OR
Theater at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg
The UCC Fine and Performing Arts Department provides educational opportunities for students interested in obtaining a college transfer degree, Associate of Arts, or personal enrichment in Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. Classes are held in the Whipple Fine Arts Center. The 182-seat Centerstage Theatre is a classroom for theater, lighting, makeup and set design. Backstage has a costume loft, wood shop, makeup area and dressing rooms. Theater productions are produced quarterly.
Ashland Independent Film Festival
Celebrating the 10th Annual festival April 7-11, 2011. 6,000 film lovers will gather at the historic art-deco Varsity Theatre in downtown Ashland to watch more than 80 films in five days. Filmmakers from around the world come to engage with the audience after each screening and at the festival's special events.
PO Box 218
Ashland OR 97520
June through mid-September. Britt Festivals, the northwest's premier outdoor music and performing arts festival, features world renowned artists who perform under the stars in a natural hillside amphitheater of unparalleled beauty, just three blocks from downtown historic Jacksonville. Call or write, or visit the website, for program information.
216 W. Main St./PO Box 1124
Medford OR 97501
(541) 779-0847, (800) 88-BRITT (882-7488)